Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Why Local Government Autonomy Matters

The National Assembly has passed an amendment to the 1999 constitution to guarantee local governments financial and administrative autonomy. Although this amendment still has to be passed by two-thirds of 24 state houses of assemblies across the country, it is an essential step towards strengthening local governance.

 

Why is this important?

The local government is the closest to the people, yet, it has been rendered ineffective by overbearing governors. Many governors sack elected local government chairmen at will and appoint their cronies as caretakers – a situation the Supreme Court ruled as being illegal and unconstitutional. Yet, many governors continue this illegality.

 

Additionally, many state governors use the ‘joint state account’ to short-change local governments of their FAAC allocations.   They also strip local governments of their constitutional responsibilities like waste management, primary education, etc.

 

With this critical amendment, local governments will receive their allocations directly from the federal government. The constitution will empower them to carry out all their constitutional responsibilities without interference from governors.

 

Why does this matter?

Once citizens elect competent local government administrators, this new amendment will make them feel the impact of governance more than ever before. When local governments work effectively, growth and development are often accelerated. Citizens are likely to see better infrastructure, better community schools, and improved economic activities.

 

Worth mentioning also is that the amendment will encourage increased participation in governance by citizens whose lives will be affected by various local governments’ decisions.

 

What Happens Next

The amendments will be transferred to the 36-state house of assemblies for concurrence. For the amendment to effectively become law, the amendment has to be passed by two-thirds of the members of the state house of assembly in at least 24 states.

 

Is this likely to happen?

With the influence that governors wield over state house of assembly members, it is unlikely that 24 states will pass the amendment.

 

What can citizens do?

Citizens can put pressure on their elected representatives at the state level to make sure that they pass the bill. The kind of pressure and organizing that made sure the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ bill pass will be required to ensure that this amendment passes.

 

 

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