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States Set To Ratify Constitutional Amendments

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constitutionThe National Assembly has now transmitted its proposals for the amendment to the Constitution to the 36 states for ratification. At the ceremony conducted by the National Assembly on 28 October, 2014 the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives handed over to the Speakers of the 36 states, the fourth alteration Bill. The Bill which covers more than 53 clauses made far reaching amendments to the Constitution.

Some of the far-reaching amendments include expanding the scope of chapter 4 of the fundamental rights enforcement chapter to make the right to basic education as well as the right to primary and maternal health justiciable.  The amendments also affect the political restructuring of Nigeria by providing for local government autonomy and by establishing the local government as an independent tier of government by providing for its funding, tenure and elections and establishing the State Local Government Service Commission. The right to indigeneship to a community by birth, residence of at least ten years and for married women was also provided for.

Further amendments include the creation of new offices such as that of the Minister of Justice, Commissioner for Justice, Accountant-General of the Federal Government, the Accountant General of the Federal Government and the Auditor General of the Local Government State Independent Electoral Commission was abolished. The President is also mandated to attend a joint meeting of the National Assembly once a year to deliver an address on the state of the nation though he may delegate other matters of national importance such as the presentation of the national budget. Significant electoral alterations in the Bill include the provision for independent candidates in Presidential and Gubernatorial positions. The number of days for a run-off election was extended from the current provision of 7 days to 21 days while the Federal High Court is given exclusive jurisdiction in all electoral offences.

The State Speakers have agreed to deliberate on the proposed amendments expeditiously and return their resolutions back to the National Assembly early in December. Under the Constitution, the resolutions will need each of the clauses of the Bill to be passed by a simple majority of two thirds of the 36 states; meaning that at least 24 states must approve each of the resolutions for it to be passed at the state level. Thereafter, the National Assembly will likely transmit same to the President for it to then become operational.