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Reps Unanimous about Autonomy for LGs

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ABUJA, March 01 (THEWILL) - Troubled by the lack of government activity at the grassroots, the Federal House of Representatives on Thursday passed a Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in its bid to invest local governments with fiscal and political autonomy. It also accused state governments of practising unitary federalism, thereby stifling the smooth functioning of local governments.

Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public affairs, Hon. Zakari Mohammed who made this disclosure at a briefing said the Bill had become important in view of the stranglehold of state governors on local governments and its unhelpful implications for grassroots development.

“What is obtainable in the states is quasi unitary federalism and what should be is true fiscal federalism," he said. “The House therefore unanimously passed into second reading the Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and to ensure efficient operations of local governments for social economic and political development and for other matters connected therewith."

Leading debate on the Bill was Hon. Mohammed Shamsudeen, who argued for the alteration of sections 160 (5, 6, 7 and 8), 197(1), and 312(2nd and 4th schedule) if local governments must provide services to the people, in line with their statutory mandate. “In order to address the lingering problem of local governments’ joint account with states, sections 85 (2), 162 (3), 165 (2) and 313 should be amended.”

Supporting the Bill, Hon. Samson Osagie (CAN, Edo) harped on the need for the legislators to be awake to their responsibility of removing all impediments to effective service delivery to the people. “Most local governments have become mere tools in the hands of the state,” he regretted.

Presiding officer, Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal put up the question and it was approved. He subsequently referred the Bill to the Ad hoc Committee on the Review of the Constitution and the House Committee on Local Governments for further legislative inputs.