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All Eyes on Your Excellencies.
Opinion

All Eyes on Your Excellencies. 

All Eyes on Your Excellencies.

By Onyema Okoani

I am sure you too must have been as pleasantly surprised as I was when the President, Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) stirred the hornet of officialdom in an interview aired on Thursday, June 10, 2021 during The Morning Show on Arise TV. The president stated among other things that “We have killed the Local Government totally. We will send 300 million naira as allocation to a local government, one Governor will ask the Local Government Chairman to sign that he collected 300 million naira but he will give him 100 million naira and the chairman will keep quiet…is that how we will continue?”.
This is the bane of local government administration in the contemporary Nigeria. Having started with this, let me try to kill two birds with one stone, projectile on the problems and solutions.
PROBLEMS
It is an open secret that no single State Governor ever presented a topical issue at the Governors’ Forum concerning local government autonomy with reference to allocations because the independence of local governments spell doom on their “political business”. This negation of the constitutional laid down position of a three-tier federal structure in Nigeria has remained a major developmental quagmire. The refusal of Your Excellencies to remove their knees on the neck of local government system is a major push and pull factor increasing poverty and destroying governance at the grassroots. From 1999 to date the situation has turned from worse to terrible.
It seems real, whenever the Governors postulate that the reasons for establishment of Joint Local Government Account is for an equitable distribution of scarce resources because some local governments cannot survive with their own allocation from FAAC. But I stand to be corrected; there is no local government in Nigeria that cannot be self-sustaining, if things are done correctly. The Joint account has never helped the grassroots, it has rather become an avenue created to easily loot public funds and that has been the prevailing norms amongst the State Governors for many years. More disheartening is the way the Local Government Chairmen are relaxed and contented with their situation.
Added to the injury is the general public. Many seem not to know their right in a democratic setup as we are always busy applauding the third tier Comprador Executives with no clear-cut pattern to governance.

SOLUTIONS
I will never pretend to know all the solutions, but in accordance with the constitution, Joint Local Governments Account is wrong and illegal. However, lack of political will power from the Central Government has prolonged the issue of Joint Local Government Account. In the past the State Governors contributes or supports any party Presidential candidate through the joint local government funds but now that the Buhari led administration has shown the will power to stop this anomaly through his actions by signing an Executive Order for Local Government Financial Autonomy, it should go beyond that since with the benefit of information at my disposal almost 95% of the local governments funding is through FAAC allocation. I expect the Presidency to direct the present Minister of Finance to deduct local government allocations from the source to local government accounts without interfacing with the state government. This would easily actualize the Independent movement of the local governments.

The federal government should as a matter of urgency present an Executive Bill to the National Assembly empowering INEC to conduct local government elections in Nigeria. These will avail many public-spirited individuals the opportunity to vie for election in the local governments, as against shenanigans of the State Electoral Commission. The basic truth is that every election conducted by State electoral commissions are mere formalities to elect candidates selected by the Governors. These anointed cum select Chairmen are bound to be under the whims and caprices of their Governors. There is this notion that some former Excellencies who are now law makers will frustrate this important constitutional amendment, but I believe that the bill will fly in the present National Assembly.
From the sidelines, the general public and Labour Union should put pressure on the National Assembly to push for local Governments’ autonomy financial wise.
With that in mind, we should start doing the work by asking the necessary questions. The Freedom of Information Act, 2011, empowers us to seek for information on how money allocated to our local government is been spent. It is our right.

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