AS Nigerians clamour for constitutional review to remedy certain contentious issues, Opinion Leaders, Pressure Groups and Civil Society Organizations are currently dusting old memoranda and preparing new ones to crave and agitate for one thing or the other, particularly, the long awaited Local Council Autonomy.
Despite various debates on Autonomy for Local Government Councils in Nigeria from various quarters, yet the game is continuity as a school of thought argued that, for Nigeria to practice true federalism, the local government must be left under the states for effective and meaningful control and not federal government making laws on local councils thereby causing frictions between the states and local governments. Progressing, it was also declared that, the manipulations of the Governors are not enough to jettison the basic tenet of federalism which stipulates that the local governments constitutes federating units.
Logical as this argument is, Nigerians punctured the argument through the result of the opinion sampling conducted few years ago by the National Assemblies on Constitutional Review, that there is urgent need for local government autonomy.
It was also revealed that the Local Councils caters for more than 75% of the population, meaning that the local governments are more visible and closer to the people at the grassroots.
However, there have been heated debates at different fora since the call for redrawing the constitution under the present democratic dispensation, it was on this theory that, Autonomy for Local Government which is the third tier of government in Nigeria, is one of the contentious, cardinal issues that has dominated national discourse in the search for a new constitution, hence, listed for consideration in the Constitutional Review.
In a chat with Mega Icon Magazine , a wise and witty lawyer, former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Oyo State, Barrister Adebayo Shittu summarized the plight of local government councils in Nigeria. “It pains me greatly with the so called progressives. When it comes to their own right; they are hardened in striving to protect it, but when it comes to Local Government, they are not contented with the power they have as state governors, senators, they also want to encroach on the constitutional power of the local governments”, he said.
Barrister Shittu, also stated that the constitution makes provision for Local Government in terms of the areas of their mandates and establishment as a democratically elected constitutional platform. He further explained, “when an institution is described as Local Government, there are two (2) components which must be taking into consideration, such an institution must not only be local, but must also be government. “Local in the sense that, it must have an entirely local component, that is, the local populace in each constituency or local government must participate fully in the emergence of such institution by way of popular elections, so any establishment of the local government other than true democratically elected practice, nullifies the intent and purpose of the constitution, when it describes it as something which must be established by constitutional means”.
Stressing on the second component which is Government. Shittu posited, “it means it must be government in all sense of it. A government must be independent, a government must have all the power to attain the goals the constitution defines for it and a government must have authority and not dependent on another.
“For example, as we have Local Government, we also have State and Federal Governments. It is wrong for self seeking politicians to assume that the constitution of Nigeria presupposes two (2) federating units. This is falsity in the sense that, the existing States never existed not to talk of sub rendering their authority to a federal institution, on the reverse; the States were created by the Federal Government”, he declared.
Refreshing your memory, the former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice referenced some periods when the country based her dealing on regional government. He explained that there were three (3) regions, then increased to four (4) regions, before it was changed to states, starting from nineteen (19) States and now thirty six (36) States respectively.
He further stressed that these were all creations of the Federal Government, adding that as the Federal Government created the existing thirty six (36) states, the same Federal Government created the existing seven hundred and seventy four (774) Local Governments. “To that extent, the argument about Nigeria being two (2) tiers Federal Structure does not arise”, he reiterated.
In similar reaction to the excesses of the Governors, the Legal luminary, Barrister Shittu put his frustration this way: “I want to argue very strongly by the constitution of Nigeria, 1979 as amended, Nigeria is a three (3) tiers Federal Country, so in a situation where the local government content does not exist in the sense that, you have government being arbitrarily run by appointees of a State Government, that implies that it is no more local in the sense that, people are imposed, the Local Government people do not have any contribution to the emergence of the local government authority”, he lamented.
According to the Ibadan based lawyer now Minister of Communication, Shittu maintained that the local council depends on the state government for instructions, almost on a daily basis for the way and manner they spend their money. He also makes plain that these local governments supposed to be local government when you talk of supervision by the state government. “Would the state governments allowed themselves to be supervised by the federal government under the guise of ensuring prudent management of resources”, he questioned.
Barrister Shittu, thereby, canvassed for total financial freedom for the local governments in Nigeria. In his words, “it is not enough to have elected local government without financial freedom. Let me state that, most of the people operating at the local government are handpicked people who may indeed be strangers to the local people. Most of them present their loyalties to their appointors, who are the State Governors rather than the people.
