The Rivers State House of Assembly yesterday approved nine of 15 items in the constitution alteration bill of the 1999 amended constitution.
The National Assembly recently transmitted the document to the Assmbly for its input.
Some items rejected by lawmakers include councils’ financial autonomy and power for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct by-elections and de-register political parties
Of 28 members present, 27 persons voted against the alteration seeking to permit councils to operate separate accounts. But the lawmaker representing Port Harcourt 1, Victoria Nyeche, voted in favour of the bill.
Explaining the rejection, House Committee Chairman on Information and Communication Sam Ogeh said lawmakers did not consider it an item of urgency.
“We are in a county that is moving on on daily basis and as events unfold, we will try to improve and better some things,” he said.
Nyechie said granting financial freedom to councils would strengthen and deepen democracy.
She said: “The local government autonomy is very critical because by its independence, they can be more accountable, power should revolve from the centre to the grassroot. I also voted in favour of INEC independence and power because as an electoral umpire, it should be able to hire and fire, as well as deregister political parties.”
The House also rejected the alteration seeking to provide for independent candidates, among others.
It approved the alteration outlining the process for an amendment if the President witholds his assent.
The lawmakers okayed the alteration, which provides for reduction of age for qualification to contest as President, governor, National and State Assembly seats.
The Assembly voted to approve an alteration, which permits immunity for legislators during sitting and to strengthen the legislative process.
Also approved was another alteration specifying the period within which the President or governor must present an appropriation bill to the legislature for consideration.
The House also voted to approve alteration number 4, which confers financial autonomy on State Assemblies and alteration number 2, which reduces the period that the President or governor can spend money before the passage of the next budget from six months to three months.
Speaker Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, who presided over the voting of the 15 alterations of the Constitution (Fourth Alteration) Bill 2017 , urged the National Assembly to revisit the issue of devolution of power, stating that too much powers were concentrated at the federal level and making the country to drift to a unitary system.
Ibani directed the clerk of the Rivers State House of Assembly to immediately transmit the resolution of the House to the National Assembly for necessary action.
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