Constitution Review: NLC, NULGE To Mobilise Nigerians Against 25 State Speakers Opposed To LG Autonomy

The Evangelist edition
October 20, 2022
By Ada ADA

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) have resolved to mobilise Nigerians against 25 state House of Assembly speakers that are opposed to Local Government autonomy.

Leaders of the unions took this position on Tuesday at a press conference addressed by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo- Agege on behalf of the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committees on Constitution Review on the progress made so far on the 44 amended bills transmitted to the State Houses of Assembly.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee, Omo-Agege said six months after the transmission of 44 bills to State Assemblies, “it is most disheartening to inform you that only 11 State Houses of Assembly have demonstrated their independence and loyalty to the Constitution regarding the 44 bills”.

He said 25 State Houses of Assembly have yet to consider and vote on these bills. “So far, only Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Lagos, Ogun and Osun states have successfully considered, voted on, and forwarded their resolutions on the 44 bills to the National Assembly.

“More worrisome is that while we are still expecting the receipt of the resolutions of the remaining Houses of Assembly, we received a letter from the Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies informing the National Assembly that the remaining states will not act on the 44 Bills unless the National Assembly passes four new Bills they have proposed in the letter.

The Bills the speakers proposed, seek to amend the Constitution to establish State Police; State Judicial Council; Streamline the procedure for removing Presiding Officers of State Houses of Assembly and institutionalize Legislative Bureaucracy in the Constitution.

However, Omo-Agege said it is “legally inappropriate for the Conference of Speakers to use the four Bills as a quid pro quo to act on the 44 Bills the National Assembly 44 Bills transmitted. It is clear, and we cannot overstate, that this letter is not in keeping with the obligation the Constitution has placed on them regarding the Constitutional amendment.”

He made it clear, the Bills the National Assembly transmitted to the State Houses of Assembly as required by the Constitution are not about members of the National Assembly.

“It transcends our personal and political interests. It is about the people who have graciously given us the temporary privilege to serve them. The offices and positions we each hold belong to the people. And they yearn for a government that is honest, accountable, and responsive to their needs. It is, therefore, disheartening that some State Houses of Assembly, through the Conference of Speakers, would give the National Assembly conditions before fulfilling their constitutional obligations”.

Omo- Agege alluded to the suspected interference of some state governors in influencing the decisions of the Speakers to hold the NASS and by extension, the entire country to ransom.

He said the governors were doing so in annoyance of the passage of bill giving financial autonomy to local government and local government administration.

Drawing battle lines with state governors, the deputy senate president said it was not true that the Committee did not consult the governors.

He added that the governors failed to utilize the opportunity to lobby their representatives in both chambers of the National Assembly to push forward their proposition for State Police.

Omo – Agege also said the governors most of whom declared open geopolitical public hearing in 12 centres did not opposed the local government autonomy proposition.

He went ahead to defend the stand of NASS on State Police by saying the lawmakers did not opposed the bill but that the bill failed to scale approval at the Committee level.

“We all acknowledged the level of insecurity in the country and call for state police but there are scepticism. If you want state police, you have to convince everyone about its merits. There are people who are not convinced. Those who want it need to disabuse those scepticism”.

He wondered how some governor that cannot pay salaries regularly could pay salaries of added personnel workforce in state police in their states.

Omo- Agege said unpaid armed men in the service of state police can turn against the state. He added that state police can be deployed to political use by governors.

“Governors might use state police to intimidate opponent politicians. Some lawmakers here in the National Assembly cannot freely go to their constituencies because of their autocratic state governors.

“We did not refuse to consider state police. We considered it, it was voted out “, he said.

“The deputy senate president called on civil society organizations, labour movement and entire Nigerians to resist the Speakers from holding the country to ransom.

In his intervention at the press conference, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba the story of threat by the conference of speakers is that of arm- twisting.

He bemoaned using demand for state police as negotiating power to pass local government autonomy bill.

Wabba said the NLC position is that “Nigeria is not mature for state police”.

“If state governors can deploy thugs to disrupt political rallies, intimidate opponents, how can they control state police,” he queried.

He posited that Boko Haram and other insurgent elements are offsprings of excessive abuse of power by state governors.

He vowed that the NLC will mobilize Nigerians against those that want to hold local government autonomy to ransom.

The President NULGE, Comrade Ambali Akeem, in his remarks said the action of speakers is “an attempt to blackmail the National Assembly”, adding “how can you say because the National Assembly has not considered your own selfish interest that is why you must hold the country to ransom?

“For us in labour, we are ready to engage them. The basic fact is that they are delaying this constitutional amendment passage because of Local Government autonomy.

“The governors were thoroughly engaged, we were in Ibadan, Governor Seyi Makinde represented their interest when the National Assembly organized fora and they were there, they made their presentation. Those who are opposing Local Government autonomy are those who are diverting Local Government funds.

“Look at Ekiti, Fayemi is owing over 8 months’ salary and he just left the place without paying”.

However, Omo- Agege promised that the Committee will see the process through saying their refusal does not mean the process is dead.

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