By Oke Epia
Stakeholders across sectors have called on the National Assembly and States Houses of Assembly to intensify efforts in ensuring that full Local Government autonomy in the ongoing constitution amendment process come to fruition.
Local government autonomy, they said, will in no measure help combat the high level of insecurity, poor education funding at primary level, poor health infrastructure and enabling substantive administration, and importantly, it will take governance closer to the people for improved service delivery.
These positions formed part of the communiqué reached at the second OPEN Constitution Conversation Series themed,‘Conversation on Local Government & Constitution Review,’ convened over the weekend by OrderPaper Nigeria in collaboration with Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) Programme of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom.
Stakeholders at the virtual event included Senator Sadiq Umar, Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Barr. Okoroafor Okechukwu, National Legal Adviser of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), and Dr. Adebola Bakare, Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University of Ilorin, all of whom served on the panel of speakers. Other participants included former members of the National Assembly, including Dr. Samson Osagie, former Minority Whip of the House of Representatives, members of Civil Society Organizations, Legal Community and the media, among others.
Stakeholders at the forum emphasized that the Local Government autonomy is long overdue and accelerated efforts and engagement is needed across board in ensuring that the full autonomy is achieved in the ongoing constitution review exercise. It was stressed that the present challenges being faced in the country on economy and insecurity is a result of the near-dead state of the Local Government in Nigeria.
“Full autonomy to the Local Government is long overdue and should be vigorously pursued in ongoing amendment in order to tenaciously combat the rising level of insecurity in Nigeria; since all problems in the country are traceable to the grassroots,” a communiqué signed by Oke Epia, Executive Director, OrderPaper Nigeria, said.
The communiqué stated further: “Local Government autonomy make Local Government administrators seat up to give room for creativity which will give room for development of local content through the rise in Small and Medium Scale Enterprises which will in no measure contribute to the national GDP.
“The need for the total abolishment of Joint Account Allocation Committee (JACC) and ensuring direct allocation to Local Government Areas from the federation account to avoid State Governors from accessing Local Government funds.
“The National Assembly should strongly consider ensuring a uniform tenure for Local Government chairmen across the country to avoid the use of caretaker committees being constituted by the Governors and by ensuring INEC takes over the conduct of Local Government elections.
“The forum identified the State Houses of Assembly as a strong barrier to the achievement of the Local Government autonomy, hence the need for all actors to intensify engagement of the Constitution amendment exercise so that the quest for Local Government autonomy does not meet a roadblock.
“Primary education funding should be made a first line charge, with the proposition that 40% of education budget be burnt by the Local Government while States and Federal Government should make do with 60%.”