By Ikenna Uwadileke
Local Government Councils in Nigeria may be granted financial autonomy from the State government following an ongoing legislation in the House of Representatives.
A bill seeking to grant financial autonomy to local government councils in the country, on Wednesday in Abuja, scaled through the second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (PDP-Abia) seeks to alter section 162 of the 1999 constitution.
Section 162 provides for the State Joint Local Government Account, into which all revenues accruing to the local governments from the federal and state governments are paid.
In her debate, however, Onyejeocha argued that unless the joint account was abolished, the objective of strengthening local government as a tier of government would be unattainable.
She said that local governments lacked the needed financial autonomy necessary for effective management of financial resources due to them from the federation account.
According to her, the bill if passed into law will strengthen the operation of the councils because state governments have `capitalised’ on the joint account to exploit councils and starve them of fund.
Onyejeocha stressed the need to abolish the state-local government joint account, saying that it would foster the autonomy, transparency and accountability of local government administration in the country.
“The practice of true federalism is lacking in Nigeria, especially at the local government level.
“Some state governments deprive their local governments of principal source of their revenues.
“Unless more stable internal source of revenue are exploited, and state-local government joint account abolished, the objective of strengthening local governments relationship with state and federal governments will remain a mirage,’’ Onyejeocha said.
She said the amendment bill proposed for each local government to maintain a special account to be called “Local Government Council Allocation Account”, where all funds accruing to every council shall be paid into.
“The amendment also stipulates that disbursement shall not be made from the account except by a bye-law passed by the Local Government Legislative Council,’’ she added.
Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, subsequently referred the bill to the Special Committee on Constitution Review for further legislative action.