Tinubu Vows To Strengthen LGAs

Northern Group Demands Swift Action Against 'Sponsored' Anti-Gov't Protests  

President Bola Tinubu has reiterated his administration’s commitment to strengthening local government areas to tackle insecurity in the country.

Tinubu made the commitment on Monday at the National Dialogue on Nigeria’s Security Challenges and Good Governance at the Local Government Level, organised by the House of Representatives in Abuja.

Represented by the Minister of Defence, Mohammed Abubakar, the President said the challenges of insecurity which have persisted for long, posed a threat to safety and welfare of the country.

He lamented the scourge of insurgency, terrorism, banditry, and other forms of criminality which have inflicted untold suffering on the people and undermined collective peace as well as prosperity of the country.

Tinubu said local governments were the frontline defenders against insecurity as the closest to the people and repository of intimate knowledge of their communities’ needs and challenges.

“It is imperative that we confront those challenges head on, if we are to move forward in our journey towards development.

“It is in light of the foregoing that our administration is committed to implementing measures aimed at bolstering the local government system.

“This commitment is deeply rooted in our bottom of development approach; recognising that sustainable development, national security and prosperity can only be achieved when every level of government functions effectively and accountably.

“We must realise that the local government system is not just a matter of administrative convenience. It is a cornerstone of our national security architecture by empowering local governments to fulfill their mandate; if efficiently and ethically, we create a solid foundation for ensuring safety, stability and well-being of Nigerians.

“The Local governments being the closest government to the people are strategically positioned in promoting human security by delivering essential services like health, education, sanitation and social welfare programmes directly to communities where they are most needed.

“They are important in ensuring that our communities are safe, prosperous and resilient. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to strengthen our local government system to effectively address those challenges. By empowering local government authority with the necessary resources and capacities to implement sustainable development initiative,” he noted.

On his part, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), attributed the failure of the local government areas in the country to weak constitutional provisions and dominance by state governors.

According to Fagbemi, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution made the local governments more dependent on the state governments by the virtue of Section 7 (1) which has seriously affected the level of performance of local government.

The legal luminary said the dependence on state governments, guaranteed under the Constitution,
has been a significant factor leading to the general failure of local government as well as an excuse for suspending representative institution.

He further said that in spite of the constitutional provisions that were meant to safeguard local governments’ autonomy, there have been cases of arbitrary dissolution, abolition or fragmentation of local governments by the higher tiers of government, particularly the state governments.

Fagbemi noted that the provision of the constitution under Section 162 (5-8) on State Joint Local Government Account which empowered the state Assemblies to decide the revenue to their local government facilitated state encroachment on local revenues, saying cases of state hijacking of local government revenues abound from 1999 to date.

He added that the failure of the constitution to articulate a clear line of authorities to both the state and local authorities and the continuing debate over the involvement of state governments in distributing local government allocation from the Federation Account has affected the capacity of LGAs to provide essential services at the grassroots.

The Attorney-General stressed that constitutional amendment was imperative before a new system of local government administration can be instituted, while there should be increased fiscal and administrative autonomy of local government system to enhance its effectiveness and efficiency, amongst others.

 

“In consequence of these weak constitutional provisions, the lifespan of the local government councils is at the mercy of the State governments. There is no consistent pattern of local government elections. Some State Governors dissolved their Councils and appoint Caretaker Committees.

“There are several cases of abuse of the Joint Account by different State governments across Nigeria. This has undermined the financial autonomy of the local government, as well as their ability to deliver on their statutory responsibilities

“The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not provide adequately for the political autonomy of the local governments. The resultant effects of these inadequacies are that the state governments have the discretion to determine the nature, content and direction of local government elections and political activities.

‘Rather than function as a tier of government, LGAs have been operating as an appendage of the State governments in Nigeria. The constitutional provisions on State Joint Local Government Account (Section 162 (5-8)) have placed the local government councils in a political bondage.

“Politically, due to the flaws in the electoral process in the country, what is obtained is a virtual selection and not election of local government functionaries. Local government chairmen are always imposed on the people by the State Governors,” the nation’s Chief Law Officer said.

Similarly, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen lamented the failure of the 9th Assembly’s Alteration Bill, which among other things, proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution to grant financial independence to local governments due to the inability to meet the required two-thirds as most States voted against it.

Abbas said the 10th National Assembly was determined and committed to ensuring local governments are recognised and sufficiently empowered to perform their constitutionally assigned roles.

He applauded the suit filed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, seeking full autonomy for all LGAs in accordance with the 1999 Constitution through democratically elected local government system.

The Speaker said this action underscores President Tinubu’s profound commitment to the issue he is intimately familiar with from his tenure as Governor of Lagos State.

Abbas called on all governors to put Nigeria first and collectively support the President in the quest to grant full autonomy to local governments.

He said: “Currently, more than half of the 776 local governments operate under caretaker committees, violating constitutional mandates for democratic management. These issues, among others have weakened local governance and allowed insecurity to thrive.

“In fact, many have argued that the myriad challenges facing Nigeria today, including widespread insecurity are linked to the non-existence or weakness of governance at the local government level. Addressing these challenges is crucial for fostering good governance and strengthening national security.

“We must definitively resolve the controversy surrounding the status of local governments by providing the framework needed to ensure their optimal operation,” the Speaker said.

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