Sunday, April 22, 2012
Local Government Autonomy is the answer.
Local Government Autonomy is the answer. The Senate and House of Representative have respectively set up committees to review the 1999 constitution and the senate President David Mark, in setting up the 47 member senate committee had posed a number of questions. He asked, “How effective are the Local Government? Should they be made to function independently to the States? Is the joint State/Local Government Account still necessary? The question of Local Government effectiveness and the State/Local Government joint account has being in the front burner for a long time and it was generally agreed that anything short of granting administrative and fiscal autonomy to LG councils will not be acceptable to Nigerians. To buttress this point, let us look at the contributions of some prominent Nigerians in the issue. In one of his lectures captioned, “the individual, the party and National Unity”, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi wrote, ‘then we have the issue of whether we have a two-tier Government or three -tier Government. The constitution is very clear because it refers to the third-tier as a Government but all the State Governments are united as one in not regarding the Local Government as an autonomous tier of Government. When all the Governors speak with one voice for a change I get very worried. But it sounds schizophrenic to me for the State Governors to be consistent in loudly advocating that the powers and financial allocations to the centre should be reduced, that the Federal Government should get off their backs, and yet, at the same time, they are not prepared to sanction and recognize the autonomous status for the third-tier of Government. Again, on the question of whether the State/Local Government account still necessary, let’s hear out what the former ALGON National President, Felix Akhabue said, “A situation where allocation already made to the Local Government by the Federation Account Committee (FACC) is subjected to redistribution by the State Government is a clear breach of the constitution. The question is can the Federal Government police funds disbursed to the State Government from the Federation account? The answer is clear No, then where those the State derive the legal and moral backing to do the same to the local Government. Statutory allocations to each tier of Government should be sacrosanct. It is only by being so that you can hold that tier of Government responsible and accountable. Senator Ike Ekweremadu, towing the same line also wrote “In 2002, the State Government brought a suit against the Federal Government for deducting first line charges for joint venture investment in oil sector, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation priority projects and external dept service. While the supreme court judgment favoured the State Governments, it appears that most States are guilty of the same act as the Local Government in many instances have continued to suffer fiscal emasculation in the hands of State Governments. Finally, now that we have the opportunity to amend the constitution, let us determine once and for all the uniform policy of Local Government administration with regard to structure, tenure, administrative independence and fiscal autonomy. This is the only way we can guarantee even development to our communities and spread the dividends of democracy to the people. Jeff Nkwocha LG Study Network 08030485016