The adoption of the Federal system of Government in Nigeria was intended to have three tiers of government, the federal, state and local government running the country. The Local Government which is the third tier of government is almost of non-existence in the structure of governance.
Describing the nature of intergovernmental relation (Enejo & Isa 2014) say it has subsequently relegated the third tier of government in the federation to a subsidiary or an appendage of the second tier of government.
The National Assembly started the constitutional amendment process with wide consultations with stakeholders from their various constituencies in order to gather views of the people to make laws for the Nation.
Twenty Three (23) items were forwarded to the state houses of assembly which include the financial autonomy to LG councils, financial autonomy for state houses of assembly, separating the office of the Attorney general and Commissioner of Justice of the states. Two third (24 out of 36 states) votes of the houses of assembly were needed to effect the amendment of the constitution that concerns the local government autonomy.
This process failed because 24 out of 36 states voted against the LG autonomy. It was a failure of a political system. The leadership of some of the houses of assembly said the irregularities in the bill and immaturity of the local government to be left unsupervised (as if they were being supervised) were some of the reasons why they rejected the bill but they never failed to grant financial autonomy to the state houses of assembly.
The two major political parties PDP and APC both failed to take a definite stance on this issue, which proves that political parties are controlled by elected political office holders.
Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim the Executive Director at the Centre for Democracy and Development describes the issue of local Government autonomy as “cross party because the issue is, the powers of governors rather than the best way to run local governments”. He added that the vote against LG autonomy is direct influences of state governors who are interested in the direct disbursement of local government fund themselves.
He said “ it is a travesty of good governance, because the closer to the people decisions are taken is considered the best practice in governance… people have most access to that level of government but unfortunately decisions are taken over and above the people”.
Clement Nwankwo an Executive Director at the policy and Legal Advocacy Centre said politics in Nigeria has been overtaken by extreme corruption, to the extent that no one really talks about issues, because “they are all guilty”.
Nwankwo, as part of his technical support to the National Assembly said he drafted the provision for local government autonomy in such a manner as to discourage state governors from tampering with local government finances.
He further said that state governors fancy the idea of joint accounts irrespective of their political affiliations and don’t want to loose the grip on that.
I believe that the impact of governance on the masses should be more of a bottom-top approach than of a top-bottom approach. In essence, local government is the closest government to the people and has been under suffocation by state governments and their much influenced state legislators.
There is a need for the ball game to change. There should be a deliberate action to empower local governments to function effectively by the political system.
President Muhammadu Buhari, 8th National Assembly, Governors, State Houses of Assembly and Political Parties should look beyond political and self gains in order to bring good governance to Nigerians by giving autonomy to local governments.
Financial autonomy, a general timetable for local government elections conducted by INEC and a fixed term in office for Chairmen will be a big plus to the political wind of change of the new administration in our country.
This I believe will give persons elected into local government offices opportunity to showcase their abilities to bring about good governance to the grassroots.
Then, we the people should be left with the duty of analyzing and criticizing their performances in office in accordance with the fair share of resources given to them to discharge their duties.
If in any way the local governments want to joint efforts or partner with state governments to solve problems or execute projects, it should not be under any form of duress.
I earnestly hope that the new government will take the “bull by the horn” to ensure that local governments are allowed to function as the third tier of government. President Muhammadu Buhari should use his goodwill (in which most of the Governors under his platform the APC were elected) to effect this fundamental change to get the much agitated good governance to the grassroots.