The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, has declared that the local government autonomy bills are the biggest challenge facing the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly.
Omo-Agege, who made this disclosure on Thursday while speaking with newsmen after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, said State Houses of Assembly have failed to vote on the amendment bills on local government autonomy passed and transmitted to them by the National Assembly for concurrence.
He, however, stressed that notwithstanding the challenge of the governors and their State Houses of Assembly holding back, the National Assembly is optimistic the bills will be passed
According to him: “I can tell you that at the National Assembly, we have fulfilled our part of that bargain, what is now left is to get the concurrence of 24 Houses of Assemblies of the states. That is also a Section 9 obligation, but this time, imposed on the State Houses of Assembly.
“As we speak, my mistake, if I knew this question was going to come up, I probably would have spoken with the Clerk of my committee before walking in here, but I know that notwithstanding the brouhaha over this, the states have been meeting and they’ve been taking positions on most of these bills.
“I don’t know how many right now, but the bigger challenge we have, frankly, it’s not so much all of the bills, it’s the bill dealing with the local government autonomy, both financial and administration, those are the two critical issues.
“But there are other bills, most of them have passed, we’ve gotten more than the required number of Houses of Assembly for some of those bills, but what matters to us, which is the priority to us, which is a big priority of Mr. President, is this issue of the local government autonomy and that’s where we’re having challenges and that is because of the position of some of the governors, who believed that they should not be in support of this.
“But my personal view, not speaking for the National Assembly as a whole, my personal view, the obligation is actually imposed on the state Houses of Assembly and not on the governors and I would have expected that the state Houses will show some independence in making some of the decisions, but it does appear that… I can’t fault them for working with their state governors in taking these positions, but we believe that with time, we’ll be able to resolve this.
“The President of the Senate has reached out to some of the governors, most especially through my friend, the governor of Kaduna State, to reach out to his fellow governors. Kaduna for instance, has already voted. Kaduna has voted and has transmitted. Of course, we won one, we lost one”, he said.
The National Assembly on March 29, 2022, transmitted 44 Constitution alteration bills to the 36 state Houses of Assembly for concurrence.
On what Nigerians should expect from the National Assembly over President Buhari’s appeal to the Legislature on his quest to sort out the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Ways and Means proposal, the Deputy Senate President said the President would have his support as usual.
His words:“Speaking as a senator, represent Delta State and speaking as the Deputy Senate President, I have an obligation, as most of you know, to support Mr. President and this time will not be an exception. It’s a decision that was taken, basically, all they’re asking for is ratification. These are monies that have been expended through legitimate means, using the Ways and Means device. There is no allegation of any wrongdoing.
“Here, basically, any name you call it, they asked him for ratification of a decision that has been taken for monies already legitimately expended. So Mr. President has my support, always has my support and he has my support on this one and I believe that majority of my colleagues, I do not speak for all of my colleagues, of course, but I believe that majority of my colleagues will support Mr. President”, Omo-Agege further explained.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja