Perpetuating Dysfunctional System Through local Government Autonomy

(By Polycarp Onwubiko)

The strident agitation to reinvent functional or true federalism led to the convocation of the National Conference. Although the recommendations of the national confab cannot guarantee maximally the much expected functional federalism but the points have been registered that the growth and development in real terms in the country depend on restructuring of the country to jettison the pseudo federalism or veiled unitary system foisted by the military regimes and ferociously being resisted for change by the ultimate beneficiaries from a part of the country.

RECENTLY, the National Assembly approved financial and administrative autonomy for the local government councils. Two-thirds of the houses of assembly in the 36 states of the federation are expected to pass it before it is incorporated in the constitution. The need to revisit the issue of local government autonomy was that it was not realistically addressed during the 2010 amendment of the Nigerian constitution.  The stark reality is that the legislators were battling with the inevitability or imperative of reinventing the demands of functional federalism and the retention of certain aspects of the constitution that harbour elements of pseudo federalism or the accustomed veiled unitary system of government.

   Political scientists have rightly and stridently contended that the slow pace of social, economic and political growth and development in Nigeria verged on the willful bastardisation of the principles of federal system of government. The reasonableness of their position is that systems of government namely: Federal, unitary among others, have in built principles with predictable outcomes when fully and religiously executed and implemented. Bastardisation of the principles and practices of federal system of government has its source and spring from the mindless autocracy of the military regimes to favour  a section of the country. Either due to palpable ignorance of the principles and practices of federalism or calculated designs to favour a particular ethnic and religious group in terms of  management of strategic public institutions and upper hand in the national legislature, the military did not reckon with the adverse effects of bastardizing the principles and practices of federal system of government.

   It is against this background that the approval of financial and administrative autonomy for the local government council as a third tier of government is intrinsically wrong with what is obtainable in countries that operate a federal system of government with predictable outcomes of seamless socio-economic and political growth and an all-round development, political stability, equity, fairness and social justice for all in their administration. The unitary constitution foisted on Nigeria via the aberrant military jackboot engendered the abnormal political administration and dysfunctional federal system in the country. It has led to the grievous blunder of the national assembly in the granting financial and administrative autonomy to local government councils. The issue is not whether the decision bordered on popular but on laid down principles of an established theory of government.

   The strident agitation to reinvent functional or true federalism led to the convocation of the National Conference. Although the recommendations of the national confab cannot guarantee maximally the much expected functional federalism but the points have been registered that the growth and development in real terms in the country depend on restructuring of the country to jettison the pseudo federalism or veiled unitary system foisted by the military regimes and ferociously being resisted for change by the ultimate beneficiaries from a part of the country. For instance, the national conference recommended that local government should cease to be a tier of government since federal system of government the world over maintains two-tier federating units namely: federal and regional or federal state governments with two levels of revenue allocation and resource sovereignty or control.

   Granting of financial and administrative autonomy to the local government by the National Assembly is a monstrous aberration in federalism and they ought to have suspended the panel beating of the fundamental flawed constitution and await the people’s constitution in the recommendation of the National Conference.   Nigeria had practised a realistic federal system of government in the First Republic guided by the 1960-1963 republican constitution with fantastic growth and development. The country should go back to the two-tier system with two levels of revenue allocation so that the federating units would be at liberty to take due cognizance of the yearnings and aspirations of their respective ethno-religious groups in formulating policies, programme and projects that are conducive to their world view and perspectives in life. In other words, local government administration should be at the choice of the respective federating units in creating the needed numbers and formulate strategies on the funding, staffing and statutory responsibilities. Nigeria cannot continue to wallow in a dysfunctional system which engenders mal-administration ostensibly to pander to the dictates of ultra conservative interests to the detriment of the aspirations of forwarding looking people to have civilised governance in Nigeria.

 Onwubiko is a public affairs analyst, Awka, Anambra State. 

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