June 11, 2024

LG Autonomy: Afenifere lashes Tinubu, says suit diversionary, hypocritical


President Bola Tinubu

—Wants 774 councils deleted, allow states have LG

By Dayo Johnson, Akure

The Pan Yoruba Socio-Political Group, Afenifere, has described the position of the federal government on local government autonomy as diversionary, hypocritical and playing to the gallery.

Rising from the groups National Caucus meeting held at the Lagos Residence of the Leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the group said the position of the government ” is a clear demonstration of lack of political will to restructure the Nigerian Federation.

A communique issued after the meeting which was signed by Pa Adebanjo and the groups National Publicity Secretary, Prince Justice Faloye, said that the suit was “without deep reflection on its implications for a true federal Nigeria.

Afenifere said that ” the suit rather diminishes President Tinubu’s claims on federalism and casts him in the image of his predecessors who erroneously perceived the President or the Federal Government as a leviathan at whose feet the federating states must capitulate.

The communique said ” President Tinubu by praying the Supreme Court for a declaration “that in the face of the violations of the 1999 Constitution, the federal government is not obligated under section 162 of the Constitution to pay any State, funds standing to the credit of local governments where no democratically elected local government is in place” is only urging the apex court to overrule itself on which same act of former President Olusegun Obasanjo against Lagos State it declared illegal.

“In a clear demonstration of his promise to continue where Buhari stopped and copying his illegal Executive legislation Tinubu also now prays the Supreme Court “to allow the credits to Local Governments to be directly paid to them from the Federation Account and declare the Local Government joint account illegal.

“Afenifere harbours no doubt that the Tinubu Presidency is not unaware that this relief is of no moment without amendment of section 162 and particularly subsection (6) which 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 government councils of the state from the Federation Account and from the Government of the state”.

The communique added that “Afenifere says without equivocation that it is through this JAC account, created by the constitution, that the Local governments’ funds are pooled for sundry joint services including payment of teachers salaries and administration of Local Councils Development Authority (LCDA) created by states, spearheaded by Tinubu as Governor of Lagos State and declared inchoate by the Supreme Court.

” That the Federal Government also knows that its prayer for “an order, prohibiting state governors from unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected LG leaders” is neither recondite nor without precedent as the apex court will only be blowing familiar mute trumpet having so ordered for the umpteenth time at the suits of Council Chairmen and Councilors to no avail.

Afenifere said that “as true as the payer of the piper dictating the tune, Council officials know that they hold their offices only at the pleasure of governors and party leaders in a selection through the so-called State Independent Electoral commission and thus are bereft of legitimacy to defend nonexistent mandate to resist dissolution.

“The prayer of the Federal Government for a declaration “that the constitution of Nigeria recognises federal, states and local governments as three tiers of government and that the three recognised tiers of government draw funds for their operation and functioning from the Federation Account created by the Constitution” is against established tenet of federalism which recognises the central government and federating units as the only two tiers and indeed inconsistent with Section 2 (2) of the same constitution which provides that “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory”.

“Afenifere believes that Local Government is the business of the federating units and thus the listing and enshrinement in the constitution of the 744 local Councils arbitrarily created by the military is antithetical to the principles of federalism which is the negotiated founding covenants of the Nigerian state.

The group said it “recognises several irreconcilable sections in the Nigerian constitution which are antithetical to the principles of federalism as the foundational covenant of the nation and democratic practices.

“A cursory historical analysis of the Local Government system shows that under the colonial Native Authorities system when councils were not receiving money from the Federation Account nor the basis of revenue allocation, the north had 147 while the South had 215.

“When the military first introduced uniform Local Government system with list of councils enshrined in the 1979 constitution, the North had 152 while the South was 150.

“Now under the 1999 constitution, when Councils are funded from the federation account, a basis of revenue allocation, delineation of electoral wards, census enumeration areas, employment in federal government ministries and parastatals and above all, delegates to political party conventions for selecting presidential and other candidates, the North is 413 as against 355 for the South.

” In 1979, the present South East had 44, while the North West was 53. Today, the South East stands at 95, while the North West is 187. In 1979 old Imo State (now Imo and Abia) 21 Councils. Kano (now Kano and Jigawa) 20. Under the present 1999 constitution, the same old Imo now has a total of 44 (Abia 17, Imo 27).

Afenifere added that “In contrast, the old Kano which had less than old Imo now has a total of 71 (Jigawa 27; Kano 44), a little less than all the 5 states of the South East which altogether have 95 Councils.

“Within the South West, Ogun State created since 1976 has 20 Local Governments compared with smaller Osun State, carved out of Oyo in 1991, with comparatively lower population and smaller territorial size with 30 Local Governments. Ondo State also larger in size and population than Osun has 18. For no reason Bayelsa is awarded only (8)

“Afenifere insists that the only solution to this staggering injustice is to delete the list of Local Governments in the constitution and allow states to have their local governments as recommended by the 2014 National Conference and the 2018 El-Rufai Committee on Federalism as part of the holistic restructuring of the Nigerian Federation. The Time is Now.