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By NBF News
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House of Representatives yesterday moved to free local government from stranglehold of the state governors by passing a bill on Local Council autonomy. The bill sailed through the second reading and was sent to the ad-hoc committee on the review of the 1999 constitution as amended for further action.

The thrust of the bill sponsored by Mrs Uche Ekwunife (APGA Anambra) seeks to amend sections 7 and 162 of the 1999 Constitution, to provide for the independence and financial autonomy of local councils in Nigeria, The two sections will give the third-tier of government independence and financial autonomy

Ekwunife defended the relevance of the bill, saying that presently local councils only existed to pay salary from what their governors dish out to them every month.

'If they are just there to pay salary, then what kind of responsibility do we expect from them,' she asked.

The impact of the councils she explained, could not be felt by the people at the grass roots becuase there was no money left after the payment of salaries, She noted that the constitution must be amended to make local government meaningful to the people at the grass roots.'The councils would continue to be the appendages of state governors, without constitutional amendment, the local councils will continue to be in the hands of the state governors''.

She stressed that the local councils are not functioning effectively as they ought to because they were being strangulated by the state governors. Supporting the bill, Chief Whip, Ishaka Bawa (PDP-Taraba), noted that 50 per cent of funds belonging to local councils were in the hands of the state governments. He lamented that local councils had been reduced to a mere appendages of state governors, which had affected the provision of health, local roads, education and other social services.

Speaker Aminu Waziri referred the bill to the Ad hoc committee on the amendment of the 1999 constitution as amended.