Key Stakeholders Insist on LG’s Fiscal and Administrative Autonomy

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By EDDY OCHIGBO, Kaduna –

With the aim of improving participatory democratic governance and quality service delivery at local government level across the country, the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), a UK-funded governance programme, has engaged during Media Officers Week in Kaduna, mobilize support for the ratification of Constitutional Amendment Bills before the State Assembly.

Mr. Abel Adejor, State Team Facilitator, addressing the participants during the engagement, reiterated that the media has a critical role to play in mobilizing the support needed for the ratification of the draft laws. constitutional amendment before the state assembly, hence the event.

He described the media as a vital stakeholder in the scheme of things, given their enormous influence in disseminating information and stressed the need for local government autonomy in the country.

“From all angles, the autonomy of local authorities would constitute a vital tool for the social, political and economic development of the country. This would bring real democratic dividends to the grassroots, as it would undoubtedly improve education, health care, transport and security,” he said, noting that the media also serves as a bridge between the government and the citizens.

Adejor said the media should use their various platforms to engage the powers that be and mobilize popular support for the ratification of constitutional amendment bills before state assemblies.

According to him, the constitution is the most important document that guides the roles and functions of the executive, legislative and judiciary as well as all levels of government.

“This engagement will broaden the knowledge of media professionals on the importance of the constitutional review, the proposed amendments and how they can play their quota to ensure ratification by the Kaduna State Assembly.

“This is essential because ratification by 24 states, representing two-thirds of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, is necessary for autonomy to become a reality.”

For his part, Mr. Istifanus Akau, Facilitator of State Partnership, PERL, explained that the meeting was aimed at having the media strategize for effective engagement of members of the House of Assembly to ratify the bills. , adding that the media would also engage policy makers and other key stakeholders to influence the ratification of bills forwarded to the Kaduna State Assembly.

“Another goal is to improve understanding of the functionality of local government systems through financial and administrative autonomy,” he said.

He said the 9th National Assembly had passed the majority of bills on priority issues considered by PERL and its partners in the ongoing constitutional review process.

According to him, a total of 68 bills were presented and examined by the National Assembly, of which 44, representing 65%, were adopted.

“Two others were passed with some amendments, while 22, representing 32%, were not passed. Two of the key bills passed are the Local Government Administrative and Financial Autonomy Bills, which seek to create a standard term of office for local government administrators and abolish interim committees.

“The Bills also abolished the Joint Allocation Account and provided direct allocation to local government councils. Another important bill is the Legislature and Legislative Bureaucracy Bill, which recognizes the status of the Legislative Service Commission of the State Assembly, for the implementation of the financial autonomy of the assemblies of State.

“Other bills are the Institutional Strengthening Bill, the State Security Council Establishment Bill, and the Schedule for Submission and Passage of the Federal and State Budget to Improve fiscal performance, among others,” he noted.

Mr. Yusuf Goje from the Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment and Development (CALPED) noted that strong institutions were necessary for any democracy to function effectively.

“Local government administrative and financial autonomy is key to improving service delivery at local government level. The Local Government Self-Government Bills, as well as others before the State Assemblies, were intended to strengthen governance institutions through a legal framework.

“Apart from this, local government autonomy would ensure quality service delivery and genuine democratic governance in rural areas. The quality of education and motivation of teachers would be greatly improved as salaries would be paid without any form of bottleneck or bureaucracy. Local government autonomy would improve transparency and accountability,” Goje explained.

Mr. Martins Dangwa Abbas, a strong advocate of local government autonomy, told NATIONAL ACCORD in an interview that the kind of autonomy envisaged must be truly self-governing.

“We talk about autonomy with authority. The constitutional provision that subjected local governments to the dictates of the states, denied the nation the highly orchestrated federal character, as state governments diverted resources that should go to the third level of government, which is closest to the people. It is unfortunate that a good number of state governors across the country have maintained a strong grip on local governments. They use local councils as patronage platforms for their lackeys, loyalists and political thugs.

“The inability of local governments to function effectively and credibly, particularly in the areas of social service delivery, is largely due to excessive control exercised by the state executive. Local governments in Nigeria currently have fiscal sustainability constraints because most of their responsibilities and duties have been hijacked by state governments.

“There is this amplified false narrative that local government councils are unable to manage their affairs independently and deliver basic social services without state governments. This is not true,” Abbas summed up.

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