House of reps rechecks local government autonomy bill.

…House passed for second reading

A bill to grant autonomy to local government areas in the country has again resurfaced in the House of Representatives, after failing to secure constitutional approval during the last assembly.

The bill which seeks to amend the constitution to grant autonomy to the third tier of government successfully scaled second reading on the floor of the House and has been forwarded to constitution review committee

The House passed for second reading a bill that will allow the third tier of government autonomy in the conduct of election for chairmen, vice-chairmen, and councillors.

Titled “a bill for an act to alter section 7 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and for related matters”, the bill is sponsored by Hon. Dachung Musa Bagos (PDP, Plateau).

The 8th Assembly has passed the autonomy bill which however failed to get the mandatory concurrence from two-third of state Houses of Assembly.

Leading debate on the general principles of the bill, Hon. Bagos said the intention of the proposed legislation was to instil democracy at the local government level and institute a law that will provide guidelines for periodic elections in the local councils across the country

He said, “Essentially, this bill seeks to provide for election and tenure of office for local government chairmen/councillors and also prescribe mode of exercising legislative powers of the local government council”.

He stressed that the bill “seeks amongst other things to alter section to alter section 7 (1) of the principal act by substituting section 7 (1) with new section 7 (1) (a) –(2) to provide for the office of the chairman and vice-chairman of local government as stipulated in the bill”

The provisions according to him include, “qualification and disqualification of chairman, declaration of assets and liabilities, oath of office and election of chairman. Others include nomination and election of vice-chairman, removal of chairman or vice-chairman from office, tenure of office of chairman and election of councillors.

He stressed that the current provisions in the constitution were nebulous and susceptible to abuse because it did not provide any guidelines, adding that section 7 (1) of the 1999 constitution states that “the system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this constitution guaranteed, and accordingly the government of every state shall, subject to section 8 of this constitution, ensure their existence under a law, which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils”
Bagos, stressed that when passed into law, the bill will put an end to the practice whereby state governors dismiss and appoint local government chairmen at will without recourse to any law.

He said it was undemocratic for governors to unilaterally appoint local government chairmen and councillors instead of allowing people at the grassroots to choose their leaders through democratically conducted elections.

“This law will put paid to the present practice whereby local government chairmen are appointed by governors. it will make it mandatory for council officials to emerge through election”, he said