“When local governments are really make local in all intents and purposes, there would be greater accountability to the masses of the people at the local level. Again, that authority cannot exist without financial autonomy, to that extent I believe there must be a rethink on the old concept of the Joint Account such that the stronghold which the state governments have would be drastically reduced”, Shittu said.
He suggested that the idea initiated in the sharing of resources meant for the States and Federal Government, just as the meetings of Commissioners for Finance with the Honourable Minister for States and Finance should also be replicated not on a matter of master to servant basis, but on a platform of mutual respect and accountability.
Shittu questioned further that at the state level where these powers radiates, does it necessarily translate that governors are corruption free, “if it does, we could as well scrap financial autonomy for state governments”, he insisted.
Consequently, Shittu expressed regrets that the right caliber of personnel who should move into the local government to run them are despaired, because, the local councils are not independently run.
He hoped to witness the following situations where “a Permanent Secretary, having served the state/federal governments retired and contest election into his local government council to be able to benefit his local people with the years of experience he might have garnered. “I want to imagine a situation where retired professors would now retired into the local government to use their wealth of experience, exposure, vision and knowledge to benefit his local populace. I want to assume a situation where a man after having retired as the president of Nigeria would go back to the local government that produced him in the first place to give back to his local people the benefits of his long years in services at the local level.
“If we are able to achieve this, then the quality of governance at the local level would be drastically improved, but you cannot have that unless we make it attractive by the way of ensuring that local governments are indeed very local and democratic in nature , in addition to financial autonomy”, he stated.
Barrister Shittu condemned that, it is self seeking for state governments and other politicians to claim that, if there is autonomy for local governments, it is necessarily going to erode the two tiers (2) federal structure as well as make local governments unmanageable. “ What is important is for us to agree to spread power or let power devolves not only from the federal government to the state, but also from the state to the local government, the situation we are now is very worrisome in the sense that state governments do not take any permission from anybody, but seek to control the management, running of the resources of local governments, not only appointing officials in to councils, but also owe in retaining for themselves power to determine how much the local government is to spend and on what it is spent for, it is painful, thus, making local governments an appendage of the state government, making a local government a rubber stamp institution”, Shittu complained.
Though Barrister Adebayo Shittu conceded that there would be need to strengthened relationship between the Executive and the Legislative arms of the Local Governments such that not only would free and fair elections be conducted into these two arms, but also to ensure enough and effective safeguards so that these autonomy would not be abused, while advocating strongly for strict compliance with the spirit and letters of Nigeria constitution to the extent that the local government must enjoy full Autonomy.
Another burning issue linked to the autonomy of the councils is the appointment of caretaker committee which he described as unlawful and unconstitutional, stating that it runs contrary to the Nigeria constitution which says: “Local Government must be established through the process of free and fair elections”, expressing sadness and regret on complacency on the part of many politicians at the local government level.
“They are supposed to take state government to court and pray the court to order that where local government authority does not emerged by democratically elected election means, their resources should not be released to the states, apart from those meant for salaries of the staff of the local government. I think when we get to that level; state governments would appreciate what they need to do unto others, what they have done to themselves”, he harps.
While the call for local government autonomy rages, another area where the council is suggested to be strengthened is the conduct of local government elections. Shittu argued that the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) should be scrapped and transfers its responsibilities to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). According to him, apart from the fact that the SIEC is financially independent but empowered by the state governments, people being appointed to oversee the affairs of the commission are more often politicians who have sympathy for the government in power, he believes the country is retarding if such status quo remains.
He, however, stressed that the INEC needs to be consolidated just like federal court structure.
“As we have INEC offices at the federal level, it must be reformed in accordance to the recommendation of Justice Whales to the extent that Commissioners in INEC would not be appointed by the President but by a process just as it is done in the case of judicial officers”, he advised.
Stating confidently that scrapping the SIEC would enhance the state governments to save more money for social services and allowing the federal governments to bear the responsibilities of funding the INEC.
On the contrary, a politician cum Environmental Scientist, former speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Honourable Kehinde Ayoola argued that there is an issue of semantics that Nigerians need to settle first. He said Autonomy means to carry out its activities independent of other levels of government which he alleged would definitely go against Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution which vests the control of the Local Governments in State government. Citing the case of Speakers of Assemblies vs. National Assembly which was decided in April 2002 by the Supreme Court, affirming that this has settled the issue of where control of Local Councils lies.
