By Dr. Chuks Osuji
Understandably, Nigeria operates a Federal System of Government. Properly put, this means the coming together of various states to form a loose federal government. In actual sense, as known all over the world where a Federal System is operated, powers are shared between the Federating States and the Central Government. These powers are clearly defined to avoid any type of frictions. In such arrangement, the states have well defined roles to play and have their exclusive zones of authorities to operate without interference of the Central Government. The most known successful Federal System of Government is that of the United States.
There are many countries which operate Federal System of Government, irrespective of which country is that, one thing is very common and consistent, and that is the Federating States have their own zones of authorities while the Central Government has its own zones of authorities.
Here in Nigeria, in order to avoid regular conflict or friction between the states and the Central authority, areas of authorities have been designated as either Exclusive List meaning those areas where State authorities do not have any role to play. These include Foreign Affairs, Monetary System, Police, Army, Navy, Air Force, signing of Treaties, etc.
On the other hand, there are those left to the state authorities to exercise authorities. These include land use. There are many others which have been designated as con current list in which both the States and Central Government can exercise authorities. These may include Education, Health, Sanitation and Environment, Road Construction and Maintenance, Sports, etc.
Definitely, the principal reason of intractable agitation for the restructuring of the country lies on seeming imbalance in the allocation of these powers. Without any doubt, the States as the Federating Sates were shortchanged by the constitution which was handed to Nigerian people clearly ducted by a committee led by the then ultra Northern conservative called, Dr. Yadudo who was engaged by the then Military Head of State, Abdusallam Abubakar to favour the North.
Understandably, the constitution, in fact, every constitutional provision was heavily biased against the south. And it is in the effort to redress some of these inadequacies that has given rise to unstoppable demand for the restructuring of Nigeria which very myopic and insatiable northern hawks have continue to resist. Including the use of slogan, code”born to rule” which an alert Nigerian should have challenged in the court because of its vexatious tendencies and interactions.
Equally, there are three tiers of Governments in our Constitution. The functions of each of the tiers are explained in the First, Second, Third and fourth Schedules of the Constitution.
The Constitution makes provision for the Local Government with its functions and powers clearly specified in fourth schedule of the Constitution.
Definitely, most of the inadequacies in our Federal System are embedded on the Local Government as the Third Tier of the Government. And the current National Assembly has resolved to address some of these constitutional inadequacies and contractions. For this reason, it has recommended the amendment of Local Government provisions, with a view to giving Local Government autonomy. The amendment sort and sent to State Assemblies to deliberate on include “of a bill to alter the provisions of the Constitution allowing the abrogation of the State Joint Local Account and empower each Local Government Council to maintain its special account.”
Fortunately, it is on record that 25 States Houses of Assembly nationwide have approved the recommendation for Local Government Autonomy. Painfully and disturbingly enough, few days ago, specifically on Thursday 15th February during plenary, the Imo State House of Assembly voted down the sought approval.
Although, this has raised a lot of dots and condemnations by the people of Imo State of course, for good reasons.
By rejecting this proposal, the Imo State House of Assembly by the majority of 24 members voting against the bill while only three members of PDP all from the three State Constituencies in Mbaise were the only three that voted in favour. The question remains “do these House members actually vote for rejection on sound reason and in the interest of the people or in their own prochain interest? Could it be that they are completely ignorant of the over-whelming benefits which the people would gain if this bill goes through? Or are they not well informed of these benefits?
Interestingly, the Minority Leader of th9e House, Honourable Ken Agbim representing Ahiazu State Constituency has come out to condemn in strong term of the action of his colleagues, which means that they did not vote their minds but have voted for their stomachs. I, as a Political Scientist would never be convinced that these 24 Honourable members voted their conscience. No unless they were under some kind of Legislative Spell. Otherwise, why couldn’t about at least ten vote in favour? Or is it that they are ignorant of what a Local Government Autonomy could do to enhance the living standard of the people? In many countries of the world, Local Government Councils bear the bulk of the grassroots responsibilities, rights and privileges, their welfare and their collective welfare. For example, in the United States, a Council of Mayors meet regularly to compare notes and to fashion a road map to advance the cause of the generality of those that live at the grassroots.
Besides, the most popular JFK Airport in New York was built by the New Jersey and New York Councils. Similarly, one of the busiest Airport in Texas- Dallas/ Fort Worth Airport was built by two counties of Dallas and Fort Worth. In fact, Local Governments in the United States have built Schools to fill the gaps where both State Government and Federal Government have fallen short of. In fact, specifically in London, LCC (London City Council) is very powerful. It controls all of money yielding projects. The Mayor of London is close to having much power as the Prime Minister of England. What Local Government can do and could do in civilized polities is numerous.
Today, formerly six years now or over, Local Government System in Nigeria has been assassinated and buried in many States of the country.
Today, Local Government Council where residents go and throng for several services and assistance have become moribund. Many secretariats have become grave yards. Gone with them are those assistance which residents get from their Local Government Council. It is this sorry state of affairs that the National Assembly in Nigeria is trying to resuscitate to make the LGAs visible and constitutional, productive and viable. It is this favourable proposal that twenty-five LGAs State Houses of Assembly in the country have approved which the Imo House of Assembly has voted down. Fortunately, twenty-five States, one above the required number of States have approved it.
Unfortunately, for the second time around, the Imo State House has written repulsive verse in the history book of Imo State. The first they must remember was when the Uwajimogu led Assembly closed the House to avoid the swearing in of PDP member, Engineer Dibiagwu of Oguta in unscheduled vacation to Turkey. Soon, the current members of the House would face their constituents at soon to conduct elections and only then that they would be answerable to their constituencies then they would realize that the crab could swim several oceans but could not swim the soup pot of a house wife.
Dr. Chuks Osuji is an opinion analyst based in Imo State