By Emmanuel Elebeke
A human rights advocacy organization, Centre for Social Justice, yesterday, accused the State Governors of squandering about N23.220 trillion allocations from the joint Account meant for the local government Councils in their states.
The group was disclosed this while making an appeal to all Nigerians to join their voice in support for autonomy of the Local Government Councils in the country.
Executive Director of the Centre, Eze Onyekwere, who made the call at a media briefing on constitutional amendments said, granting autonomy to the LGCs is not only constitutional but guarantees the rights to health and education of Nigerian people at the grass root.
Onyekwere quarried the justification of retaining the status quo, when the 774 LGCs had received over N23.22 trillion in the past 15 years and each getting about N30 billion through the joint account system and have nothing to show for it, considering declining poor standard of living of among Nigerians at the grass root.
The group specifically appealed to members of the 36 State Houses of Assembly to write their names in gold by voting for autonomy of the Local Government Councils in the ongoing constitutional amendment in the country.
Onyekwere said there can be no better time to express the supremacy and sovereignty of the people of Nigeria than now, since the LGCs, as the third tire of the government, had not only become a conduit pipe for the State Governors but have lost their independence to organise elections and determine their fate.
‘’Since 1999, each of the 768 LGCs and 6 Area Councils has “received” not less than N30billion from the Federation Account. This is over N23.220trillion accruing to LGCs. The bulk of these monies never got to the LGCs. It was hijacked by State Governments through the State Joint Local Government Account.
‘‘There is practically nothing to show for this huge funds collected by the State Governments on behalf of LGCs. Poverty is increasing at the local level and our people have been denied access to the basic necessities of life such as portable water, functional schools, primary health care services, electricity, feeder roads.
If N30 billion or even half of it had been invested in every local government, poverty would have been a thing of the past in Nigeria or at least, significantly reduced,’’ he stated.
According to him, approving the LGCs autonomy is in tandem with the Universal basic Education Act and the Child Rights Act but will address the foundational challenges bedevilling the Nigerian education system and poverty.
For him, Nigeria is under obligation to use the maximum of available resources for the progressive realisation of the right to health through the autonomy of the LGCs.
‘‘It is time to declare the things that we will prefer that our men of power do for us and also to express our dislikes. But if we miss this opportunity, we shall somehow need to remain relatively quiet for the next four years.
‘‘It is time for change, from bad to good, from mediocrity to excellence, from insensitive leadership to a caring and compassionate one; from a leadership without vision that has been groping in the dark without clues to one of foresight, wisdom and laid out plans to solve our myriad of challenges.’’
To achieve this goal for local government autonomy, at least 24 State Houses of Assembly is expected to vote in support of the National Assembly position for this to become part of the Constitution.
However, the 36 state governors (whether of the Jonah Jang or the Rotimi Amaechi faction of the governor’s forum) are reported to have vowed to resist LGC autonomy through the State Houses of Assembly.
This is perceived to be a real threat considering the fact that state governors are powerful men who virtually control proceedings in the State Houses of Assembly.
Hardly is there a state where the governor did not influence the choice of the Speaker and Principal Officers of the Assembly.
– Culled from Vanguard