14 March 2012
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) recognises local government as the third tier of government. Thus, 774 LGAs, including the six area councils that comprise the Federal Capital Territory, are duly enshrined in the constitution whose Fourth Schedule lists the functions of a local government council to include: "The provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education; the development of agriculture and natural resources, other than the exploitation of minerals; the provision and maintenance of health services; and such other functions as may be conferred on a local government council by the House of Assembly of a state."
The same constitution stipulates that the tenure of the local government executive shall be for a term of three years and renewable for only one term, if such official stands for an election that is conducted by the respective State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs).
However, present developments in the administration of the LGAs point to the contrary. Recently, this newspaper published an investigation which revealed that a total of 540 out of the 774 LGAs in the country were being administered by sole administrators appointed by the respective state governors. Worse still, these sole administrators have been in office for more than three years without any indication that elections would hold anytime soon.
It is wrong and against the grain of democratic norms for governors to annex local government administration as an extension of their state functions, especially by using the appointment of the local government officials as a bait for personal political patronage. Fostering of political lackeys as sole administrators of the third tier of government is not only a disservice to democracy but a gross violation of the constitution state governors swore to protect. It also stifles competition among political parties. There is absolutely nothing in the statutes that says that the ruling political party in any state must win the election in all the local government areas of their state.
We know that the constitution provides for states and local governments to operate joint accounts. Nevertheless, the provision has been overly abused. What obtains now is that state governors solely operate those accounts and only remit to their stooges in the local governments pittance to pay monthly salaries and minor overheads. This is not only a breach of the constitution, it is a financial crime because the constitution mandates the local governments to perform certain responsibilities for which funds are provided. Little wonder rural areas wallow under poor infrastructure. Consequently, social unrest has become deeply rooted.
For the dividends of democracy to trickle down to the masses, LGs must be allowed to exercise their constitutional responsibility. The federal government should call the state governors to order, while the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) should ensure that state-LGA joint accounts are operated equitably.