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Constitution review should make LGs truly autonomous – Former lawmaker

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Chief Sam Onuigbo

A former member of House of Representatives, Chief Sam Onuigbo, says the review of the 1999 Constitution will not be incomplete without true devolution of powers to local governments.

Onuigbo who represented Ikwuano/Umuahia North and South Federal Constituency at the 9th National Assembly, said this during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Abuja.

The local governments are recongnised by the Constitution as the third tier of government but their functionality has been largely undermined by state governors who are practically in charge of their administration.

Onuigbo said previously efforts had been made to review different segments of the constitution considered to require an amendment.

He cited the case of movement of electricity from the exclusive list to the concurrent list by the 9th National Assembly as an example.

“It is important absolutely important that in the current review they have to take a critical look at the local government system’’, the former legislature told NAN.

He said the local governments should be separated from state agencies such as civil service commission, while elections for their chairmen and councillors should be handled by the Independent Electoral Commission to ensure transparency.

According to him, allowing state independent electoral commissions to handle local government elections exposes the system to manipulation by governors whose parties win virtually all available chairmanship and councillorship seats.

“It is the party at the Government House that wins all the elections; so that is a problem.

“So I say that we have to take the out (state independent electoral commissions) or let INEC conduct the election so that we can have some balance… to have some competitive spirit’’, he told NAN.

Onuigbo also frowned at the practice whereby state governors run a joint state-local government joint account, adding that it did not augur well for judicious use of local governments’ resources.

“It is, therefore, important that we a review that truly guarantees the independence of the local government, so that all the monies accruing to them be put to use to the benefit of the masses.

The climate change activist said making local government truly independent would make more resources available at their disposal to carry out their functions such as mobilising grassroots participations in policies as actions such as climate change.

“When we talk about emissions they are coming out from communities where local governments are supposed to in charge. You are also talking about nature-based solutions.

“Therefore, it is important that we allow local governments to play their roles’’, he said, adding that under normal circumstances, timber merchants get the permission to fell trees from local government authorities.

He said it was to encourage local government participation in efforts to mitigate climate change that the Chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) was made a member of National Council on Climate Change.

“We need awareness that is why in structuring the Act (Climate Change Act) we gave different roles to every stakeholder. We want to carry everybody along’’, Onuigbo said.

NAN reports that frontline politicians and rights activists have been vocal about the need for the reviewed to make local governments truly independent

They include former governors of Edo and Kaduna State, Mr Adams Oshiomhole and Malam Nasir el Rufai and Mr Shehu Sani . (NAN)

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