|Nigeria’s President of the Senate, His Excellency Sen. Ahmed Lawan presiding over a plenary session|
The long abandoned third tier of government is gradually and seemingly coming to the limelight with the passage of financial and administrative autonomy bill which has sailed through first reading on the floor of the National Assembly due to the on-going constitutional amendments.
Local government in Nigeria was established by law in 1976 with a view to serve as local authority with the constitutional powers to work independently of any external influence, be it the state or the federal government.
Interestingly, one of the purposes of establishing the local government, was to encourage participation of the people at the grassroots in administering their affairs.
Local government was equally charged with the responsibilities that would benefit people at the grass root who can’t access the state, or federal government. These responsibilities/duties are contained both in the concurrent and exclusive lists, such as making recommendations to state, collection of rates, establishment of homes for destitute, licensing vehicles and bicycles, establishment of markets, construction and maintenance of roads etc.
It is on record that before now, local governments were involved in charity works such as assisting the needy especially in the event of fire outburst, assistance in the burial of community members who had no parents/guidance, payment of hospital bills to the old and venerable people to mention but a few even though it had no full autonomy.
Today, it is disheartening to note that the story is not the same. The financial and administrative autonomy which could have made local councils functional has been crashed down thereby denying full democratic participation of the rural populace in governance and politics.
The continuous appointment of transition councils by the state and the creation of State Joint Local Government Account is a fallout of the denial of local government autonomy, which has paved way for state governors to allocate whatever amount to local government.
There had been series of attempt to grant local government autonomy even in the past but all these were frustrated.
However, it is glad to know that, Nigeria Senate on Tuesday last week passed a bill to grant financial and administrative autonomy to local governments in the country.
The proposed law seeks to amend the Constitution to repeal the state joint local government account and provide for a special account where all allocations due to the local governments’ councils, from the federation account and state government, shall be paid.
In the bill, each local government council is to create and maintain its own special account to be called Local Government Allocation Account into which all the allocations will be paid.
The legislations also mandate each state to pay to local government councils in its area of jurisdiction such proportion of its internally generated revenue on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly.
For administrative autonomy, the bill seeks to allow local governments to conduct their own election.
Based on the foregoing, it expected that this turn around will speedily develop our local communities, and allow democratic participation of the rural population in government and politics.