OrderPaperToday – The myriad of security challenges facing the country can be tackled effectively of the efficiency of local government administration and tenure of office is guaranteed in the ongoing constitution review by the National Assembly.

This was part of the resolutions of a one day consultative dialogue for stakeholders including citizens groups, the National Assembly, representatives of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), and the Nigerian Union Of Teachers (NUT).

The dialogue, which was supported by the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) of the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), held on Monday in Abuja.

The meeting considered critical issues on local government efficiency including, financial autonomy, security of tenure of elected local government officials, overbearing influence of state governors on the state Houses of Assembly, lack of defined roles for traditional rulers in the 1999 Constitution, the rising insecurity, which comprises of banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and other criminal activities in the country as a result of weak local government systems, as well as ambiguity in the 1999 Constitution particularly sections 7 and 162 as regards to the administration and funding of local government councils.

Other issues discussed were funding of primary school education as contained in the 4th schedule and section 7(2) of the constitution, the conduct of local council elections by State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIEC), the non-remittance of 10% IGR by states government to local government causing paucity of funds and poor administrative management at the local councils, appointment of accounting officers given to political appointees other than career officers and encroachment of state government on the revenue basis of the councils as against the provisions of the 4th schedule of the 1999 constitution.

At the end of the dialogue, participants tabled the following recommendation: local council autonomy should not be restricted to financing but to political and administrative autonomy to tackle the problem of insecurity and provide good governance at the grassroots level; ensure the tenure of elected council officials should be defined, uniformed and secured; state governments should adhere and facilitate the full implementation of the provisions of the 1999 constitution granting autonomy to state legislatures and the judiciary; traditional rulers should be given specific roles in the constitution; and Section 7 of the 1999 constitution should be amended to clearly define the status of local government as a tier of government.

They also recommended that Section 162 of the 1999 constitution should be completely expunged while provision should be made that allow local council allocations to be paid directly from the federation account as first line charge; the funding of primary education should be deducted as first line charge on the federation account and remitted to the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) through the Universal Basic Education Board (UBEC); the conduct of local government elections should be done by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and not the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIEC); and and remittance of 10% IGR from the state to the local government be enshrined in the constitution to boost the financial base of the local government amongst others.

After the deliberations, a delegation from the meeting paid a courtesy visit to the Deputy President of Senate, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, who doubles as the Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee in order to further seek support on local government autonomy, particularly at it relates to NULGE and NUT issues.

Senator Omo-Agege represented by his Chief of Staff, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, assured the stakeholders that constitution alterations would be utilized for social engineering to address the challenges in the polity, economy and security of the country.  He stressed that the National Assembly will partner with them even in their plans to monitor various states Houses of Assembly’s consideration of proposed amendments after passage by the federal parliament.

In attendance at the dialogue were the national president of NULGE, Comrade Akeem Ambali Olatunji, national president of the NUT, Comrade Dr. Nasir Idris, represented by Barrister Okoroafor Okechukwu, Sen. Bala Adamu and Suleiman Gora of Democracy Vanguard, civil society groups amongst others.

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