Autonomy, Only Way To Save LGs — Sani

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Civil rights activist and social critic, Senator Shehu Sani, said local government autonomy is the only way to strengthen governance at the grassroots and save local government councils from paralysis.

Sani, who represented Kaduna Central in the 8th National Assembly and served as Chairman, Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on Sunday. 

NAN reports that the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice recently filed a suit at the Supreme Court against state governments, seeking the enforcement of full autonomy for local governments in Nigeria.

In the suit marked: SC/CV/343/2024, the federal government urged the court to issue an order prohibiting governors from embarking on unilateral, arbitrary and unlawful dissolution of democratically elected local government leaders.

Government urged the court to issue an order permitting funds standing in the credit of local governments to be directly channelled to them from the Federation Account in line with the provisions of the constitution as against the alleged unlawful joint account created by governors.

Besides, it prayed the Supreme Court for an order stopping governors from constituting caretaker committees to run the affairs of local governments as against the constitutionally recognised and guaranteed democratic system.

It equally applied for an order of injunction restraining governors and their agents and privies from receiving, spending or tampering with funds released from the Federation Account for the benefit of local governments when no democratically elected local government system is in place in states.

The 36 governors were sued through their respective attorneys-general.

Reacting, Sani said the step by the federal government has the potential to restore development at the grassroots and strengthen the local government system.

“Local government autonomy is the only way to save the third tier of government from bankruptcy and paralysis.

“Poverty and insecurity are rooted in the destruction of the local government system,” Sani said.

According to him, most chairmen only go to their offices when federal allocations are released.

He said lack of financial and administrative autonomy had affected the performance of the third tier of government.

Sani described the federal government’s proposal that State Electoral Commissions, SIECs, should be scrapped as a good move,saying it would deepen democracy at the grassroots.

“The scrapping of SIECs is a step in the right direction.

“It has become impossible for opposition parties to win elections at the local government level because of the institutional rigging and imposition of candidates by governors.

“Chairmen and staff of SIECs are all agents of governors and the ruling party in their respective states”, Sani said.

NAN recalls that the AGF, Mr Lateef Fagbemi, had on Monday proposed that State Independent Electoral Commissions should be dispensed with.

Speaking at a one-day discourse in Abuja, Fagbemi also posited that the powers of SIECs should be transferred to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Fagbemi said governors had exploited the flaws in certain sections of the 1999 constitution, effectively rendering local governments powerless and irrelevant.

According to him, these inadequacies have allowed them to abuse the rights of local governments by using SIECs to impose leaders on them through sham elections.

He said other governors who do not conduct sham polls appoint vassals as caretaker leaders for the local governments.

Fagbemi called for a robust constitutional amendment that will remove all hindrances to the development of local governments and bolster their ability to fulfil their constitutionally recognised mandate. NAN

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