LGAs: Third Tier Of Govt Or Governors’ Cash Cow?

Image source dsto

Image source dsto

FOR years now, concerted efforts have been made to democratise and make local governments more responsive and responsible to developmental needs.

One of the legal frameworks establishing the functions of the local government is the 1976 Local Council Reform which defines local government as: “Government at local level exercised through representative council, established by law to exercise specific powers within defined areas.

“These powers should give the council substantial control over local affairs as well as the staff, institutional and financial powers to initiate and direct the provision of services. To determine and implement projects so as to complement the activities of the State and federal governments in their areas, and to ensure, through these councils and active participation of the people and their traditional institutions, that local initiative and response to local needs and conditions are maximised.”

Part 1 of the First Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) recognises the existence of 774 LGAs in the Nigeria, including six for the Federal Capital Territory. Also, the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution currently specifies the functions of these LGs. Specifically, Section 2 (a) to (c) of the Fourth Schedule confers on the operators such responsibilities as the provision and maintenance of health services, development of agriculture and natural resources and the provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education. The same constitution specifies a term limit for the elected officials of local government.

But unfortunately, the same 1999 constitution seems to have overridden the gains and aspirations of the local government with the exclusion of it from the constitution.

Also compounding the woes of this third tier of government is the conspiratorial role and attitude of both the federal and state governments, especially the state governors and the Nigerian judiciary.

Since the country’s return to democratic governance, state governors and their allies at the federal level have strongly opposed a proposal for the autonomy of the local governments in Nigeria, describing it as an aberration.

The joint account is what is called State & Local Government Joint Account, commonly abbreviated as JAC. It is called JAC because each state is supposed to make additional contribution into that account from its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) discouraging multiple taxation on the people.

For instance, if the federal government allocated N100,000 to each local government in a state and sent it through the JAC, instead of each local government to get N100,000, each should get say N130,000, with N30,000 added by the state government from it’s IGR.

But shockingly what has been happening across all states in the country is that instead of giving the local government the due N130, 000, the local governments are being shortchanged of their statutory N100,000.

In the face of this unbridled impunity by the state governors, local government chairmen or caretakers as the governors deemed it fit cannot protest because they do not enjoy autonomy and their tenure, even election, is at the whims and caprices of the state governors.

A visit to the various council headquarters across the states of the federation showed that apart from the edifices, other things are the more you look, the less you see.

Also very worrisome is the fact that despite several constitutional amendments so far, the National Assembly has not deemed it fit to tinker with the sections that deal with local government administration in the country.

It could be recalled that even President Muhammadu Buhari in his inaugural speech expressed concern over the state governors’ meddlesomeness in the management of the local government funds.

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