Lai Mohammed advocates more devolution of power to local govts
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Tuesday in Abuja advocated greater devolution of authority to local councils to enable them to perform optimally.
The minister made the call while addressing participants of Senior Executive Course 44, 2022 of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, near Jos, who visited him on a study tour.
Participants on the study tour are researching “Strengthening Local Governance in Nigeria: Challenges, Options and Opportunities’’, a topic assigned to them by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister observed that local governments are critical to entrenching democracy and bringing about rapid development at the grassroots.
He expressed regrets that the third tier of government had remained inefficient and ineffective because of challenges, particularly that of the lack of full autonomy.
“There are issues and challenges that have over the years limited the capacity of local governments to execute their constitutionally assigned roles and responsibilities as a unit of administration with defined powers and authorities.
“State governments have covertly abused the provision of Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution which empowers them to make legislation for the functioning of local governments,’’ Mohammed said
The minister added that there is ambiguity in the powers conferred on the states by the 1999 Constitution to legislate on the organisation and structure of local governments.
Speaking on financial autonomy for local councils, the minister, a lawyer, noted that the 1999 Constitution provided for allocation of funds to local governments from the federation account, thus giving them financial autonomy.
He said in contrast, the same Constitution made provision for the establishment of the “States Joint Local Government Account’’ through which local governments would receive their allocations.
He noted that many state governments took advantage of the joint account to deprive local governments of vital funds, and thus incapacitating them.
The minister also faulted the inconsistency in the tenure of elected local government council officials compared to what obtains at the state and federal levels.
“In many cases, elections are not conducted and caretaker committees are allowed to function for periods even longer than the tenure of elected councils.
“This is a setback and has created political instability for the councils to focus on the real task of governance,’’ the minister said.
He added that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari encouraged and supported policy initiatives and legislative interventions aimed at strengthening the local government system.
He said Executive Order 10 signed by the president was intended to grant financial autonomy to the judiciary, the legislature and local governments.
Mohammed said though the Executive Order was voided by the Supreme Court it had not diminished the commitment of the president to ensure a better structure for the third tier of government.
Responding, the leader of the delegation, Dr Ibrahim Choji, thanked the minister for the presentation stating that it was one of the best outings of the team.
He said the minister’s presentation would assist the team in writing its reports and recommendations to the president.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that one of the highlights of the visit was the presentation of awards and plaques to some members of the group and to the minister.