In the same reaction, Hon Ayoola disclosed that the Local Government Autonomy as advocated recently would defeat Federal Principle on which Nigeria as a nation is based. Amplifying that only the states and Federal Government constitutes the Federating Units, Local Governments are not but they are just units created for administrative convenience, Ayoola rechoed.
However, the former speaker, Ayoola insisted that Nigerians should be talking about FISCAL FREEDOM for Local Governments where Local Councils would be able to determine on their own, how they want to spend their funds accruing from the Federation Accounts. He was displeased with the way Wives of State Governors usually send memos to council chiefs ordering them on how to spend money, this he described unacceptable.
Speaking further, he assured that scrapping the Joint Accounts would strengthen the autonomy. He stated that Joint Account System was introduced when we had the problem of zero allocations. “I was in the Oyo State House of Assembly (OYHA) then. “The idea was to bring whatever came into the purse into and common pool and distribute to all Local Governments according to an agreed formula by law. That formula was: 50% on the basis of equity, 30% on the basis of population and 20% on the basis of landmass of each council. But that was in 1999 to 2003. “Later, the performance of crude oil in the stock market, the Debt Relief from the London and Paris Clubs, Ecological Funds and some often un praised deftness in managing our Federal resources have combined to ensure that there is always more money to share by the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee monthly, so there is no need to operate joint account anymore”, he said .
Another area where the Local Government need to be strengthened as requested, is the enhancement of Internally Generated Revenue, (IGR), so that the Council can participate in Economy planning.
According to the former lawmaker, there are areas of taxation that can be operated by councils according to the Local Government laws as duly passed by the State Assemblies. This included bicycle licensing, radio and TV license, tax on market stalls.
Continuing, he quickly pointed that while the Federal Government is stealing taxes collectable by States such as Value Added Tax, VAT, the States are also stealing taxes collectable by the LGs which include rates on market stalls, signboards and the rest, advocating strongly for true Federalism.
He also established that thinking granting autonomy to local councils in Nigeria would ignites the rate of corruption in the country, it simply assumes that “we have people of lesser moral quality at the Local Government levels – or are the folks at the Federal and States angels?”, he asked.
Also, Ayoola confirmed that there are enough clauses in the ICPC Acts of 2000 and EFCC Act to address corruption, while the anti-graft agents just need to put them into operation.
Going into the basics, he admonished Nigerians to always check whom they want to vote in properly, this he admits as the beginning of corruption check. “In Yoruba land, everyone knows everyone else. Even if you want to marry their daughter, they conduct a background check on you to know what sort of husband you would be, what family you come from, your antecedents and so on. “It is only when you have satisfied them that they will allow you to marry their child. Why can’t we apply this to elections? We must scrutinize and know the people we are electing; these are the first step in anti- corruption”, he maintained.
In similar vein, he advocates that public office holders and leaders must be well remunerated. Reassuring that a Local Government Chairman who has fear for his future well-being would certainly steal.
Part of the solutions suggested by Honourable Kehinde Ayoola is the cost of election. “I spent about N60, 000 on my election in 1999. Today, a contestant will spend in the neighbourhood of N25million for the same office. If a man does that, you can be sure he’ll steal to cover his investment”.
He, then urged the people at the grassroots not to put heavy loads on Office Holders as the Local Government Chairmen are expected to attend several events rages from weddings, naming and funerals every week in their respective Local Government Areas and with heavy financial implications, how do you expect them to get the money except, they steals”, he lamented.
He further charged the law enforcement agents not only to detect corruption but bring their perpetrators to justice and judges must be fearless in awarding punishments for corruption no matter who is involved, Ayoola said.
Responding to the argument of scrapping the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC), while allowing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to take charge of the Local Government Elections.
Honourable Kehinde Ayooola disregards this argument, stating that the constitution (and later the Supreme Court) has vested the power to make laws for the structure, financing, administration and good governance of Local Governments in States through a law made by Houses of Assembly of the states, asking why should INEC conduct LG elections?
In his opinion, he insisted that the State Independent Electoral Commission should be allowed to conduct Local Government Elections and the rules must be adhered to.
Having said this , he further described it as a total disregard for democracy in the Local Governments via the use of Caretaker Committees to run their affairs. He revealed that many Governors today have made Local Government Councils an extension of their Governors’ Offices
“The Governors should know that just as the President of the Federation has no power to appoint Caretaker Governors for States, they too have no power to do same for Local Governments”.
