IT is exasperating that the federal government has been taken pleasure in subjecting the state governors to harassment in the name of “Local government financial autonomy”. Federalists and text books on federalism made it clear that in a federal polity, there are only two tiers of government or what is called “Federating Units”. They are either described as “Regional Governments” as it was in the First Republic in Nigeria or “State Governments” in the post-military civilian administrations.
The muddle started when the military over-threw the first republic due to the inflammable political upheaval. But the world had expected that the military ought to have restored the civilian government because the army were not trained and oriented for government.
The military regime proceeded to bastardize the principles of federal system of government though through the instrumentality of the “Northern Establishment”. The truth about the political upheaval that threw up the military jackboot was the vaulting and vaunting of the northern Moslems to foist their ultra conservative values on the rest of the ethno-religious groupings and control the country directly and indirectly.
The brazen bastardization of the underlying principles of the federal system of government in the Independent Constitution, which later became the Republican Constitution led to the “Dasuki Local Government Reform of 1976”. In the devious strategy, the military, going by the ‘remote control’ by the “Northern Establishment,” embarked upon the creation of local government councils. Instead of creating equal local government councils in the existing states, it created surplus local government councils in the northern part of the country but none in the southern part of the country.
It went to the ridiculous level of making local government a tier of government and entitled to the share in the statutory allocations which in a federal system, is two levels viz: federal and state governments. It makes the local government answerable to both state and federal government which is a monstrous aberration. In a federal structure, the issue of local administration is under the state or regional government, both creation and funding. The grave injustice, inequity was deliberate which short-changed the south in revenue sharing and distorted the principles of federalism and thus, enthroned pseudo federalism or what political scientists derogatorily term “federal-unitary contraption”, which is in practice in Nigeria today.
In other to prevent the civilian administration from the south from bringing the matter up, the 1999 Constitution, which was not made by Nigerians through a Referendum as it is usual with constitutional democracy the world over, the military imposed 1999 constitution and made provision which would make the south to create necessary local government council areas ostensibly to balance them with the northern states since the statutory allocation is based on the number of local government , in addition to demarcation of federal constituencies for the purpose of representation in the National Legislature where laws would be made for the entire country. In other words, northern establishment crafted the constitution to place the entire south in a severe disadvantaged position that laws, policies, programmes, and citing of critical infrastructures are skewed in favour of the north.
So, the point is that the present local government administration lacks the principles of realistic federal practice. The federal government therefore, has no moral ground to harass state governors on how they manage their local government councils. Obasanjo’s imperial rule in the serial muddle created “Joint state/local government account” sequel to the agitation of Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT to end the non-payment of their members salaries and pension as a result of financial recklessness and malfeasance by the elected local government council operatives.
The essence was that after the salaries and pension and gratuity of teachers and local government employees are deducted, the remaining funds are given to the elected operatives to address the responsibilities in the Fourth Schedule in the constitution. The safeguards and control mechanism in the constitution to enable the governors to rein in local government chief executives were not practicable to the extent that it became confusion in the running of the local government councils. In other to contain the drama, governors erected brick-wall in running the local government in a democratic way, hence the use of caretaker committees.
With the caretaker committees, governors are able to take care of the state, which is natural in a federal set up. So the age-long blackmail of ALGO and NULGE against governors for the so-called “financial autonomy of local government is a farce. It is against the principles of federalism hence the imperative of restructuring governance to reinvent realistic federal practice or what is called “True Fiscal Federalism”.
It is laughable that the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit [NFIU] has requested the governors to off-hand local government statutory allocations to enthrone financial autonomy. This is part of the bastardization of the principles of federalism.
Mike Ozekhome SAN, cautioned that “A public body as the NFIU must keep within the bounds of its enabling Act. NFIU will be acting illegally and unconstitutionally to tamper with the mode and manner money is allocated to states from the Federation Account and how the states distribute them. We operate a constitutional democracy where every step taken by government must enjoy constitutional imprimatur”.