Editorial

May 23, 2024

Let’s debate the LGA question

Let’s debate the LGA question

One of the great disservices that the General Abdulsalami Abubakar transitional regime did to Nigeria was its failure to empanel a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution before handing over in 1999. It simply amended the 1979/1989 Constitutions with some amendment clauses derived from the General Sani Abacha Constitution of 1996.

In effect, they merely reconfirmed the military legacies in these constitutions, which is why Nigerians have continued to clamour for a genuine “people’s” constitution.

One vital item we have found difficult to resolve is the Local Government Administration question. People glibly talk about the need for “local government autonomy”, because they believe it will help ensure that the revenues appropriated to that tier of government is used for its development.

Despite the seeming popularity of this idea, local government autonomy has failed to materialise. Governors all over the federation have pocketed this tier. The State Independent Electoral Commissions, SIECs, conduct elections which only return wholesale the governors’ parties to power.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari even made an executive order ensuring direct allocation of federal funds to the LGAs and mandating the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, as from June 1, 2019, to ensure that the governors did not tamper with their funds. It has not produced the desired results because the governors are firmly in charge.

It is just as well that it did not. Federal allocation directly in the hands of LGA Chairmen might mean multiplying our woes from 36 monsters (the governors) to 774. What is the guarantee that the autonomous LGA Chairmen will not steal the money? They could simply undercut the governors by linking up with “federal might”. It could be a recipe for instability in the states.

We need to debate the LG question. Surely, there are better options than the much-parroted “LGA autonomy”. Before the Civil War, the Regions had different styles of grassroots administration, which worked for each of them.

We strongly believe it is best for the states to be empowered to decide on the question of grassroots administration. The current Local Government system imposed on all states by military decree has failed. The states should be allowed to discuss and agree on the model of local administration that best suits them.

The most effective and accountable system will be anchored on the indigenous communities, chiefdoms and emirates, not forcefully lumping autonomous communities into LGAs that only more or less benefit the LGA Headquarters.

States should be able to create grassroots administrative units, supervise their governance and ensure they contribute to the overall development plans of their governorates. States should also be able to have their police, vigilante intelligence networks as well as correctional facilities. That is what happens in other genuine federations.

The people must decide the local administration question for themselves.