Local Government Autonomy is key to Nigeria’s political and financial autonomy – Sen. Ekwunife

Local Government Autonomy is key to Nigeria's political and financial autonomy - Sen. Ekwunife
Senator Uche Ekwunife

Senator Uche Ekwunife in a statement made through her official facebook handle tittled: Local Government Councils – A call for Political and financial Autonomy literated the need for local government autonomy, she talked about her efforts towards local government autonomy while she was at the green and red chambers of the National Assembly.

Recall that Senator Ekwunife represented the people of Anambra central between June and December 2015, prior to that she was a member of the House of representative for two terms (2007 – 2015).

In the post made about 3hrs ago, Ekwunife stated that, the Nigerian Constitution clearly recognizes three tiers of government namely Federal, State and Local. The resources of the country are appropriated principally on the basis of these levels of government with the Federal Government at the top and the Local Governments at the bottom.

Of the three, only Local Governments are denied financial autonomy thereby subjecting them to becoming beggars where they are supposed to be masters. In Nigeria today, State Governments sit on revenues accruing to the Local Governments and appropriate them as they will without considering the desires of the rightful owners.

The Governors decide who sits at the Local Government Councils sometimes through appointment of transition council members and at other times through elections solely conducted by the State Governors’ constituted State Electoral Commissions. In practice therefore, Local Government administration in Nigeria has become a Department under the Governors’ offices.

The question then is why provide for Local administration that is toothless and cannot be held accountable? Is there need for this third tier of government? The answer is YES and that was why I proposed the Bill for its political and financial autonomy in the Federal House of Representatives. The Bill was also in pipeline in the Senate before I left the Red Chambers.

She further stressed that Local Governments are the closest to the masses and as such they appreciate the needs of the masses more. They are very close to the traditional rulers and President-Generals of all the towns in the Local Governments and if empowered, the towns will easily hold them responsible for their needs.

The Governors should concentrate on the duties assigned to them in the Constitution while the Council Chairmen should be allowed to administer the Local Governments and be responsible for their balance sheets. As the Federal Government supports the State Governors to manage their States so also should the Governors leave the Chairmen to operate their Councils.

As against the current practice, INEC should conduct elections into the various Councils and all revenues accruing from the Federation Account should hit the Councils’ accounts directly.

That way, the import of the Councils will be felt more by the masses. It will also reduce the ‘free’ resources at the disposal of the Governors thereby subjecting them to thinking of and developing other sources of income for the effective provision of essential services for the electorates. Governors will therefore be competing in activities that will generate revenues and begin to rely less on Abuja.

In the same token, dividends of democracy will get to the grassroots and we will start seeing Councils provide basic infrastructures, construct rural roads, provide water, build markets, etc in the communities within their jurisdiction. Competition will become the order of the day.

While closing she opined that events and discussions in recent past point to the clamour for Councils to have political and financial autonomy. Several political analysts too numerous to mention are in support of this autonomy and only two days ago, Local Government workers in Anambra State organized a peaceful demonstration calling for the autonomy of Local Government Councils.

More of such agitations are expected and before such degenerate to strikes/riots, I call on the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the Bill for an Act for the Political and Financial Autonomy of Local Government Councils in Nigeria