The National Institute For Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), has called for sustained activism for the passage of 1999 Constitutional alteration pending bills, especially bills on local government financial and administrative autonomy.
NILDS Director- General, Prof. Abubakar Suleiman, made the call in Abuja on Wednesday , at the capacity building workshop for Clerks, and Deputy Clerks, Directors of Legal of State Houses of Assemblies. Abubakar, congratulated participants for their determination and commitment in facilitating consideration and passage of the Constitutional Alteration Bills, which have been transmitted to the President Muhammadu Buhari for assent. He said the two related bills stood at the very core of Nigeria‘s democracy, adding that Nigerians have a solemn patriotic duty to our country to ensure their passage.
“It is not flattering to us as a people that twenty-four years since the transition to democratic rule, we are still debating the merit or otherwise of such fundamental issues. “We are all aware of the pressure from some governors to scuttle this significant reform.
“Still, I challenge us to rise above individualistic short-term interests and focus instead on our children’s future and those after them.
“The bill on local government financial autonomy seeks to abrogate the State Joint Local Government Accounts and provide for a special account into which shall be paid all allocations due to local government councils from the Federation Account and the government of the sate and for related matters.”
He said 15 states have considered and approved the bill, listing the states to include , Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Cross-River, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Kano, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun and Osun. He, however, listed 10 states that rejected the bill, to include Benue, Borno, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Imo, Kaduna, Lagos, Ondo, Rivers and Yobe while two other states of Adamawa and Bayelsa, abstained. He said nine states which included Gombe, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara were yet to transmit the bill.
“We must do everything to stop history from repeating itself all over. “Recall when state houses of assembly voted against their own financial autonomy at the behest of their governors.
“Today, many of those lawmakers are living with the guilt of that poor choice. It is my contention that state assemblies are yet to recover from that initial setback. “He said Nigeria has made tremendous progress in strengthening its democratic processes, as attested to by the Electoral Act, 2022, adding that sates also have an obligation to continuously support efforts being made at the centre and contribute to nation-building.
Abubakar said the workshop was specifically targeted at providing refresher knowledge to clerks, their deputies and legal directors on some of the essential requirements of their work during a legislative transition.
“The responsibility of managing transition rests with you, and it is crucial that you understand the essentials of concluding one assembly and starting another. In addition, you will have to deal with issues of finalising legislative business, payment of severance, and inducting and inaugurating members-elect.
He encouraged participants to participate fully and pay close attention to the tropics,given the expected high rate of legislative turnover in 2023.
Abubakar thanked NILDS partner, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), and the Resident Representative, Marija Peran, for the sustained partnership with the Institute towards deepening democracy in Nigeria. Peran, in his remarks said the workshop would be tasked with part of constituting the new state houses of assembly, saying that KAS and NILDS have once more teamed up to deliver a timely training that was designed to be practical.
He said the training would support participants in their work, adding that it would focus on all matters regarding the composition of a new assembly, including a mock inauguration session. According to him, relevant topics such as autonomy, parliamentary protocol and several operational challenges would be addressed.
”The goal is to prepare the administrative staff of state houses of assembly for the transition and constitution period that will happen after the elections.”he said.