Group Worried About Non-Passage Of LGA Bill In 26 States

By Tony Adibe

A Rivers State-based, Social Development Integrated Centre Social Action, a Non-governmental organization has expressed worry and dismay concerning the failure of 26 out 36 State governments to pass the Local Government Financial Autonomy Bill almost ten months after it was passed by the National Assembly (NASS).

NewsBits recalls that both the Nigeria Senate and the House of Representatives had passed the bill earlier in the year, with expectation that the 36 state Houses of Assembly would emulate the National Assembly without further delay.

With a majority, the NASS had passed the bill entitled: “Bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Abrogate the State Joint Local Government Account and Provide for a Special Account into which shall be paid all Allocations due to Local Government Councils from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State; and for Related Matters”

NewsBits learnt that one of the key objectives of the LGA Financial Autonomy Bill was to stop the reckless abuse of the funds by the State Governors who, critics accused of “dipping their fingers into the funds meant for the LGAs.”

As at the time of filing this report, only ten out of the 36 states of the federation have passed the Bill into law. The States are Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Osun, Ogun, Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Kogi and Kastina. This means that 26 States are yet to pass the Bill.

However, the Executive Director of SocialAction, Dr. Issac Asume Osuoka, said he regretted that in spite of the importance of the bill, 26 state governments have refused to do the needful. Dr Osuoka was addressing participants in Enugu during a 1-day capacity building workshop on Effective Service Delivery/Community Development organized for local government officials and media personnel in Enugu State.

The Executive Director explained that the objective of the workshop was to   further strengthen the capacity of the Enugu LGA officials on the task ahead. It is important for Nigerians to know that for the bill to become a law, two-thirds of the 36 State Houses of Assembly, which is 24, must give approval to it, hence they must continue to raise their voices until it is actualised, according to Osuoka.

Represented by a Senior programme officer in the organization, Prince Edegbuo, the Executive Director called on Nigerians to rise up and increase their support to those that have been driving the campaign such as SocialAction and other groups.

But, he nonetheless, blamed the anomalies in the LGAs  on the state governors, accusing them of always diverting LGAs funds into their personal pockets to the neglect and detriment of the poor suffering rural dwellers who ought to be the rightful beneficiaries.

According to him, “the Nigeria Governors Forum is the problem of this local government Autonomy proposed law, because of their selfish interest.

“Since 1976, state governments have failed to implement reform proposals to grant autonomy to LGAs in Nigeria.

“Local governments have become mere appendages to the state governments, making them abdicate their constitutional responsibilities and creating opportunities for corruption.”

Osuoka further added: “Local Government Authorities hardly prepare their budgets, and the necessary details are missing when they do. State governments hijack the State Local Government Joint Account and starve the Council areas of funds to implement projects by releasing funds in a discretionary manner and making arbitrary deductions.”

He observed that the lack of transparency and accountability in the third tier of government, has remained a cog in the wheel of progress of development at the rural Communities

“Despite all the efforts invested in reforming the structure of the local government over the years, the level of misconduct that motivated the reform efforts remains unchanged to date, as the promise of LGA as a vehicle for delivering development to the grassroots was never realized, due to operational lapses which create room for corruption, waste and political manipulation,” he emphasised.

He explained that the workshop is aimed at further strengthening the capacity of the Enugu LGA officials on the task ahead.

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