Barely 48 hours after his swearing-in, President Muhammadu Buhari’s move to remove local governments from the control of state governors is causing some disquiet among the state chief executives, Sunday Telegraph has learnt. Buhari had during his inauguration on Friday declard his reolve to ensure fiscal accountability in the local government system.
To demonstrate his seriousness, the President has resolved to present to the Eighth National Assembly an Executive Bill that will guarantee the autonomy of local governments. And barring any unforeseen circumstance, the bill will be sent within the first six months of the current administration, Sunday Telegraph gathered authoritatively. However, the rattled governors might not easily cave in as they have vowed to continue to push that such a situation (granting autonomy to councils) is inimical to federalism.
The governors are not ruling out the court option, an aide to one of them, who did not want to be named, told Sunday Telegraph yesterday. The aide told our correspondent that the governors would not just keep quiet over the matter. He said even though the dispensation is fresh, the governors can explore the legal option.
“You know the issue has been on for a long time. If the President thinks otherwise, he may have his reasons but you know the governors too will fight back; it might not be a confrontation but they can explore the court option. Let the Supreme Court decide the matter since it is between states and the federal government,” he said. The secretariat of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum also came out to say it wanted the impasse resolved as soon as possible.
“We want this matter resolved as quickly as possible because we need to move forward; I can assure you that it is one of the items that will be discussed by the forum in its early meetings. “You know we now have a new leadership both at the level of the forum and in most states.
I think about 20 new governors are coming on board; we will only make our position known through the thinking of the governors when they meet and discuss the matter,” NGF’s Director-General, Bayo Osasaiuna Okauru, told Sunday Telegraph in Abuja yesterday. Okauru had told newsmen late last year that the NGF under the former Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, NGF was not in support of local government autonomy. “The NGF does not support autonomy for local governments.
The governors are against it. They have said it and still maintain that they will not support autonomy for local governments. “There is no country in the world that there are three federating units; there are only two all over the world.
Why should you say that there must be a third federating unit in Nigeria?” Sunday Telegraph gathered that shortly after the President’s speech, some of the state governors put calls through to the newlyelected NGF Chairman and Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulazziz Yari, and urged him to immediately move to Abuja to possibly confer with the President unofficially on the matter. Yari shunned all planned post-inauguration events in the state capital, Gusau, and rushed to Abuja.
“That aspect of the speech was not just as ordinary as he made it seem. The President had previously decried the rot at the local government level even before his emergence as the presidential candidate of the APC.
“He had plans for the system but you know, there are certain interests you don’t ruffle in politics. You need to respect people’s egos and feelings, especially when you need them. But the issue at stake is far beyond personal interests. It is a national challenge that requires a frontal attack if we must move forward as a nation.
“To be candid, there is the likelihood that Mr. President will send an executive bill to the National Assembly to that effect since the last attempt was frustrated by the states and their houses of assembly,” he said.
ALGON National Chairman, Hon. Micah Jiba, had in a recent interview insisted that local governments should be allowed to draw their allocations directly from the Federation Account. NULGE’s stance on the issue is similar to that of ALGON as its National President, Ibrahim Khaleel, also said the union would continue to fight for local government autonomy.
He also said he was optimistic that the new administration would open a new chapter on the local government issue. Governors of the All Progressives Congress under the aegis of the Progressive Governors’ Forum had last year rejected autonomy for local governments. The governors had, in a communiqué released after their meeting in Lafia, and read by a former governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said autonomy for the local governments would undermine the fundamental principle of federalism and push the country towards a unitary system. It was shortly after the PGF’s meeting that the splinter Jonah Jang faction of the then polarised NGF also condemned the planned autonomy for local governments.
The two chambers of the National Assembly had during the amendment to the Constitution, granted the 774 councils in Nigeria financial and administrative autonomy through the amendment of section 7.
Details of the autonomy granted the local councils include strengthening their administration by providing for their funding, tenure, elections and to clearly delineate their powers and responsibilities to ensure effective service delivery and insulate them from undue and counter-productive interference from state governments. The 2014 National Conference whose report is now before Buhari also recommended autonomy for the local governments. However, at least 23 of the 36 states’ Houses of Assembly rejected the move.tates.
The states are Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Borno, Yobe, Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Rivers, Cross River, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Enugu and Imo. When reached for comments yesterday, Head of Buhari’s Media Team, Garba Shehu, said the situation was still hazy.
“The situation is still fluid. We should just allow the President to unfold his agenda on all sectors rather than trying to interpret what he meant in his speech. I think it is too early to conclude that this will happen and this will not happen. We must await further developments as they unfold,” Shehu said. Edo ranks top in probity, transparent and accountability in running of LGAs- Commissioner From Cajetan Mmuta, BENIN Meanwhile, Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday threw his weight behind Buhari’s move to ensure affective governance at the third tier of government.
Speaking for the governor, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Louis Odion, said, “We are at one with President Buhari in the quest to ensure that local governments deliver and are more accountable to the people. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has always demonstrated this commitment by personal example and encouraged all public office-holders to subscribe to probity, accountability and transparency.
We dare say Edo ranks among the states where councils not only exercise full control of their resources but are also encouraged to account to the public.”
However, Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, said the state government would not make a categorical statement for now. Speaking with Sunday Telegraph on the phone yesterday, he noted that the state government had been complying with all extant rules and guidelines regarding allocations due to local governments.