From last week continues the narrative that the federating states in an undiluted federal system reserve the power to create or establish a system of local government which takes account of their internal diversity or recognises the plural character of the nation
IN that case, it was strongly canvassed that local governments should be relatively autonomous as provided in the Constitution but subject to direct funding and minimal supervision by the state governments in specific matters. Viewed in this context, the demand for a local government system with a constitutional leeway to deal directly with the Federal Government invariably amounts to a violation of the constitutional sovereignty of states and in the extreme situation renders the states completely irrelevant as federating units.
There is need to be cautious in considering the issues canvassed for an acceptable local government system to take account of the development needs of the vast majority of Nigerians to whom local government is closest. In dealing with this matter, it has explored a reconciliation or resolution of the inherent contradictions to ensure that the advancement of one institutional interest today does not, in future, render completely worthless the essence of the present Constitution Review Exercise which is the search for a restructured Nigerian Federation founded on internal cohesion.
There is need to maintain that the peculiarities of the Nigerian situation largely require a high degree of certainty in the nature of institutions, which the Constitution establishes, and the regulatory framework for such institutions. To do otherwise, is to leave too much room for speculation, manipulation and possible chaos. I believe that the safeguards which have been built into the system will guarantee that the development of the states and local government areas will remain a joint undertaking by the two tiers.
It should be considered the need to establish a system of local governments which recognises the internal diversity of the nation within a true federal structure in which only the states are the federating units. I believe also that the safeguards which have been built into the system will guarantee that the development of the states and local government areas will remain a joint undertaking by the two tiers with adequate autonomy reasonably satisfactory to each level.
Having thoroughly analysed the situation, I am convinced that only states can be federating units in our circumstances. In reality, what Nigerians are asking for is not a federation of local governments with the federation of states, but a true federation in which states are the federating entities. There are some ambiguities in the current 1999 Constitution which must be amended so as to save the local government from total collapse.
Section 7(1) states that: ”The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every state shall subject to section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and function of such councils”.
Yet, section 7(6a) submits that: “The National Assembly shall make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to Local Government councils in the federation.’’ But the confusion is extended further by section 7(6b) which states that: ”The House of Assembly of a state shall make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local government councils within the state”. This confusion also resurfaced in section 162(6) where it established the State Joint Local Government Account for the Purpose of payment of “all allocations to the Local Government councils of the State from the Federal account and from the Government of the State”.
In Section 162(7) it directs state governments to pay local government councils their total revenue on the terms prescribed by the National Assembly. At the same time it gives the same power and functions to the State House of Assembly in section 162(8). Further, section 8 (subsections 5 and 6) saddles the National Assembly with some functions before creation of a local government can become legal. The implication of all the identified contradictions and ambiguities is that it is very difficult to locate constitutionally the locus of power on local government creation. That is the tragic situation we are now.