The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) completely reject the position of the State Governors on Local Government autonomy. We consider the position of the Governor’s Forum, an association unknown under Nigerian laws, to subvert the constitution review process, by sabotaging efforts to strengthen the performance of Local Government Councils within the Federation to be undemocratic, anti-development and autocratic.
We are shocked that individuals elected to represent the Nigerian people for the purpose of promoting their interests and enhancing their welfare through people-oriented development policies and programmes can conspire to oppose a constitutional arrangement that will affect the lives of the people, if properly implemented.
It is an established fact that majority of Nigerians reside in the rural areas, it is also on record that the vast majority of our rural population are hardly ever affected by state government initiatives. We therefore find it worrisome that the state Governors can adopt such a retrogressive position.
CISLAC and CDD are taken aback by the reasons advanced by the Governors related to the operation of federations as involving only two units internationally thereby precluding the introduction of a third tier government in Nigeria. Is this shallow argument suggesting Nigeria is a Unitary state or how about international best practices from Australia, South Africa, United States etc. We consider reasons adduced as myopic and self-serving, amounting to the usual practice of Nigerian politicians to latch on to international practices when they have to protect their personal interests.
We wonder if indices that show a country losing about 1 million children under five years annually and close to 52,000 women in maternal deaths under preventable circumstances, having an average life expectancy is about 45 years and where approximately 42% of children are malnourished also conforms with international standards.
CISLAC and CDD also ask to know if it is international best practice to manipulate electoral processes, rig elections, arm thugs to intimidate opposition, refuse to conduct elections into local governments as provided for under the constitution , divert or out-rightly embezzle local government councils funds paid into the Joint State and Local Government Accounts.
Is it also international practice of federations for elected governors to amass wealth at the expense of citizens, acquire private properties in choice areas with public funds and leave state treasuries empty? We find this sudden aspiration for international practice by the governors curious and unacceptable for the purpose of the discourse on Local Government in the Nigerian Federation, as the call for it represents an indictment of the governors and an indication of their failure to meet the yearnings of the people.
We concede that the levels of corruption at the local governments as presently constituted leaves much to be desired but the essence of the constitutional amendment is not only to provide for their autonomy but also provide mechanisms for transparency and empower the local populations to hold the leadership accountable, thereby making them more responsible and responsive.
CISLAC and CDD view the Governors’ position as double-talk, demanding devolution of powers and additional resources on the one hand while rejecting local government autonomy on the other. We are doubtful that promoting development is the underlying motive for their aspirations. We also consider their resolution to resist or even block this aspect of the constitutional amendment irrespective of what the aspirations of majority of Nigerians as expressed during the public hearings are, as an affront and disservice to the electorate that voted them into office and an indelible stain on their democratic credentials.
We are alarmed, concerned and disappointed that state governors with erstwhile progressive credentials and purportedly people oriented, who have previously supported local government autonomy publicly, are retracting their statements and joining the bandwagon to resist the move. This display of unprincipled leadership is condemnable and unbecoming of elected public officer in civilized societies.
CISLAC and CDD wish to commend courageous members of the National Assembly who have remained steadfast on this issue. They should collate the wishes of the Nigerian people and effect the amendment to reflect citizens’ aspiration and do what is right by bequeathing on the Nation a people’s constitution.
We also call on the members of the State Houses of Assembly to take sides with the Nigerian people and posterity by refusing to be intimidated and manipulated by the state governors when this issue comes before them.
We call on Civil society organizations, the media and all Nigerian citizens to effectively mobilize and adopt all lawful means to ensure that it is the aspiration of the majority and not a few vested interest that prevail and is reflected in the Constitution when amended.
We must track and identify politicians who promote individual and group interests above citizens’ aspirations and commence mobilization to ensure they are projected for whom they are-unfit to earn the trust and mandate of the people and occupy elective public offices.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre
Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim
Centre for Democracy and Development