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Constitution Review: Governors can’t foil LG autonomy says Abatemi-Usman

By Michael Jegede

Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, has said that the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) does not have the constitutional power to hinder the granting of autonomy to local government councils in the ongoing constitution review process by the National Assembly.

Abatemi-Usman, whose bill seeking for financial autonomy for local governments scaled through seconding reading and was referred to the Senate Committee on Constitution Review in March last year, gave the indication in a statement issued by Michael Jegede, his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity.

The Senator was apparently reacting to the recent outburst of the NGF, where its Chairman, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, reportedly said they (governors) would do everything possible as a pressure group to push against any form of autonomy for Local Governments.

According to the Senator representing Kogi Central Senatorial District in the Red Chamber of the Federal Legislature, of all the items listed for consideration in the current constitution review and amendment exercise, nothing could be more necessary than LG autonomy, as he believes that it will pave way for rapid development at the grassroots level.

He observed that the operation of the state/local government joint account as currently practiced was an aberration that must be corrected in the interest of Nigerians, regardless of the position of the governors.

“I have always been an advocate of autonomy for local governments. This was what prompted me to put up a bill for their financial autonomy when I became a Senator in 2011 to free them from the stranglehold and claws of the state governors. I am very much happy that the entire Nigerian people have seen the need for local governments to be granted autonomy, as reflected in the public people's sessions held by the House of Representatives in the 360 federal constituencies and the public hearing conducted by the Senate in the six geo-political zones of the country. Therefore, the people's desire will definitely prevail over that of the governors. How can they (governors) stand against the wish of the generality of Nigerians, who elected them into office,” Abatemi-Usman queried.

SIGNED: MICHAEL JEGEDE
MEDIA AIDE TO THE SENATOR