HOUSE of Representatives, on Wednesday, revisited the controversial financial autonomy for local governments in the country, as it moved to strip the presidency of the powers to act on the proposal of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFC) for the local governments.
The previous Assembly had, during constitutional amendment exercise, passed the amendment, but it was not signed to law by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The fresh move to grant the local government autonomy is being sponsored by Honourable Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, through a bill for an Act to alter Section 162 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended to, among other things, ensure financial autonomy of local councils and for other related matters.
According to the sponsor of the bill, she said the bill sought to alter Section 162 of the constitution to bring about a greater independence of operation of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
She noted that Section 162 (2) provided that, “the president, upon receipt of advice from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, shall table before the National Assembly proposals for revenue allocation from the federation account.”
Leading debate on the proposed amendment, the lawmaker said “from the above provision, it can be seen that the tabling of proposals for revenue allocation is upon the discretion of the president after he has received advice from the commission. This is why for more than 10 years, no president has forwarded any proposal to the National Assembly in that regard.”
Part of the amendment being sought, she said, was aimed at correcting the perceived defect by deleting the words, “the president, upon receipt of advice from the…,”saying doing that would empower the commission to table the proposals directly to the National Assembly, in order to ensure that allocation of revenue was adjusted as and when necessary.
The bill, according to the proponent, also sought to delete Section 162 (5) and (6) and insert new sub-sections therein.
The current sub-section (5) provides that the amount standing to the credit of local governments in the federation account shall also be allocated to the states for the benefit of their local governments on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.
While sub-section 6 provides that, “each state shall maintain a special account to be called “state joint local government account” into which shall be paid all allocations to the local governments of the state from the federation account and from the government of the state.”
To this end, the sponsor of the amendment, said the bill “seeks to delete both sub sections and replace them with a new sub section that, “each local government shall maintain a special account to be called “local government allocation account” into which shall be paid directly such allocations to the local government from the federation account and from the government of the state shall, provided that there shall be no disbursement of any fund of the local government except by a bye-law passed by the local government legislative council.”
The bill equally sought to alter sub section 7 to make it clear that the allocation to be granted to the local governments by the government of the states shall be from internally generated revenue and to replace the House of Assembly with the National Assembly for the purpose of prescribing the manner of the sharing between the states and local governments.
The bill scaled through second reading after it was put to vote by the Speaker, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, and was subsequently referred to ad hoc committee on constitution review for further legislative input.