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CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT: Govs oppose LG autonomy, indigeneship, single term tenure *Want state police, revenue allocation reform

Written by Olawale Rasheed, Abuja
Thursday, August 11, 2011

AS reports indicate soft-pedalling on the proposed single tenure presidency, opposition to further elements of the proposed constitutional amendments is deepening, as most state governors are said to be unhappy with recently leaked reports on the provisions of the proposed amendments.



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Recent reports had indicated that apart from the single tenure presidency, the package by the presidency also includes the scrapping of the state-local government joint account, with a view to granting the 774 local governments financial autonomy.

Other clauses include a new provision to grant indigeneship to Nigerians once they have resided in an area for at least six months, a clause meant to solve the perennial indigene-settler rift in some parts of the country.

Nigerian Tribune gathered in Abuja on Wednesday, that the governors are worried about the handling of the proposed amendments, even after President Goodluck Jonathan had promised full consultations with them and the party leadership before taking further action on the issue.

A very dependable source told the Nigerian Tribune that the piecemeal leakage of the provisions to the media by some aides in the presidency had only heightened suspicion and strengthened the hands of those opposed to the amendments.

"The handling is troubling. Why the piecemeal leakage of such sensitive proposals?" The source queried, stressing that most state chief executives even within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were uncomfortable with the approach adopted, even after the last assurances by President Jonathan.

Nigerian Tribune investigations showed that the governors regard any attempt to scrap the joint state and local governments account, as provided for in the present constitution, as an attempt by the federal administration to weaken the states and undermine the authority of the state chief executives.

A top state official from the North told the Nigerian Tribune that while there may be some problems in the operation of the joint account, "the way to go is not the scrapping of the accounts, as that may weaken the attempt to strengthen and accelerate development at the state levels.

"In any case, almost all state assemblies will vote against that proposed amendment, as laws exist at the state level which regulate local administration in line with the provisions of the constitutions," the source said.

Aside the anger over the joint account, the issue of indigeneship was said to have also alarmed states in the northern part of the country with the North-Central and the two other northern zones said to be regarding it as a joke.

Findings by the Nigerian Tribune within the North-Central zone revealed that the proposed indigenship amendment is considered a subtle way to entrench Hausa-Fulani domination of the zone, considering the subsisting issue of communal conflicts across the states in the zone.

"Such amendments will automatically empower the Fulani herdsmen to take over lands and grazing areas. Before long, the core North will be in charge of the North- Central zone," another state official from the zone noted.

For the core North, such amendment was regarded as a Christian-Igbo agenda, to dominate the core North and Christianise the zone.

A member of the House of Representatives from the North-West, who pleaded anonymity, said the governors from North-West and North-East would never support such a move, as, according to him, "it will create national security challenge for the nation.

"How will any governor or state assemblies from the core North accept such amendment. Nigeria is not ripe for that and I know our governors will convey the message of their people to the president. If not, the bill will be dead on arrival."

Meanwhile, the apparent revolt within the Governors Forum is said to have put Governor Rotimi Amaechi, a very close ally of the president, in a very difficult position.

Areas of consensus among the governors, it was learnt, included the amendment of the constitution to give more funds to the state and local governments, as well as the creation of state police to tackle the increasing menace of insecurity in the country.

Governors of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) were said to have adopted a charter of reform focussing on provisions to entrench true federalism in the constitution, while the PDP governors were said to be divided along the North-South lines over the president's proposed single tenure presidency.

A source in Abuja told the Nigerian Tribune that consultations were ongoing among the governors to take a stance on the proposed amendments, while the details of the amendments were still being awaited by the nation.