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Direct statutory allocations to LG to curb governors interference - Senate minority leader

The action would help to avoid further emasculation and illegal setting up of caretaker committee members at local govt councils by state govts.

Minority Leader of the Senate, Abba Moro [Punch Newspapers]

Moro, who was speaking on recent dissolution of 23 local government councils in Benue by the state government, said this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja. Moro said there was need to further amend the 1999 Constitution and relevant laws guiding operations of local government system.

This, he said, would help to avoid further emasculation and illegal setting up of caretaker committee members at local government councils by state governments. He said the government of Benue had recently sacked the 23 elected council chairmen and their vice, 276 councilors and supervisory councilors and secretaries, saying that the act was unconstitutional.

From all standards by the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, this is alien and illegal and by all standard, is an aberration.

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“The constitution does not provide for the dissolution of the elected councils in Benue state, or any part of Nigeria.

“There is no power in the constitution that arrogates to state houses of assembly to recommend dissolution or suspension of local governments.

“And so, I felt that I should bring it to the attention of National Assembly, especially the Senate, because all my efforts to persuade the governor, government, and Benue House of Assembly to rescind the decision fell on deaf ears.

“And I believe that as a Senator representing the very good people of Benue South that has nine local governments, 102 council wards, I have a responsibility of letting the world know that this is what has happened to my consistency.”

He said the government’s decision was wrong, adding he was an advocate for financial and administrative autonomy of local governments .

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As a one time Chairman of a local government, I feel a comparing need to make the senate know and intervene in this matter, because it is unconstitutional.

"This is an affront on the constitution and unfortunately perpetrated by people who have sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that is the most worrying situation,” Moro said.

He said the Senate recently passed a motion mandating the Ministry of Finance to withhold fund appropriated for any caretaker local government committee, saying that Senate Committee on Legislative Compliance was alive to its responsibilities to ensure compliance.

"I want to believe that the Senate is taking appropriate steps to ensure that its resolutions, especially this very national issue, is addressed because every body is concerned.”

He said the courts had ruled, yet the state governors were not obeying, adding that nothing appeared to be happening to states where caretaker committees had been illegally instituted.

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He alleged that state governors had so far arm twisted their houses of assembly that, when they committed impeachable offences, the assemblies could not act in line with their status.

Since the National Assembly has power under section 7 (6) of the Constitution to provide for the allocation of funds to local governments, by logical extension, they equally have the power to know how the money appropriated is being used and by who.

“As far as I am concerned, the Senate is concerned, the caretaker committee put in place by the Benue Government and other state governments are illegal contractions, and it will be illegal for these people to have access to funds appropriated by the National Assembly.

“To give it more bite, there is no harm in combing the court action with executive action from the Federal Government within the ambit of the law.”

Moro expressed worry that the act of dissolving and setting up caretaker committees in local governments was an erosion of democracy.

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"I feel that if we continue like this in the near future, virtually all the states in the federation will be operating the caretaker system across the country, and that is a violent violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“I feel that state governments and governors see local governments as cash cow for their various states, because some of them have this feeling that statutory allocation will not be enough for them to use, and so they descend on the local governments.

“One of the ways we can stop this unnecessary interference in the system is to revert to old system of direct allocation from the Federation Account to the local governments.

“It will solve this problem of state governors and state government’s unnecessary interference into local government system.” the Senator stated.

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