A human rights advocacy organization, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), yesterday, accused the State Governors of squandering about N23.220 trillion allocations from the joint Account meant for the local government Councils in their states. The group said this fact was reason enough for local governments to be granted autonomy.
“Since 1999, each of the 768 LGCs and 6 Area Councils have “received” not less than N30 billion from the Federation Account. This is over N23.220 trillion accruing to LGCs. The bulk of these monies never got to the LGCs. It was hijacked by State Governments through the State Joint Local Government Account,” said Executive Director of the Centre, Eze Onyekwere, who briefed the media on constitutional amendments.
The group appealed to all Nigerians to join their voice in the support for autonomy of the Local Government Councils in the country, noting that granting autonomy to the LGCs is not only constitutional but also guarantees the rights to health and education of Nigerian people at the grass root.
Onyekwere wondered why anyone would rather have the status quo remain, when for the past 15 years, there has been nothing to show for the funds channelled to the local governments through the states.
The group therefore appealed to members of the 36 State Houses of Assembly to write their names in gold by voting for autonomy of the Local Government Councils in the ongoing constitutional amendment in the country, as no better opportunity can present itself.
“There is practically nothing to show for this huge funds collected by the State Governments on behalf of LGCs. Poverty is increasing at the local level and our people have been denied access to the basic necessities of life such as portable water, functional schools, primary health care services, electricity, feeder roads.
“If N30 billion or even half of it had been invested in every local government, poverty would have been a thing of the past in Nigeria or at least, significantly reduced,” he stated.
“It is time to declare the things that we will prefer that our men of power do for us and also to express our dislikes. But if we miss this opportunity, we shall somehow need to remain relatively quiet for the next four years.
“It is time for change, from bad to good, from mediocrity to excellence, from insensitive leadership to a caring and compassionate one; from a leadership without vision that has been groping in the dark without clues to one of foresight, wisdom and laid out plans to solve our myriad of challenges,” he said.
For local government autonomy to be approved, at least 24 State Houses of Assembly are expected to vote in support of the National Assembly position for this to become part of the Constitution. However, with the kind of influence wielded by governors in their State Houses of Assembly, it is unlikely that 24 will vote in support of LG autonomy.