The House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution has submitted its report to the House. The Committee’s recommendations include a fixed term of four years for elected members of Local Government Councils and a denial of appropriation from the Federation Account to Local Governments whose chairmen were not democratically elected and the management of elections into Local Government. The committee also recommended that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should take over the management of elections into Local Governments. Currently such elections are managed by the various State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) controlled by the state governments with the consequence that several states in the federation have not conducted Local Government elections in the past eight years or more. According to Hon Emeka Ihedioha, the Chairman of the ad hoc committee and Deputy Speaker of the House, “to protect the integrity of the electoral process at local government level and respond to the complaints of partisanship of State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIEC) accordingly, the committee deleted the existence of SIECs and vested the power to conduct local government councils polls across the federation in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)”.
Other Local Government reforms proposed by the ad hoc committee include the abrogation of State-Local Government Joint accounts to empower each local government to maintain its own special account, detailed proposals on the mode of election of local government officials, their functions, tenure and qualifications for elections.
The Committee also made several proposals on the thorny issue of indigeneship. It proposed that a person who has lived in a community for a specified period should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as citizens of that community. The Committee further introduced new sections 45A – D to make “ enforceable certain socio-economic rights as fundamental rights and incorporating them into Chapter IV, the justiciable part of the Constitution, thus creating as justiciable, the rights to education, right to favorable environment, right to free primary and maternal health care services, and the right to basic housing”.
The ad hoc committee equally proposed that independent candidates should be allowed to take part in elections – subject to conditions stipulated in the Electoral Act. It also proposed the creation of an independent electoral offences commission to handle matters of electoral infractions, with appropriate sanctions meted on convicted offenders.
It further recommended that the offices of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Auditor-General of the Federation should be on a first line charge from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation in order to insulate them from political control. It also recommended the separation of the office of the Minister of Justice from that of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
On the controversial question of creation of states, Hon Ihedioha said that though the committee received more than 35 requests, none of the “requests submitted to the Committee complied with the procedure for creation of States outlined in section 8 of the Constitution. Accordingly, the Committee was unable to treat any of these requests. The Committee however recognizes that the existing provision in the Constitution for the creation of new States is unclear and cumbersome. Accordingly, the Committee has clarified the process to make it more coherent”.