Wednesday, 26 July 2017

OPINION: LOCAL GOVT AUTONOMY, ABROGATION OF STATE INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSION [SIEC] AND WHY FEDERAL GOVT MUST RELINQUISH RESPONSIBILITY FOR LOCAL AND STATE GOVT CREATION



There is also a strong move to abrogate State Independent Electoral Commission [SIEC]
We are all aware of the efforts to make Local Governments autonomous at least as far as Local Government funds coming from the Federal purse are concerned. We are told it is to curb ‘corruption and ensure development at the grassroots” because State Governments which hitherto receive the funds and are meant to disburse usually don’t, thereby stagnating growth at the Local Government level.

The Local Government autonomy on the surface sounds very noble and people serving reflecting the mindset of a Government concerned about reducing corruption and encouraging development.

Let us analysis this objective, which has gained popularity, and see if truly it should be supported.

Firstly the Federal Government has the sole responsibility to create Local Governments which has been more in favour of a particular part of the country.


NOTE: Local Governments are the basis for representation at the NASS and also for revenue allocation. 
So States with more Local Governments will have more representatives at the House of reps “THEREBY INFLUENCING VOTING ON MATTERS BEFORE IT” and also receive more funds from the Federal Government whether they contribute to the revenue generation in the first place or not.  

Today the area formerly known as Sokoto State which hitherto had 20 Local Governments  in parity with Lagos State now has  more Local Governments and receives more funding because it has been broken up into three states namely Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states of which the totality of Local Governments are now 58 Local governments!!!

Today Lagos state has 57 LCDA’s which shares the Federal funds meant for 20 Local Governments!!

Secondly to be deemed an indigene of a State ie [ Lagos State] your Local Government must formally confirm your status based on established guidelines.

Thirdly The State Independent Electoral Commission is responsible for Local Government elections in line with the concept and principle of Federalism.

Therefore before you can be electable in a state your status as an indigene must be confirmed by your Local Government.

IMPACT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT  AUTONOMY:

What then can happen once Local Government Autonomy is achieved coupled with abrogation of SIEC taking into consideration the foregoing points.

Immediately the act for autonomy is assented to Federalism as we know it ceases to exist as Nigeria then becomes in effect a unitary state proper. We will have 774 Local Governments and 36 State Governments on the same level.

 We will end up with 36 Governors and 774 Local Government chairmen going to Abuja to receive funding. [ they will be like counties in Britain] the State Governors become irrelevant in their states]Remember he who pays the piper dictates the tune.

An expansionist person or group [IGBO, YORUBA , HAUSA , ETC] can easily manipulate this situation to its advantage with the following narrative becoming  a very distinct possibility:

Since the Federal Government has sole authority to create Local Governments, imagine a scenario where they decide to create Local Governments in Lagos. If the Hausas in Obalende, Agege, start agitation for whatever reasons or the guidelines from Government leads to a situation where Agege is broken into two Local Governments with the hausa-fulani having majority in the Local Government where they fall into.
it then becomes clear that a northerner will always win Local Government elections there [particularly with the planned abrogation of SIEC which leaves Federal Government run INEC with the responsibility for Local Government elections!! 

It is a small step then for the Hausas in agege[ or Igbos in festac] to become:

1. “indigenes” of Lagos and even contest for governorship.
2. Before we know it a bye-law can be passed whereby the new Local Government becomes sharia compliant.
3. Then they have an emir or Eze in the Local Government.
4. They will now be able to receive funds directly to fund their activities in our states! [ this is applicable to all states]
5. The Local Governments then become a staging post for their next moves right within our states!!
6. This can and will happen in all southern states!! Never in the north as they will kill and chase out “strangers”
7. It will effectively put an end to agitations for restructuring as getting consensus will become nigh impossible as our Local Government Chairmen funded by Federal monies will go the way the center goes!!
The most dangerous impact of this very possible scenario is that where the Federal Government desires an objective which the State Governors reject due to religious, tribal, zonal or on the principle of federalism, the Federal Government can easily call on the Local Government chairmen in the states and get them to assent to Federal proposal since “he who pays the piper dictates the tune”. THE LOYALTY OF THE LOCAL GOVT CHAIRMEN WILL BE TO THE CENTER NOT THEIR STATES, TRADITIONAL RULERS OR ZONES!!

Federalism and the ability to protect your traditional institutions, land, tribal nation, religion, or rights to indigene-ship in your state will be negatively affected by the seemingly populist move to create Local Government autonomy.

Where we are still inclined despite the above to have local autonomy then the following must be insisted upon by the states:

1. Federal Government must relinquish responsibility for Local and State Government creation
2. State Independent Electoral Commission must remain as States must be responsible for Local Government elections

Many times the north has attempted to secure access to land as successfully achieved in Plateau [with attendant communal and religious strife]. They tried grazing bill, they failed.

This Local Government autonomy move is brilliant in its simplicity and attraction to the highly educated but politically and territorially “na├»ve south”. This letter is to serve as a warning that we should be awake and interface with our representatives at NASS on the dangers ahead.

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