By MICHAEL EBOH
The Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, said, yesterday, that the existence of local governments was under threat by the state governments, claiming the states have taken over their revenue generating functions.
Speaking during a visit to Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Nwabueze Okafor, National President of the association, and Chairman, Enugu South Local Government Area, lamented the breach of the Nigerian constitution by state governments, especially in the area of election of local council officials and disbursement of funds accruable to them.
He said the constitution’s provisions backing the local government are being flouted by the state governments, making it difficult for the local governments to carry out their development functions.
Okafor said: “The constitution specified what should be the functions of the local governments. We should ensure that the provisions of the constitution are followed; especially the provision that revenue functions is that of the local government.
“One of such functions is the collection of tenement rates and collection of advert charges and rates.
“You have a situation where all the functions of the local governments that have revenue incentives have been taken over by the states. You see the states creating agencies to go and collect such funds, even when they know that the constitution has made it clear that this is the function of the local government, even when there is the pronouncement of the Supreme Court.
“In the case between Knight Frank and the Kano State Government, the court stated these functions are in the purview of the local government and that no state legislation can take it away.”
Calls for sanctions
Okafor, who advocated the entrenchment of local government autonomy in the proposed constitutional amendment, decried the unlawful removal and dissolution of local government officials by certain state government.
He said it was against the provisions of the constitution, which states that local council officials must be democratically elected.
He called for strict sanctions, such as the withdrawal of funds to a local government that is not properly constituted or which is facing undue interference from a state government.
Okafor also called for the review of certain sections of the constitution that impede the functions of local government administration, such as the section that advocates joint account for the state and local government.
According to him, a joint account for both provides a conduit pipe for local government funds to be drained away.
He said: “If the local governments are working and functioning very well, a lot of the challenges we are facing at the moment would have been resolved at that level. If given the necessary tools, local governments will deliver to the people.”