For the fact that the argument still persist between the Senate and House of Representatives, Honourable Ayoola shared more light on the issue, stating that any issue voted upon separately by the two chambers of the National Assemblies must be brought forward and harmonized by a joint committee of the two Houses, stressing further that when the two Assemblies meet jointly, a vote shall be taken, and then Nigerians shall know where the pendulum swings. However, the struggle for better living conditions for the grassroots must be a continuous one with no retreat and no surrender, he finalized.
Written by Idowu Ayodele.
#ENDSARS: Buhari to address the Nation at 7pm on Thursday
President Muhammadu Buhari will make will make a national broadcast Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 7pm.
This was stated in a Press Statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adriana
According to him, “Following detailed briefing by security chiefs on the current situation in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari
”Television, radio and other electronic media outlets are enjoined to hook up to the network services of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Radio Nigeria respectively for the broadcast”.
#ENDSARS: ‘Military offensive on protesters is an abomination, Akande -Sadipe talks tough
The Chairperson, House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Hon. Tolulope Akande-Sadipe has called on President Muhammed Buhari to address the killing of unarmed protesters across the nation, while condemning the killing of protesters by Armed Security operatives in the country.
Tolulope Akande Sadipe in a statement made available to journalists on Wednesday said, “I weep for my beloved country, Nigeria. This is the Darkest Moment in our Nation. The Current Action is Unacceptable”.
She wondered why men of the Nigerian Army turned on the people they were meant to Protect, firing live bullets at citizens holding the Nigerian Flag and chanting the National Anthem, describing such as an “Abomination”.
“I, as a member of the House of Representatives cannot keep quiet in the midst of this abominable action. I was duly elected to be the voice of my people and my people are weeping”, she said.
She opined that the protests were about a generation trying to end the systematic rot that pervades the society, which had eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nation.
The APC chieftain continued, “We need to be honest with one another on this matter. We need to face the truth on ground. The youths were out there because they are tired and fed up of victimization, daily oppression, injustice, unemployment, untapped talents, lack of opportunity, poor healthcare, poor education and lack of infrastructure and power across the Nation. The Youths are protesting for a better future for themselves and their children. The #EndSARS PROTEST stands for the systematic ROT in our Nation.
“This was about the realities on ground. This was about the ROT since independence. This was about genuine service to the people who elected us to represent them. This was not about the President, this was not about the current administration, this was not about North and South, this was not about Religion. This was not about party affiliation. This was about a Generation trying to end the systematic ROT that pervades our society”.
Speaking against the backdrop that there are some external forces pushing for the destruction of Nigeria, the lawmaker representing Oluyole Federal Constituency said the Federal Government should genuinely address issues.
“Those alluding, that there is a 5th Columnist within or external, there is a solution. If there is a 5th columnist or external negative force, pushing for the destruction of Nigeria, if we do the right thing, by genuinely addressing the issues that have led to the distrust between leadership and our youths, by addressing the rot that has pervaded our Nation. The 5th columnist in our midst or external negative force, would fail. But with this action, what have we said to the Youth and to the world.
“This is the time to make the wrongs right and it is not by bringing out the Army to shoot its own citizens, that we achieve this. We can still put a stop to this inferno. We must realize that no position is permanent and it is the country we make that we shall all live in”, she added.
Concluding, she empathized with all the families of fallen Youth Patriots, praying that their death would not be in vain.
Nigeria Excluded From 2022 US Visa Lottery
Nigeria has been barred from the US visa lottery application for 2022, a document obtained from the US Government website showed.
In a 19-page document published on the website, Nigeria is the only African country barred from the visa lottery.
“For DV-2022, persons born in the following countries are not eligible to apply, because more than, 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (including Hong Kong SAR), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam,” the document read. “Persons born in Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.”
Although natives of other African countries are allowed to apply, the document explained that “persons born in the areas administered prior to June 1967 by Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt are chargeable, respectively, to Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt,” it said.
“Persons born in the Gaza Strip are chargeable to Egypt; persons born in the West Bank are chargeable to Jordan; persons born in the Golan Heights are chargeable to Syria.”
In the document captioned “Instructions for the 2022 diversity immigrant visa program (dv-2022),” applicants must meet certain guidelines to be eligible for the visa lottery.
“The Department of State determines selectees through a randomized computer drawing,” the statement added.
“The Department of State distributes diversity visas among six geographic regions, and no single country may receive more than seven per cent of the available DVs in any one year.”
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