The proposal targeted at stripping state governments of the power to control polls at the grassroots failed in the House of Representatives on Thursday.
The House rejected the bill to alter the Nigerian Constitution to guarantee democratically constituted local government councils through elections to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The Senate had on Wednesday voted in support of the proposal, among other ones intended to ensure autonomy for the LGAs, to improve their efficiency and delivery capacity – but it failed in the House.
Although the proposal won the popular vote, with 229 against 59, in the House, it, nevertheless, did not succeed as it could not secure the required two-thirds, or 240 votes.
In a bicameral legislature including Nigeria’s, a bill must secure approval of both chambers before it can be successful. Despite gaining two-thirds and subsequent passage in the Senate, the proposal to empower INEC to conduct local polls failed with Thursday’s development in the House.
Currently, the Nigerian 1999 Constitution empowers the states to constitute “state independent electoral commissions, SIEC” for the conduct of local government elections, though most of the states have, at the mercy of the governors, caretaker committees in charge of local councils.
Even when local elections hold, the process is usually trailed by complaints from the opposition over alleged compromise of SIEC.
In virtually all cases, the party of the sitting governor sweeps the local elections irrespective of the strength of the opposition party in the state.
With the resolution by the House, however, the statusquo would remain and the SIECS would remain.
Senate, Reps Cause Massive Setback For Restructuring
Both chambers of the National Assembly rejected the proposal to devolve more powers to the states which was included in the Constitution review bill.
The proposal was seen as a step towards the manifestation of calls to restructure Nigeria’s federal system.
Currently, more than any other subject, the call for restructuring has gained stronger appeal across various shades of interests, including politicians, self-determination groups and ordinary citizens.
Pro-restructuring campaigners say the federal government has more powers than necessary, domineering control of resources as well as share of the national revenue.
The current system, they argue, apart from affecting the efficiency of the federal government, given that it has too many responsibilities, is also skewed against the states, which lack sufficient resources.
But, originally, the constitution amendment bill “seeks to alter Second Schedule, Part 1 & 2 to move certain items to the Concurrent Legislative List to give more legislative powers to the States.”
However, both the Senate and the House of Representatives voted against the proposal on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
Earlier on Tuesday, when the report on the constitution review was being considered in the Senate, indications had emerged the proposal on devolution was going to fail.
Adamu Aliero, APC-Kebbi, urged his colleagues to reject the proposal because it did not come with a review of the formula for sharing the national revenue and controlling resources in favour of the states.
According to Mr Aliero, there was no need to give the states more powers, without a greater share of revenue as well as control of resources.
“This blockage of the Bill (on the devolution of powers) by an APC-led Senate majority is a betrayal of our Party’s pre-election promises,” said former Vice-president Atiku Abubakar in a statement before the Reps took a similar decision on Thursday.
“It was an important vote and I’m shocked by some so-called progressives’ visceral and cynical opposition to restructuring.”