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Local government autonomy has been a knotty issue in Nigeria since the military regime factored it into governance in 1976.

Local government autonomy has been a knotty issue in Nigeria since the military regime factored it into governance in 1976.

Whereas it was constitutionally guaranteed to be the third tier of government, state governors have over the years, subsumed local councils' responsibilities and for selfish reasons, disrobed them of their independence. This is not a surprise, given that governors across the country have also fraudulently cornered monthly allocations due to local government areas in the country, diverting same to other purposes.
It is unfortunate that this all-important third tier of government has remained a lame duck at the mercy of governors, while the Federal Government appears to be indifferent. The result is that grassroots development which they were created to handle has continued to suffer neglect, while disconnecting the people from democracy and good governance. Ordinarily, the local government should be the government whose impact should be most felt by citizens as it is the government closest to them. It is against this backdrop that Nigeria Moment welcomes the increased agitations for autonomy by the National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, and other stakeholders.
Granting autonomy to the local government is critical to the sustainability of democracy, as it would free them from the economic strangulation by governors and even make more qualified Nigerians seek to be chairmen and councilors. We commend the support given to autonomy of LGAs by the National Assembly during its constitutional amendment process, which has given extra verve to these calls. Under the circumstance, state Houses of assembly should flow along to debunk popular opinion that they are accomplice in governors' oppression of another arm of government.
The Deputy Senate Minority Leader, Emmanuel Bwacha stated the obvious during its plenary when he said: “Local government autonomy would have been the best thing to happen to this country, but the states will always frustrate it because of the monumental fraud that takes place there”.
Nigeria Moment reiterates our earlier stance that local government areas should be granted autonomy without delay so that the people at the grassroots can be freed from the shackles of fraudulent and tyrannical governors, and be more responsive to their people. We believe in the position canvassed by the National President of NULGE, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, that autonomy will “checkmate corruption in the country while local governments will be empowered politically and financially”. The National Assembly must collaborate with the executive arm of government to ensure that this is achieved. The culture of impunity which governors have flagrantly adopted in dissolving the tenure of duly elected local government leaders and even refusing to conduct elections into the local government must be stopped.
The states must be stopped from stripping another level of government of their constitutional responsibilities, and governors must desist from the unconstitutional practice of appointing their stooges as sole administrators or caretaker committees to run council affairs.
The stakeholders cannot continue to remain aloof, especially as the practice is at variance with Section 7 (1) of the Constitution, which states that state government shall, subject to section 8 of the Constitution, abide by the law, which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of the councils. We encourage local government employees to take every available means to press for their autonomy and resist governors' illogicality in habitually dissolving the tenure of councils' executives and replacing same with appointees. Stakeholders, including the civil society groups should also collaborate to mount pressure on the relevant authorities to force them to obey the extant laws as regards what is due local councils.  The Federal Government can demonstrate its resolve to confront this anomaly by outlawing the State Independent Electoral Commission, SIEC. In its stead, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC should immediately assume SIEC position so that election of council chairmen and councilors can be removed from governors' influence.
This is important to prevent them from using the state electoral commissions to stifle a fair electoral process that would pick the peoples' choice of leaders. It is no surprise that most elections conducted by SIEC are often swept by the ruling party in the state, making one wonder where lies the independence.
The brazen obstinacy on the part of governors, or any other interest group or individuals who are averse to local government autonomy should not be allowed to continue. We recommend that the Federal Government takes a bold step by disbursing monthly allocations directly to the councils, and allow the leadership to take full control of the funds to provide basic amenities for the rural dwellers. To continue sending such allocations through the states would be a tacit endorsement of the illegality perpetrated by the governors.

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