LG autonomy: Tinubu pledges to strengthen LGs

•As Abbas begs governors to put country first •AGF calls for scrapping of SIECs

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President Bola Tinubu has said the Federal Government would work towards strengthening the local government councils as part of measures to tackle insecurity in the  country.

Tinubu stated this at a national discuss on Nigeria’s Security Challenges and Good Governance at Local Government  Level, organised by the House of Representatives in collaboration with the UK International Development in Abuja, yesterday.

Tinubu, who was represented by the Minister of Defence,  Mohammed Abubakar, described local government as the cornerstone of the country’s security architecture.

Tinubu, while stating that insurgency, terrorism, banditry, and other security challenges have  undermined the peace and prosperity of the country, noted that it was imperative for the government to confront insecurity head on.

“It is in light of the foregoing that our administration is committed to implementing measures aimed at bolstering the local government system.  This commitment is deeply rooted in our bottom of development approach; recognising that sustainable development, national security and prosperity can only be achieved when every level of government functions effectively and accountably. We must realise that the local government system is not just a matter of administrative convenience.

“It is a cornerstone of our national security architecture by empowering local governments to fulfill their mandate if efficiently and ethically we create a solid foundation for ensuring safety, stability and well- being of Nigerians.

“The local governments, being the closest government to the people, are strategically positioned in promoting human security by delivering essential services like health, education, sanitation and social welfare programs directly to communities where they are most needed.  They are important in ensuring that our communities are safe, prosperous and resilient.

“Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to strengthen our local government system to effectively address those challenges. By empowering local government authority with the necessary resources and capacities to implement sustainable development initiatives.

“We can create a more secure and stable nation. It is imperative to acknowledge that security is fundamentally about human beings first and foremost, not just the state.”

Similarly, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, implored state governors to prioritize the development of the country and support President Tinubu’s quest for full autonomy to the local government councils.

Abbas, who was represented by his deputy, Benjamin Kalu, said the recent suit by the Federal Government against the states over the usurpation of the powers of the local government councils underscored President Tinubu’s commitment to the third tier of government.

“The failure of local government is well known to us. Despite the extensive provisions of the 1999 Constitution regarding the existence and functions of local governments, that tier of government has failed to live up to its billing.

“Some of the most significant challenges impeding their ability to fulfil their constitutionally assigned roles include the covert usurpation of local government functions by state governments, lack of financial autonomy due to the State Joint Local Government Account, political instability from tenure irregularities, and pervasive corruption.

“A critical component of the President’s Renewed Hope Agenda is the integration of local governments into the mainstream of governance in Nigeria. In a significant move, the Federal Government recently instituted legal action against the governors of the 36 states at the Supreme Court, addressing alleged misconduct in the administration of Local Government Areas (LGAs).

“This action underscores the President’s profound commitment to this issue, one he is intimately familiar with from his tenure as Governor of Lagos State.

“We in the 10th National Assembly are determined and committed to ensuring local governments are recognised and sufficiently empowered to perform their constitutionally assigned roles.

“As contained in our Legislative Agenda, the House will continue to play a crucial role in advocating for and enacting the necessary legislative frameworks to ensure that local governments are granted the autonomy they rightfully deserve. This is not just a legislative duty but a commitment to the democratic aspirations of the Nigerian people and the Constitution. For this reason, I call on all governors to put Nigeria first and collectively support the President in the quest to grant full autonomy to local governments.”

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Lateef Fagbemi, in his  speech at the event, called for scrapping of State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs).

Fagbemi, who identified SIECs as the major impediment to development at the local government levels, said their functions should be transferred to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

He explained that “the local governments in many instances have continued to suffer fiscal emasculation in the hands of state governments. In all these unwholesome abuses, Sections 7 and 162 of the 1999 Constitution among others have been an escape route for many State Governments to manipulate the Local government and reduce the same to a mere department in the Governors’ office. State joint local government account (SJLGA) has been the anti-development instrument used to frustrate every progressive and patriotic action to make the Local Government work since the return of the Country to democracy in 1999.

“The ability of LGAs to perform developmental functions, particularly in a federal system like Nigeria revolves around the nature of the relationship between the federal, state and local government

“Any major reform of the Local government system will invariably require the alteration of the Constitution and other incidental legislations touching on local government administration.

“On the other hand, constitutional alteration can only be achieved through consensus building and commonality of purpose between the three tiers, as with the three arms of Government. We are therefore challenged to play our respective roles, when called upon to do so. The best time to act is now. To achieve this, many experts have proposed that there is a need for the scrapping of the state independent electoral commission. Their functions and powers should be transferred to the independent national electoral commission because the state independent electoral commission remains an appendage to every incumbent governor. This is perceived as the root cause of the problem of local government administration in Nigeria.”

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