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No to local government autonomy

By Ochereome Nnanna
IT will fail for the simple reason that autonomy for local governments is like one wearing a borrowed robe. It will either be oversized or undersized since it was not your measurement that was used in sewing it.

To me, the local government is not, and should not be, a tier of government. There is no legislative list for the local governments in the Constitution.

State Assemblies are empowered to legislate for the local governments and control their  purses, while the state governor has supervisory or coordinating control through the ministry for local government. Every state in the federation has it.

The non-viability of the local government as a separate tier has been proved by the fact that most states in the federation defy the Constitution, appoint interim chairmen and officials of councils, and get away with it.

The Lagos State Government under Bola Tinubu, created 37 Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs, out of the 20 local government councils. It funds the LCDAs with federal allocation accruing to the LGAs, and it got away with it after surviving former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s politically motivated economic sanctions.

In Imo State, Governor Rochas Okorocha ignored the LGAs, disobeyed court rulings and established the Community Government Councils. It has got away with it. Most states of the federation simply seize the federal allocations going to the local councils, give the officials enough money to pay salaries and service their executive offices.

They withhold the rest for payment of contractors and funding of the luxuries of the governors, state assembly members and party officials. They get away with it.

In Jigawa State, the funds allocated to the 27 local governments from the federation account is domiciled primarily with the state government. The councils are given funds to cover personnel cost. For any capital project they want to embark upon they must submit their proposal to the state government through the State House of Assembly.

If approved, the money is released and its implementation is strictly supervised by the Commissioner for Local Government who reports to the Governor. This procedure, according to state officials, is to (a) ensure even and uniform development of the local government areas according to Governor Sule Lamido’s vision, and (b) control corruption.

Even the quasi-autonomy has failed

My view is that the current local
government system should be abolished, rather than given financial or any other type of autonomy. The state (or better still, geopolitical regions as a federating unit) should be in total control of local government matters.

They should evolve the kind of local government system that suits their respective local needs. I favour the type of system Okorocha is experimenting in Imo State: the Community Government Council. The current local government system is artificial and a creation of a military class which used it to distribute federal revenue in accordance with the scale of privilege the North-controlled military evolved after the civil war.

The North and West collected the largest share, while Igboland (former Biafra) was given the least. The current local government system is one of the embittering evils vestiges of the civil war, and those of us who are at the receiving end of its inequitable consequences will never be enamoured of it.

I have toured the North extensively and I noticed that every little settlement of a few hundred or couple of thousand inhabitants is automatically a local government headquarters! It is one of the ills of having the federal government control local government affairs.

Granting autonomy to local governments will introduce permanent political strife in the states. Imagine what would have happened if the Rivers State local councils were autonomous! Governor Amaechi might not be able to move out of the Government House because the Federal Government could use the Police and other forces of state coercion to cage the governor in league with the local government chairmen, who are all of the PDP.

If you grant financial autonomy to local councils, the chairmen will turn into 774 demons and tin gods, just as we have 36 of them in the states. They will spend the money as they like. They will defy the governor and run to the president for protection. The states could become ungovernable, particularly for any governor who does not have rapport with the president.

The local government of my dream will not be listed in the federal constitution. It will be listed in the state constitutions, since the states or geopolitical regions will create them following closely the characters of the various kindred communities.

In my type of local government system, the traditional rulers will their have roles spelt out, covering the areas of cultures and traditions as well as security.

Executive committees and councilors will be elected to collect revenue and run social services while reporting to the Governor through the Houses of Assembly. The Governor should have a vision of how he intends to run the local governments and develop his state.

This was the type of local authority system in place, especially in the East, before the civil war. It engendered healthy competitions among communities and sped up development at the grassroots. It gave power to the people of the locality. Power rose from bottom up, rather than the current inverted pyramid that simply cannot work.

My take on Constitution amendment (3)

JUST as in the case of immunity removal, I am going to depart from the perceived popular sentiment on the issue of local government autonomy. During the votes at the National Assembly the Senate voted “No” to financial autonomy for the local government while the House of Representatives voted “Yes”. When the two chambers resume in September they will meet in conference.

My guess is that they will toe the line of the House, which appears to be the more popular view. But it will definitely die a natural death when the proposal goes to the various state Houses of Assembly. The governors and the state House members will see to that.

Condolence to Patience Jonathan

I SYMPATHISE with the wife of our President, Dame Patience Jonathan and her family, whose mother, Madam Charity Iwari-Oba, met her untimely death recently. Death is an opportunity to share the grief of our neighbours, rather than display mischief and play unsavoury politics. All will die, and none will escape bereavement here on earth.

I urge her and family to be strong and depend on God, the Ultimate Consoler. He makes everything all right in the end.

 

 

 

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