The Imparative of the FG Suit Against States on LGA Autonomy

The Imparative of the FG Suit Against States on LGA Autonomy

By Hon Francis Yonwuren

Even before I nursed the ambition to run for the position of the Chairman, Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State, I have always been an advocate of local government autonomy in Nigeria as a grassroot leader. This is so because I am aware of the imperatives of granting local governments their autonomy. No doubt, autonomy will be an optimistic springboard for progressive growth and development at the local government administrative level of governance.

So when I heard that the Federal Government under President Bola Tinubu has instituted a suit seeking for the full autonomy for the 774 Local Government Areas(LGAs) in the country, I was happy and decided to put pen to paper to write this intervention. Of course, the apex court has ordered the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and the Minister of Justice, that upon the receipt of the governors’ defences, he must file his reply within two days.

The autonomy of the LGAs is a very important and interesting matter. There are several factors that constitute this autonomy. One of the most important is the financial independence of local government. The financial autonomy of the local self-government is expressed through independence in obtaining funds as well as the independence of their spending. Important for the government is not only to receive funds from the Federal Government budget but also to find the legal way of self-financing. The level of financial independence of the local self-government is an indicator of its autonomy.

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A substantial level of autonomy at the local government levels is important for the promotion of grassroots democracy and self rule among the various diverse interests that make up the national polity. Local government avails the outvoted minority of the electorate the opportunity to participate in governance at the local level. It makes democracy meaningful to these local people if their immediate affairs are not dictated by the state government functionaries but managed locally by themselves. Relationship between local government system and democracy lies on the premise that both functions promote the local economy, and social service for the realization of the social development of the local people through the empowerment of the local people in decision making.
The Nigerian federal constitution in order to promote local governance made provisions for the existence and sustenance of local government. The constitution however failed to make clear provisions as to the form of organization for local government, leaving it at the discretion of the states governments. The Nigerian constitution also provided for a cumbersome procedure for creation of a new or additional local government area by a state government. It further made provisions whereby the federal government at the centre can interfere and frustrate the state’s exercise of this constitutional function of local government creation. These and other un-federal and contradictory provisions have been critically reviewed. I have therefore recommended for the deletion of sections 3(6), 7(6) (a), 162(5), 8(5) and (6) and 153(1) (f) of the Constitution which give opportunity to the federal government to interfere with the States’ power over the creation and management of the local government system. Expunging these constitutional provisions will place the local government system in their proper position under a truly federal structure. It is believed that these recommendations can strengthen the local government as an agent of grassroots development and participatory democracy.

I enjoin every democracy loving Nigerian to support this move by the All Progressive Congress Federal Government of President Bola Tinubu to wriggle LGAs from the chokehold of the states that have stifled development at the grassroots.

Hon. Francis Yonwuren is the APC candidate for the position of Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State. He wrote this piece from Ugbuwangue Community.