This is a far cry from what obtains in advanced democracies where local governments or municipal councils are financially and statutorily empowered to provide infrastructure and services that give succor to the people
Recently, the Resolutions of the nation’s 36 States Houses of Assembly on the Constitution Amendment Bill was presented to the National Assembly by their Speakers. The financial and administrative autonomy of the 744 local governments as the third tier of government in the country was one of the cardinal issues among the 23 items amended by the National Assembly and forwarded to the State Assemblies in October, 2014 for their concurrence. Assent by two thirds majority of the members of all the State Houses of Assembly in session, that is 24 states, is required to pass each of the constitutional amendment into law. We condemn those majority State Assemblies that voted against the amendment in support of local government autonomy which was intended to strengthen democracy and grassroots development which has been illusive since the transition to democracy. Their position is totally contrary to the assurance that “we shall stand on the side of the people and democracy, as far as the proposed items for amendments were concerned” given in October, 2014 by the Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly and Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon. Samuel Ikon, while receiving the resolutions of the Ad-hoc Committee of the National Assembly on Constitution Review containing the 23 items for concurrence from the state legislatures.
Why did the State Assemblies vote against the autonomy of local governments despite the expediency of the idea? It is obviously a case of the hand is Esau’s while the voice is Jacob’s. The actors in the local government autonomy rejection are the State Assemblies. But they are obviously acting the script of the state governors and doing their bidding. When the National Assembly approved the proposed amendment of the 1999 constitution in October, 2014 granting financial and administrative autonomy to local governments in the country, the two factions of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF) led by Governors Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State and Jonah Jang of Plateau respectively across party lines vehemently rejected the move. In separate reactions, the governors opposed the idea and said it was a contradiction of the Federal System of government currently operated in the country. Jang’s faction of NGF had vowed in a release to mobilize law makers in their respective states against the amendment.
For many years, the local governments have been pawns on the chess board of state governors and State Houses of Assembly. The Governors exploit The States and Local Government Joint Account and related provisions in the 1999 constitution to starve the local governments in the country of vital funds and administrative powers to develop the rural areas. In most states the third tier of government has been stripped of the normal sources of funds like refuse disposal, outdoor advertisements and signage. Their share of statutory allocation after deductions by the states can barely pay staff salaries with little left to execute vital infrastructural projects like rural and urban roads, drainage, potable water, public libraries, health centres etc. The consequence of this indiscretion is that our rural dwellers are treated like second class citizens, perennially condemned to poverty and deprived of the basic necessities of life while on the contrary the largest chunk of the nation’s revenue is lavished on the urban centres. Little wonder that we are condemned to unmitigated rural –urban drift. This is a far cry from what obtains in advanced democracies where local governments or municipal councils are financially and statutorily empowered to provide infrastructure and services that give succor to the people. For crying out loud, what is wrong in upgrading our democracy in tandem with the best practices in the advanced democracies from where we imported democracy?
Now that the good intention of the National Assembly to fast-track development at the rural areas by granting autonomy to the local governments have been shot down by some governors and state legislators, we call on the supporters of the noble idea not to despair. Rather the lobby for inclusion of local government autonomy in the next constitutional amendment must commence immediately.
Axact

ANAMBRA UPDATE

Anambra Update is an independent publication, established in 2012 for the purpose of presenting balanced coverage of events, and of promoting the best interests of Anambra and Ndigbo in extention. It owes allegiance to no political party, ethnic community, religious or other interest group. Its primary commitment is to the integrity and sovereignty of the Federation of Nigeria, and beyond that to the unity and sovereignty of Igbo Social-Cultural Race

Post A Comment: