Local government system and governors’ impunity
There is a great challenge in Nigeria, beyond the existing security, economic, constitutional, political and social challenges. Our basic problem is the state of mind, attitude, character, lack of decency, decorum and morality of management. It is the mindset of impunity, of being above the law and understanding that the law is not for everyone and can always be broken without consequences. Crime and punishment have been separated and in doing so, the rule of the jungle is promoted. The existing system of local government provides a clear example of how a system created for accelerating development and democratic consolidation has been transformed into the exact opposite of ideals.
The 1999 Constitution provides a list of states and local governments within states. He envisions a democratically elected and managed system of local government that will meet the needs of the grassroots people. More specifically, Article 7 (1) of the Constitution states that: âThe system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is guaranteed by this Constitution; and accordingly, the government of each State shall, subject to Article 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence by virtue of a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finances and functions of these advice “. The local government system was designed to mirror the federal and state level structures of an elected executive in the president and an elected member of parliament and an elected legislature made up of councilors. Thus, executive and legislative powers were to be exercised at the level of local government.
The constitution in Annex Four provides for the functions of local governments. These include the collection of tariffs, radio and television licenses; the establishment and maintenance of cemeteries, burial sites and homes for the indigent or infirm; licenses for bicycles, trucks (other than power-driven trucks), canoes, wheelbarrows and carts; and the establishment, maintenance and regulation of slaughterhouses, slaughterhouses, markets, car parks and public facilities. Others are the construction and maintenance of roads, streets, street lighting, drains and other public thoroughfares, parks, gardens, open spaces or other public facilities which may be prescribed from time to time. by the State House of Assembly; the designation of roads and streets and the numbering of houses; provision and maintenance of public amenities, disposal of waste water and garbage; registration of all births, deaths and marriages; and valuing private houses or buildings for the purpose of collecting rates that may be prescribed by a state House of Assembly. In addition, local governments oversee the control and regulation of – (i) outdoor advertising and hoarding, (ii) the movement and keeping of pets of all kinds, (iii) shops and kiosks, ( iv) restaurants, bakeries and other places for the sale of food to the public, (v) laundries, and (vi) licensing, regulation and control of the sale of alcohol.
How have state governments (governors) responded to this constitutional mandate for a democratic local government system? Today we have local government laws enacted by the Houses of the Assembly of States that grant very limited terms of office to elected presidents and councilors of local governments. Officials elected at the local government level are removed from office at the whim of the governors. They do not serve at the will of the electorate who by the constitution are the ultimate sovereigns. Despite the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal on the illegality of the dissolution of local governments elected when a new state governor took office, the governors continued the practice and, in most of the cases disobeyed the Supreme Court ruling. In many cases, governors have appointed unelected interim presidents. When elected governors who enjoy immunity from prosecution and legal process disobey court orders, what is the recourse for those disadvantaged by their disobedience? The victims are left to fend for themselves as lawmakers in the state assembly chambers who are supposed to check governors’ excesses are also part of the plot to disobey court orders.
When elections are allegedly held for local governments by independent state election commissions, the governor’s party âwinsâ all the president’s seats and no less than 90% of the councilor seats. Even when the ruling party has clearly become unpopular, the governor-appointed SIEC declares them victorious. Elections and manipulated by state governments and votes don’t count. Welcome to the Nigerian definition of democracy.
Again, the constitution provides in Article 162 as follows: â(6) Each state shall maintain a special account called theâ common account of state local authorities âinto which all allocations to the community councils are to be paid. local authorities in the State of the Federation. Account and Government of the State. (7) Each State shall pay to the local administrative councils in its area of ââjurisdiction the proportion of its total income under the conditions and in the manner which may be prescribed by the National Assembly â. This simple method of transmitting money to local governments through the common account has been the most problematic part of local government administration. It provided the umbrella for state governments to literally steal, withhold and mismanage local government funds. Even attempts by the federal government to monitor and prevent state governors from continuing to plunder local government funds have not yielded the desired results and the looting continues. No one is even discussing the provision that states should make about ten percent of their internally generated revenue available to local governments.
The constitution provides for a local government president to head the executive and councilors who are elected as members of the local government legislature – prepare and approve budgets, bylaws, and apply and implement policies on the matters detailed in annex four of the Constitution. Since 1999, most local governments in Nigeria have secured an allocation of federation accounts amounting to over 40 billion naira. But a visit to these local governments may not show projects that are valued up to N5billion while the salaries and wages of local government staff may not add up to the same amount. Where did the money go ? In the pockets of excellent thieves and their cronies. A theft that takes place in broad daylight without anyone to call to order the excellent thieves and the brazenness of the theft shows that we are dealing with degenerate mentalities, men and women who no longer have a conscience and that the system obviously can not call to order.
The provisions of the Constitution assume that rational human beings will occupy the seats of power, in particular as state governors. The arrangements were made on the assumption of checks and balances between the executive and the legislature at the state and federal levels. The constitution did not provide for the capture of the state and the pocketing of a state by one man under the pretext of being treated as âHis Excellencyâ. The extent of the looting shows that we have men devoid of character, decency, decorum and morality occupying the seats of governors. Looting is outside the contemplation of the constitution.
This level of impunity demands mass action from citizens as constitutional structures have not been allowed to function and have been sabotaged by governors and their cronies. Nigerians need to reclaim their space from their governors, the band of looters.
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