OrderPaper Today – The recent and vehement campaign by the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) against the Local Government autonomy is suspicious and calls for great concern by all and sundry.

This is especially coming at the time Nigeria needs solutions from all the forms of avoidable tragedies that have brought her to her knees.

Fayemi had on different occasions argued against the “non-existence” of Local Governments. In a recent conversation on Channels Television, he claimed that the constitution of Nigeria does not recognise LGA as the third tier; “Local Government is not a tier of government, but an administrative vehicle…”

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He further argued that “federalism is a two-tier government.”

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Contrary to his opinion, Sections 7, 8, and 162(3-8) of the 1999 Constitution as amended gives due recognition to the existence, funding, and administrative management of the Local Governments.

If the local government is not a tier of government (the third) legally recognised, the constitution wouldn’t have stipulated it to draw allocations from the federation account. More so, local governments would not have been specifically mentioned in the Revenue Allocation Formula (RAF)as currently stated.

While the Constitution is not have been a perfect document as has been argued by many, the claim by Fayemi about the non-existence of the Local Government in the constitution is laughable and possibly suspicious.

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His claim further provides insight into how the elites, particularly those in the political class are desperate to illegally make good governance a difficult and impracticable thing in Nigeria.

Governor Fayemi is a public figure held in high esteem by many as an activist, political scientist, and a scholar with sound civil society background, but his recent claims with no scientific backup on the issues bothering the Local Government autonomy have given many reasons to become cautious of his purported presidential ambition and the likely trajectory that may follow.

His claim on the subject matter is a threat to the relentless effort of the Civil Society Organisations, the National Assembly, and the citizens of Nigeria in the demand and drive for Local Government autonomy amidst brazen high-handedness by state governors.

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Many research pieces have shown how the autonomy of local government can help improve the discharge of good governance to the citizens, particularly with the current state of insecurity in Nigeria. Governor Fayemi’s re-echoed stance on the issue continues to beat the imagination of many and one may not be wrong to say that he is perhaps projecting the opinion of the community he chairs, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).

In the past, attempts to strengthen institutions have always been met by stiff resistance in the hand of Governors. The autonomy of state legislatures and the judiciary is no doubt a perfect example.

The much effort by the National Assembly and other stakeholders to amend the constitution, particularly on the subject may suffer setbacks at the state levels as the governors may contest whatever challenges their political and administrative strength in the amendment exercise through their political appendages in the various state houses of assembly.

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We grew up to know how effective and efficient the local government was in meeting basic social needs at the grassroots’ to which Governor Fayemi can testify, how come they are now all dead? Many questions are really begging for answers and Nigerians will make demands at the most appropriate time. No doubt, the past and present governors have collectively mortgaged the destiny of Local Government administration.

Funnily, the Governor recently restructured the Local Development Areas he established during his first tenure as a Governor, alluding to the fact that governance must be taken closer to the people, which of course is still a subject of constitutionalism.

If the Local Government is not recognized as he views it, then we should ask why he created new LCDAs.

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While he may have other ideas on local administration as he has done in Ekiti state, it is very important that he recognises what the supreme law of Nigeria says as there are countries in Africa where Local Government is practicable, possibly with different nomenclatures.

Meanwhile, in his statement, a revered political scholar, Professor F.A Aremu opined that; “what Dr. Fayemi and his apologists don’t get is the crucial distinction between local government and local governance. They are related but different. Governor Fayemi, in referring to town unions and other informal (non-state) local governance actors is talking about local governance actors, not local government per se.”

On the issue of financial administration which is cardinal to the autonomy of the local government, one cannot but recognise the error in the 1999 Constitution as amended to be the State and Local Governments’ Joint Allocation Account (JAAC) which the governors have taken as an avenue to overrun the local government.

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Presently, most local governments in Nigeria are dead and the buildings have become habitable places for reptiles as little or no activities take place there.

One cannot also exonerate the Federal Government from the misfortune of the local government council especially when occasional moves by that tier of government to take over the statutory duties of the local government are also condemnable.

Nigerians must at this time, rise to the demand for what is right and just; particularly in ensuring the demand for the autonomy of the local government is secured for grassroots to witness improved governance. Otherwise, the state of things in Nigeria will continue to degenerate as threats to life and properties may escalate as seen in most parts of the country.

Olaogun Michael is a Public Affairs Analyst. He can be reached on michaelolaogun2014@gmail.com

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