By Aaron Ossai
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has called on Nigerians to lend their voices to the push for financial and administrative autonomy for local governments in the country, noting that if state Houses of Assembly are not pressurised, they may not vote in favour of the proposal.
The Speaker said this when he received a delegation from the Nigeria Good Governance Group, led by former military governor of Bauchi State, Gen Chris Abutu Garba (rtd), in his office.
He maintained that there are beneficiaries of the present arrangement who will do everything possible to ensure that the proposed Constitution Amendment to wrest control of the resources of local governments from state governors does not scale through.
While calling on “civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, community based organisations, to stand up and be counted,” Dogara, also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to give support to the clamour for local government autonomy, as promised in his inaugural address on May 29, 2015.
The Speaker recalled that the President had pledged that actualising financial autonomy for local governments will be in line with his resolved not to allow people under him to betray the trust Nigerians have placed on them as leaders.
“This is a betrayal of trust given to some elected officials by the people who now abuse this trust,” he said, referring to some governors who divert funds meant for the development of local government areas.
“It will take more than the will of the legislature at the federal level to ensure that these radical changes are achieved. We all know that in the last assembly, when we passed it to the states, most of the states voted it down that they don’t want the autonomy for local government councils. And in the process of amending the Constitution, the state legislators must be engaged, and we will have to have a return of 2/3rd approval from the state assemblies. So if we put forward these proposals and we fail to gather 2/3rd support it means that automatically it has failed and there is nothing that we can do about it.
“That is why we will start by lobbying you, even if I call it lobby, to make sure that we stand up as a people. Whenever things are not working, we should be able to close ranks, come together and say we are opposed to this system that is not delivering the goods, we want it completely excised from the body polity so that we can make progress. But if we keep quiet, nothing will happen.”
“If the state assemblies are not pressured by stakeholders, I can assure you that we will not get that 2/3rd support. I am not a prophet, but we will not get it, except we have people like you who are ready to stand up and be counted by bringing pressure to the state governors and bringing pressure to the state assemblies and making sure that what this revolutionary amendment seeks to achieve in our Constitution is achieved.”
Earlier, leader of the delegation, Gen Chris Abutu Garba, tabled some requests of the Nigeria Good Governance Group to Speaker Dogara, including a fixed 4 year tenure for local government council chairmen, death penalty, confiscation of stolen property and blacklisting of family members of convicted corrupt government officials, fiscal federalism and allowances for graduates of higher Institutions who are unemployed, among others