The National Assembly on Tuesday approved financial and administrative autonomy for all the 774 local government authorities in Nigeria by amending section 124 of the 1999 Constitution.
The section provides a consequential provision for making the councils a full third-tier government without undue interference from the state governments.
The ammendment was one of the 22 others approved by the House of Representatives last week and ratified by the Senate on Tuesday.
Both chambers of the National Assembly had through a conference committee harmonised versions of the amendments to the constitution they carried out last month.
By the development, the National Assembly has ratified all the 23 clauses and sections that had been ammended by both chambers.
The newly ammended document which would be sent to the state Houses of Assembly for consideration, also approved the creation of the Office of Auditor – General of the Local Government as well as the State Local Government Service Commission.
The section also deleted the State Independent Electoral Commission from the constitution thereby vesting the powers to conduct council elections on only the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The National Assembly also made provisions for Independent candidacy in future elections by ammending sections 65 and 106 of the constitution.
It however retained the immunity clause in the constitution for the President and governors which the House had earlier removed.
But it conferred immunity on the lawmakers in respect of words spoken or written in the exercise of their legislative duties through amendment to section four. Section 9 of the constitution was also amended by removing the need for Presidential assent in constitution alteration.
The new amendment also makes it mandatory for the President to deliver a State-of-the Nation address to a joint meeting of the National Assembly once a year as contained in section 67.
The INEC, by the ammendment, can now de-register political parties for non -fulfillment of certain conditions like breach of registration requirements and failure to secure or win either a presidential, governorship, council chairmanship or a seat in the National Assembly or state assembly.
Another striking feature of the amendment is section 124 which abolishes SIECs and creates the office of the Auditor -General of the Local Government as well as the State Local Government Service Commission.
For the purpose of accountability and efficient service delivery, Section 81 was ammended. The section provides for the funding of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, national security agencies, the Nigeria Police Force, the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
The powers of the Federal Government to impose a minimum wage of all workers on state governments was removed from the exclusive list and moved to the concurrent list.
Also removed from the exclusive list are Pensions, Railways, and Stamp Duties, Arbitration, Environment, Health, Housing, Road Safety, Youths, Land and Agriculture.
Exclusive jurisdiction was also conferred on the Federal High Court for trial of election offences.
The National Assembly also provides that a court or tribunal shall not stay any proceedings on account of any interlocutors appeal; and that where a “force majeure occurs, the period shall not be counted in the computation of the 180 days for the purpose of determining election petitions.
Sections 174 and 211 were also amended to establish the Office of the Attorney – General of the Federation and Attorney – General of a state respectively as distinct from Minister of Justice and Commissioner for Justice.
Section 45 was similarly altered to provide for the establishment of the National Assembly Service Commission and State House of Assembly Service Commission.
However the 23 amendments will have to be approved by two-thirds of the state Houses of Assembly before they can become operational.
The Senate President, David Mark, has therefore directed that the report should be forwarded to all the 36 states of the federation immediately.
But after the Senate adopted the report, its Chairman on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, kicked against the process of the adoption.
According to Enang, since the Senate debated only eight out of the 23 amendments, it was wrong for it to have adopted the whole report without needed debate.
He was however ruled out of Order by Mark, who quoted the senate Standing Order 53(6) to knock him off his argument.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, explained that the National Assembly would upon receipt of the report from the state Houses of Assembly, forward the final document for presidential assent.