Law News
New constitution: N’Assembly okays independent candidacy for poll

No fewer than 20 states in the country rejected autonomy for local governments in the fourth amendment to the 1999 Constitution, passed by the Senate on Wednesday.

However, the National Assembly has also approved the inclusion of independent candidacy in the new proposed constitution.

The extant electoral law in section 177 stipulates that candidates for elections must be sponsored by political parties. But the lawmakers have altered this section by inserting a new paragraph that “a candidate must be sponsored by political party or he is an independent candidate.”

Consequently, any qualified Nigerian can now stand for election without necessarily belonging to any political party.

Our correspondent, who obtained a copy of the report of the Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, submitted by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, on the floor of the Senate, noted that 20 states voted against local government autonomy while 16 states voted in support.

The 20 states that voted against were: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Enugu, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kwara, Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Rivers, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.states.

The states that voted in favour of the council’s autonomy were Adamawa, Anambra, Abia, Bauchi, Benue, Edo, Gombe, Imo, Kebbi, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau and Sokoto states.

The proposed amendments which was rejected had stated that “a local government council not democratically elected shall not be recognised by all authorities and persons and shall not be entitled to any revenue allocation from the Federation Account or the state government.

“It shall not also exercise any function exercisable by a local government council under this constitution or any law for the time being in force; and shall stand dissolved at the expiration of a period of four years, commencing from the date the members of the Council were sworn in.”

The report also indicated that the National Assembly had also empowered the Independent National Electoral Commission to deregister political parties.

It was further observed that the lawmakers by inserted section 225A, which states that “INEC can deregister political parties if there is a breach of any of the requirements for registration.”

The grounds for the deregistration according to the lawmakers is if such political parties fail to win presidential or governorship of at least one state, chairmanship of, at least, one local government/area council or a seat in the national or state assembly election. All the 36 states of the federation also approved the amendment.

The new Constitution also stipulated the timeline within which every pre-election matter should be filed not later than seven days from the date of the occurrence of the event, decision or action complained of in the suit.

Besides, the lawmakers approved that court in every pre-election matter “shall deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of filing of the suit.”

They also requested than an appeal from a decision in a pre-election matter must be filed within 14 days from the date of delivery of the judgment appealed against; and an appeal from a decision of a court in a pre-election matter “shall be heard and disposed of within 60 days from the date of filing of the appeal.”

Furthermore, Section 67 has been altered by substituting for section 67(1) a new subsection “67(1)” which states that a sitting president shall “attend a joint meeting of the National Assembly once a year to deliver an address in respect of the state of the nation.”

The report further reads, ”The National Assembly has also separates the office of the Attorney General of the Federation from the Justice Minister. In a similar vein, the office of the Accountant General of the Federation has been separated from the office of the Accountant General of the Federal Government.

Ekweremadu, in his presentation to the chamber, noted that this would be the last time any sitting President would sign the constitution as section 9 of the constitution had been amended to ensure that after such amendments had been assented to by two-third of the country’s state Houses of Assembly and the two chambers of the National Assembly, such amendments would become law.

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