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My Response to Nigerians Opposing Local Government Autonomy – Dr. Leonard K. Shilgba

By Dr. Leonard Karshima Shilgba | NNP | Nov. 12, 2022 – The concern of some of us who know is that, this failure by state governors to release to the Local Government Councils their monthly statutory allocation from the Federation Account has contributed to the blight of poverty in our communities, dilapidated primary schools and rural health centers (where they even exist), unkept rural markets and abattoirs, poor rural roads and absence of bridges across our rural streams and rivers, unemployment problems in our communities (where our masons, carpenters, painters, and other artisans are hardly patronized because of obstructed inflow of public revenue, obstructed by the state governors), and worsening insecurity in our country.
Now, in my state, the Benue State House of Assembly, among 25 state houses of assembly in Nigeria, has recently voted overwhelmingly against Local Government Autonomy, which vote may perpetuate the unfortunate conditions that I have painted above.
The victims of the  present terrible flood disaster in some states in Nigeria could have received better relief assistance from their Local Government Councils if this tier of government had not been crippled by the Emperors of Nigeria, who are the state governors and state legislators. If Nigerians want a better standard of living, they had better acknowledge now those standing in their way: their state or local officials. Give Nigeria the most visionary and smartest president of all times; yet, he cannot stop the destruction of the lives of the poor in our communities, who are groaning under the hostage of state officials, because it is a constitutional matter, and the governors are not answerable to the president of Nigeria. But it appears that the majority of Nigerians blame the federal government for their local problems. Wrong! Until the people correctly identify their enemies and replace them according to the law, they will only insist on stoning the adulterous woman “caught in the act”  while letting go the adulterous man, and  their suffering continues!
Well, with regard to the description of “democratic federalism” by some of you Nigerian elite, which, according to you, is “always a two tier affair”, permit me to use the logical principle of counter example in mathematics to respond:
No two democracies are EXACTLY the same all over the world. Nations frame and adjust their democratic experiments to accord with their experiences and culture.
Taking into consideration the oppression of local government councils by state governors, would you be comfortable to constitutionally have them cut off their statutory allocation, which, presently, gives them hope that if they are fortunate to have a governor who respects the constitution, they would have the tens of millions of naira which are allocated every month by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC)? For instance, my Ushongo Local Government Area, in particular, on the average,  is allocated at least N170 million every month. Imagine the impact if monthly, N10 million worth of development projects were executed in each of the 11 council wards of my local government area, with at least N60 million left for personnel and overhead expenditure by the local government council. But for years, Ushongo Local Government Area has been deprived of billions of naira of its statutory allocation from the Federation Account (and this is true of all local government areas of Benue state and many states in Nigeria).
As a counter example, in USA, after whose federal democracy Nigeria’s democracy is patterned, and which some Nigerian elite cite in their argument against Local Government Autonomy, local governments (County governments with their aldermen–councillors)  are financially viable and independent, with their county police; and a county mayor, who is elected,  can stand up to his state governor without losing his position simply for this. The counties  have certain rights over their natural resources, and get tax revenues. There is stability of governance by American mayors and aldermen, and this attracts quality candidates for county council positions. This reminds me of my discussion with my local government chairman in 2018. We had met for the first time at the Benue Government House, Makurdi, where we went for a meeting with the governor, and had valuable discussion on the governance of our local government area. He had some brilliant ideas. Following this discussion, I paid him an official visit at our local government council secretariat. He took me around, and showed me some of the development efforts of his council. Shortly after, the state governor removed him. How can we develop our local government areas without stability of local government councils or adequate funding?
In US, states  are semiautonomous; there is no sharing of public revenues from a “Federation Account”; but the states and counties enjoy certain rights and control over their natural resources and taxes. Think about the tragedy of our local government councils: They neither have control over their natural resources nor are certain that state governors will remit to them their statutory allocation from the Federation Account!
So when some Nigerian elite talk of  “democratic federalism” being a “two tier affair”, let me inform as follows:
With respect to US, individual states were separate entities (if you like, nations), most of whom VOTED to join the union. I say “most of them”,  because, for instance,  Hawaii, the 50th US state, which was included into the union only in 1959, just two years before Obama was born there (remember the birthers movement against President Obama some years ago, when some Americans argued that he wasn’t born WITHIN America-) did not vote to do so. The US government, drawing from its experience during the Spanish-American war of 1898, when an attack on motherland was launched from Hawaii, decided it was in their security interest to annex Hawaii.  Accordingly, the American union was not between THREE tiers of government, but TWO. So, when in Nigeria, some of the elite (including Peter Obi) talk of “democratic federalism” being a “two tier affair”, they miss the point:
When and how did the 36 states of Nigeria decide on the Nigerian union, and on which terms was their agreement predicated? If you cannot answer this question, and I know you cannot, then, the states, being  “artificial” creations, cannot make claims to a nebulous “two tier” system to the exclusion of other “artificial creations”—the 774 local government areas, which were not in existence within the artificial states at the “time” of “joining” the union. Oh, sorry, there have been no UNION AGREEMENTS (and so no TIME OF JOINING THE UNION for any of the 36 states) forged by the leaders of those Nigerian states.
The Nigerian people are right if they are angry with the present “Nigerian system”, which deprives them of their commonwealth. But even if the framers of this system are, those who  sustain it are definitely  not only the “other Nigerians”. Our tribes men and women have collaborated with other tribes and ethnicities to perpetuate this impoverishing arrangement.
Stone me if you wish, but even my blood will keep crying to you: Your enemies are your local officials, the majority of whom are YOUTHS!

Leonard Karshima Shilgba, PhD

Professor of Mathematics,
Director of Academic Planning and Quality Assurance,
Pioneer Ag Vice Chancellor/President,
Pioneer Vice President (Academics)
Admiralty University of Nigeria.

Tel: +234-7035939505;
+234-9074346000 (WhatsApp)


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Posted by on Nov 12 2022. Filed under Articles, Columnists, Leonard K. Shilgba, PhD, Local Govt, NNP Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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