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Senate Sounds Alarm: ‘774 local govts dead’ in Nigeria, calls for urgent revival efforts

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Senate Sounds Alarm: ‘774 local govts dead’ in Nigeria, calls for urgent revival efforts

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In a resounding declaration, the Nigerian Senate has pronounced all 774 local governments across the nation as “dead,” citing misappropriation of funds by state governors as a primary cause.

The Senate lamented the erosion of local autonomy, which has restricted financial resources and decision-making capabilities, leading to corruption scandals and mismanagement that have disillusioned the public.

The Upper Chamber, in a motion titled “Call on the President to Resuscitate Local Government System in Nigeria,” sponsored by Senator Suleiman Kawu, NNPP, Kano South, urged President Bola Tinubu to spearhead efforts towards achieving full autonomy for local governments.

The Senate emphasized that empowering local governments is vital to addressing persistent security threats, rural-urban migration, infrastructure decay, and widespread unemployment.

Key resolutions include urging the President to convene a national dialogue involving governors, state legislators, local government officials, civil society organizations, and community leaders to discuss a roadmap for achieving full local government autonomy.

Additionally, the Senate called for constitutional changes to guarantee genuine independence for local governments, granting them control over resources and decision-making authority.

Furthermore, federal agencies were urged to comply with existing legal provisions ensuring timely release of allocated funds directly to local government bank accounts.

The Senate also advocated for a unified electoral system and tenure for local government chairmen and councilors to enhance governance effectiveness.

Senator Kawu underscored the pivotal role of local governments in grassroots development, expressing hope for a transformational shift to fulfill their intended purpose of addressing local needs and shaping communities from within.

Kawu said, ”The Senate notes that in the tapestry of Nigeria’s governance system, local governments are meant to be threads weaving development close to the ground. Envisioned as the closest tier of administration to the people, they hold the potential to address local needs directly and shape communities from the inside out. But the story of Nigeria’s local government system is one of promise and paradox, woven with threads of hope and frustration.

“Also notes that the journey began in 1976 with a local government reform, aiming to decentralize power and empower communities. Envisioned as self-governing entities with elected officials, local governments handled critical aspects of community life – primary education, healthcare, sanitation, local infrastructure and community security. It was a dream of grassroots democracy, where decisions were made closer to the people they impacted;

“Aware that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, when He served as Governor of Lagos State from 1999 to 2007, demonstrated sincere passion for the autonomy of the local governments in Lagos State. This can be grasped when he purportedly established 37 LCDAs within LGAs in Lagos State and introduced reforms to strengthen them;

“Also aware that the President of the Senate Senator Godswill Akpabio when served as the Governor of Akwa-Ibom Stated from 2007 to 2015 implemented various initiatives to improve service delivery at the local level, such as rehabilitating infrastructure, investing in healthcare and education, and launching poverty alleviation programmes, as well as deducting 10% of the IGR to LGAs which informed ground breaking achievements by LGA in Akwa-Ibom State Local Government Administration;

“Worried that However, the dream of achieving the objectives of the local government system encountered harsh realities. Successive governments often eroded local autonomy, limiting their financial resources and control over decision-making. Corruption scandals and mismanagement tarnished the image of some local governments, fueling public cynicism. Uneven development across the country also meant limited resources were only sometimes distributed fairly, leaving some communities feeling neglected;

“Also worried that some governors play a crucial role in frustrating local government autonomy in Nigeria via constitutional alteration processes;

“Concerned that with limited financial and operational autonomy, local governments might struggle to effectively address local security concerns like community policing initiatives, intelligence gathering, and infrastructure maintenance;

“Also concerned that without genuine control and decision-making power, local governments might be unable to tailor security measures to specific community needs and build trust with residents, hindering cooperation and effectiveness;

“Disturbed that without the power to initiate and manage local economic development initiatives, like attracting businesses, investing in skills training, and promoting local entrepreneurship, local governments might be less equipped to address unemployment;

“Also disturbed that reliant on higher-level allocations, local governments might lack sufficient resources for essential infrastructure maintenance and development, leading to the deterioration of roads, water systems, and vital services;

“Bothered that Nigeria’s current security challenges are deeply concerning, and the lack of adequate financial autonomy for local governments poses a significant obstacle to effectively addressing them. Without sufficient resources, local governments are unable to invest in crucial security architecture, including trained personnel, improved infrastructure, and community engagement initiatives. This significantly hinders their ability to participate effectively in national security efforts, leaving communities vulnerable and jeopardizing the overall safety of the nation; and

“Also bothered that the proverb “an idle man is a devil’s workshop” rings true in the context of Nigeria’s security challenges. Local governments, once major employers, are financially constrained and unable to hire the necessary staff. This surge in unemployment creates a pool of vulnerable individuals susceptible to criminal recruitment, further exacerbating the nation’s security issues.”

Contributing, lawmakers reasoned that if key national challenges must be addressed, the Local Government institution must be revived.

Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, APC, Abia North and a former governor of Abia State, noted that councilors had the authority to grant modest contracts in the past but bemoaned the absence of local government in the present. He said that local government funds must be returned 100 per cent to the local government councils and improve the capacity of the people running the councils.

In his contribution, Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC, Yobe North, noted that local governments must be effective and must be guaranteed by the constitution.

Lawan said, “I urge that we find a way of improving the capacity of those who run the local government system. Because I believe this requires devolution of powers.”

Another senator, Ifeanyi Ubah, APC-Anambra South said that to promote good governance in the country, “we must amend look at Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution. We need to amend so that we can start having values for democracy in our states. A state like Anambra has not conducted local government election in the last 18 years.”

Also speaking, the Deputy President of the Senate, Jibrin Barau who presided during plenary said, “Local Governments are dead in Nigeria. Governors misappropriate local government funds. They force these local government chairmen to sign off cheques and they give them meagre amounts as running costs. There are some governors who are different and we thank them for doing that.”

The Senate’s stance signals a call for decisive action to revive local governance and empower communities across Nigeria, marking a significant step towards realizing the country’s developmental aspirations.