By Peter Amine
Former Deputy Governor of Plateau, Chief Jethro Akun, has said that granting financial autonomy to local government councils will propel rapid development at the grassroots level.
Akun, who said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jos on Sunday, commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly (NASS) for the decision to grant financial autonomy to the local governments.
He said: “If local governments are allowed to operate freely, it will bring more development to the country.
“If you look at the past, local governments used to build single culverts and roads.
“Even today, there were some projects executed by local governments that are still functioning.”
Akun, who led Plateau, including the present Nasarawa state, delegation to the 1994/95 Constitutional Conference, said the conference recommended financial autonomy for local governments.
“We recommended local government allocations to be paid directly to their accounts and also made it mandatory for states to give them the 10 per cent.
“When we handed over our report and it was turned into the 1999 Constitution, the military then decided to do it the way they did it.
“Otherwise, if you go back to our report, the structure of the local government is like the state, so that we can develop leaders at that level,” he said.
According to him, the third tier of government is meant to groom leaders for higher political positions and responsibilities.
He disagreed with the argument by some NASS members that the local government system lacked qualified personnel to run its affairs.
“Today, there are so many Ph.D holders working in some local government councils and there are those with Master Degrees.”
“What do they mean by saying that local governments lack the capacity?
“In fact, there are more qualified people in some local government areas than the state, that argument is not tenable at all.
“For anybody to say there are no qualified people is a disservice to the nation,” Akun further said.
He advised state Houses of Assembly that had yet to pass the bill, to do so, in order to support the financial autonomy of local governments.
He said that by failing to domesticate the Local Government Autonomy Bill, the legislators were telling the people that what was meant for them should not come to them.
NAN recalls that the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has banned banks, governors, financial institutions, public officers and other stakeholders from tampering with the statutory allocations of local governments with effect from June 1.