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Governors have ‘killed’ local govts — Senate
 
By: Abara Blessing Oluchi
Thu, 16 May 2024   ||   Nigeria,
 

The Senate on Wednesday, accused state governors of misappropriating funds allocated to local government councils in Nigeria, saying that arm of government was dead in the country

It also said the dream of achieving the objectives of the local government system has encountered harsh realities as successive governments have often eroded local autonomy, limiting their financial resources and control over decision-making.

Consequently, the Red Chamber asked the federal government to stop further allocation of funds to caretaker committee-led local government areas, LGAs, and urged President Bola Tinubu to, as a matter of urgency, champion the cause of full autonomy for local governments in the country.

Resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Suleiman Kawu, NNPP, Kano South.

The Senate resolved that President Tinubu should champion the cause of full autonomy for local governments in the country.

Presenting the motion, Senator Kawu said, among others: “The Senate notes that in the tapestry of Nigeria’s governance system, local governments are meant to be threads weaving development close to the ground.

‘’Envisioned as the closest tier of administration to the people, they hold the potential to address local needs directly and shape communities from inside out. But the story of Nigeria’s local government system is one of promise and paradox, woven with threads of hope and frustration;

“Also notes that the journey began in 1976 with local government reform, aiming to decentralize power and empower communities.

‘’Envisioned as self-governing entities with elected officials, local governments handled critical aspects of community life – primary education, healthcare, sanitation, local infrastructure and community security. It was a dream of grassroots democracy, where decisions were made closer to the people they impacted.

‘’Aware that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, when he served as governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007, demonstrated sincere passion for the autonomy of the local governments in Lagos State. This can be grasped when he purportedly established 37 LCDAs within LGAs in Lagos State and introduced reforms to strengthen them.

“Also aware that the President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, when he served as the governor of Akwa-Ibom Stated from 2007 to 2015, implemented various initiatives to improve service delivery at the local level, such as rehabilitating infrastructure, investing in healthcare and education, and launching poverty alleviation programmes, as well as deducting 10% of the IGR to LGAs which informed ground breaking achievements by LGA in Akwa-Ibom State local government administration.’

“Also worried that some governors play a crucial role in frustrating local government autonomy in Nigeria via constitutional alteration processes.’’

In his contribution to the debate on the motion, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, APC, Abia North and a former governor of Abia State, acknowledged that councillors had the authority to grant modest contracts in the past but bemoaned the absence of local government in the present.

He said local government funds must be returned 100 per cent to the local councils, with improvement in the capacity of people running the councils.

Contributing, Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC, Yobe North, who noted that local governments must be effective and guaranteed by the constitution, said: “ I urge that we find a way of improving the capacity of those who run the local government system, because I believe this requires devolution of powers.”

On his part, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, APC-Anambra South, said to promote good governance in the country, “we must look at Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution.

‘’We need to amend it, so we can start having values for democracy in our states. A state like Anambra has not conducted local government election in the last 18 years.”

On his part, the Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, who presided at plenary, said: “Local governments are dead in Nigeria. Governors misappropriate local government funds.

‘’They force local government chairmen to sign off cheques and give them meagre amounts as running costs. Some governors are different and we thank them for doing the right thing.’’

 

 

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