OrderPaperToday – Speaker House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has said that the “the hijacking of funds meant for local government councils by states is stifling the growth of democracy in Nigeria.”
In the statement issued by his spokesman, Turaki Hassan, the Speaker disclosed this on Wednesday when he received members of Conference of State Legislators in his office in Abuja.
Referencing the 1999 Constitution, the Speaker maintained that “the intention of the creators of the 1999 constitution was to have a strong local councils where dividend of democracy will be delivered to the people.” and that “if that had happened, even University Professors and Federal lawmakers may run for elections to become local government chairmen.”
According to Dogara, “democracy is not just election and that it is nothing if it does not deliver on its promises to the people but lamented that since 1999, Nigeria’s democracy has not been able to do so.”
This, he said, was because some elections in the past have produced even enemies of democracy in Nigeria.
“Democracy must be able to deliver value to the people and as long as it does not deliver, we can’t say we are practising democracy but mere nominal one or just the practice of it,” Dogara noted.
“We must ask ourselves what prevents us from delivering the promises of democracy to the people? No one should pretend that there is sanity at the local level.
“I must urge you to listen to the voice of the people and not just that of leaders or elites. That is what has stifled the growth of democracy in the country.
“The intention of the framers of the constitution is that we should have very strong local governments so that they are able to meet the immediate needs of the people at the grassroot.
“This noble intention could not be achieved because funds meant for them are being hijacked elsewhere and it never get to them…. it has deprived the local level the needed calibre of leaders that will engineer development at that level.
“If the funds gets to them directly many people or even professors may decide to be local government chairman.”
The speaker then called on the state assemblies to endorse financial autonomy for themselves and the local governments when the National Assembly eventually transmits the documents to them.
He regretted that the last alteration exercise was vetoed by former president Goodluck Jonathan but assured that the House won’t start work on the Bill denovo.
He said state assemblies in the 6th assemblies rejected clauses granting them autonomy but appealed to them to summon courage because “if they had the courage to vote yes by now we will not be here on it.”
“Without courage and sacrifice there cannot be leadership. Sometime you need to take decisions that are not popular with some power blocs but you must do it as a leader.”
“If our motivation is to always do right then we must do things that will protect our democracy and our people. The Federal government cannot reachout to all the local levels to deliver dividend of democracy to them.”
On request for devolution of powers by the state assemblies, Dogara said it is one of the issues that will be looked at by the House in the ongoing amendment.
“Concentration of powers is dangerous to democracy. Democracy itself abhor concentration of powers in the hand of one individual or body. We will look into the constitution and come up with what is best for the system.”