Some Senior Advocates of Nigeria have carpeted the move by state governments to resist the financial autonomy of local governments using the state Houses of Assemblies.
They described the move as daylight robbery and a misnomer that should not exist in a democracy.
Recall that the Trade Union Congress had flayed governors over the failure of state Houses of Assembly to pass the local government autonomy bill in the ongoing constitution amendment exercise.
Sequel to the refusal of the states to pass the bill, the Senate had on Tuesday directed the Clerk to the National Assembly to transmit the 35 bills that met the requirement of the provision of section 9(2) of the Constitution to the President for assent.
The constitution amendment bills were forwarded to the states Houses of assembly for concurrence in March 2022.
Reacting to this development, a senior lawyer, Mr Afam Osigwe, SAN, in an interview on Friday with Saturday PUNCH, noted that local governments must have a separate account different from the account jointly owned with the state governments.
Osigwe said, “The idea that money meant for the local governments goes into a joint account which the states are signatories to is corruption. The governors have over the years unduly exploited these local government funds, using them as lush funds.
“They do so under the guise that both the local and state governments are contributing to a project, using that to emasculate democracy at the LG level.
“Until we do away with these joint account committees and allow funds meant for local government to go to them directly without the involvement or interference of the state governments, this exploitation will not stop.
“The governors divert funds meant for local government with impunity and frustrate every effort to stop them from doing so. Most of the massive cash withdrawals done by state governments are done through that joint account.
“Nobody has been held to account for exploiting local government funds. That is why these governors lean on their state Houses of assembly to frustrate any move to grant financial autonomy to LGs.”
Also, a former Executive Chairman, Local Government Service Commission, Osun State, Mr Yomi Alliyu (SAN), said no one state government had the right to ‘curtail’ the autonomy of local governments, noting that LGs were recognised by the constitution as the third tier of government like the state and federal governments.
“Nobody can curtail the autonomy of the Local Government councils. They are entitled to be the third-tier of government and that is what they are. There is nothing anybody can do about that.”
“It is like the Federal Government putting state governments in their pockets. One of the former presidents tried it and met stiff resistance. If the FG can’t do that to the state governments, they (states) should not do it to the LGs.
“The LG is the grassroots and they should not be stranded. LG system should be encouraged. The government must make sure that the LG is autonomous and ensure accountability,” he stated.
He, however, noted that the problem with the Nigerian system was that there was a lot of duplication of duties from the FG down to the LG.