Introduce true federalism, says chairman APC South South
The issue of true federation has always been on the lips of most Nigerians as most people feel the centre is too strong as the Federal Government controls all funds generated and gives handouts to the states and local governments. This in turn has made the states and councils lazy. Agriculture, which hitherto made states regions then rich and self-reliant, has been abandoned.
For over 16 years the local government system has become a department or an agency in the 36 states of the federation. Things have not been the same again as the states governors totally control funds in the name of joint accounts.
Against this backdrop, the All Progressive Congress (APC) South South Vice Chairman, Mr. Hilliard Etta said, “I have never been an advocate of a unitary system of government. I advocate for true fiscal and political federalism. I do not believe that the centre should be as strong as it is today. I don’t believe that the president should be involved in the issuance of my driver’s license as it is in the constitution. There are so many things that are on the exclusive list of the constitution that have absolutely nothing to do with the federal government. These are all local issues”.
Etta said, “it has been a very painful journey with to regards local governance in Nigeria since 1999. I am aware because I have been active since 1998, since the advent of this dispensation and I am aware that from 1999 to 2002, we had a similitude of local governance in Nigeria. Across party lines, this emerging local government system was completely caused between 2002 and 2003 and since then we have had graduated deterioration of the local government administration in Nigeria. In fact what we have today in certain states like Cross River is a joke in the name of local government administration. Take for instance in the month of March, my local government area, Calabar Municipal Council, out of almost N200 million allocation, only N2 million got to it from the state joint account for the purposes of superintending over the council. With a voting population of about 144, 000 and a total population of more than 400,000 people, it is a joke.
“A million naira was given to the executive; a million naira was given to the legislature of the local government. One is therefore forced to ask if it is necessary at all that we have the local government structure. Would it not have been better if the federation was to terminate at the state level, so that we know that the funds that come to Cross River State go straight to the state and however the state wants to manage its resources, it would be held accountable by the people.
“So this is unprecedented fraud and scam. I think the nation ought to look at the local government system, whether it is necessary at all. In certain other places, it becomes an outpost for the collection of levies and taxes for government. Not for any meaningful development …Yet the local government was created to bring government to the rural dwellers, to the least privileged amongst us. It has not served that purpose. So the pertinent question to ask is if it is therefore necessary at all. In almost all the states in Nigeria, you find out that it is one party that would appropriate ownership of the structures of the entire local government areas. So what they do like in Cross River, they call it family affair, were they sit down and nobody from outside of the system gets to know what happens within the system and that is why most Nigerians question the efficacy of the state electoral commissions, whether it is necessary at all because results emanating from local government elections can be forecasted.
To drive home my point, 20 per cent of the federation account that goes to the local government areas in Nigeria, is far and above the national budget of so many African countries today. Take a place like Botswana, Seychelles or Rwanda where it is said real development is taking place in those places. The resources available to them are not even as much as monies allocated to the local government areas in Nigeria yet real development is taking place in those places. So this is the depth of our concern with regards to the local government system in Nigeria. Let Nigerians sit again to have local government areas and if it is not necessary, it should be abolished.