From Fred Itua and Kenneth Udeh, Abuja

The Senate, yesterday, accused state governors of misappropriating funds allocated to local government councils in Nigeria. It claimed that the council chairmen were usually compelled to sign off cheques by governors, who in turn, allocate peanuts to them.

This is coming as the Senate called on President Bola Tinubu to immediately stop allocation of funds to caretaker committee-led local government areas.

“Local governments are dead in Nigeria. Governors misappropriate local governments’ funds. They force these local government chairmen to sign off cheques and they give them meagre amounts as running costs. There are some governors who are different and we thank them for doing that,” Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, who presided during yesterday’s plenary said.

In the resolutions reached by the Senate, it urged President Tinubu to champion the cause of full autonomy for local governments.

“The challenges we face, including the persistent security threats, rural urban migration, decaying infrastructure, and widespread unemployment, demand bold action, and we believe that empowering local governments holds the key to unlocking a brighter future for all Nigerians.

“Convene a national dialogue involving governors, state legislators, local government officials, civil society organisations, and community leaders to discuss the roadmap towards achieving full local government autonomy.

“Use his leadership and influence to persuade the federating units and all critical stakeholders in the constitutional alteration processes and administrative bottlenecks to embrace the vision of full local government autonomy.

“Also champion changes to the constitution that enshrine and guarantee genuine independence for local governments, granting them control over their resources, decision making authority, and the power to chart their development paths.

“Urge the federal agencies to fully comply with the existing legal provisions that empower local governments, ensuring timely release of allocated funds directly to their bank accounts, and streamlining administrative processes.

“Call on the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to resuscitate local government system in Nigeria.”

In the motion sponsored by Suleiman Kawu, (NNPP, Kano South), lawmakers argued that if key national challenges must be addressed, the local government institution must be revived.

Former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, recalled how in the past, councillors could award small contracts, but lamented the current dearth of governance at the grassroots.

In the lead debate, Kalu said: “In the tapestry of Nigeria’s governance system, local governments are meant to be threads weaving development close to the ground.

“Envisioned as the closest tier of administration to the people, they hold the potential to address local needs directly, and shape communities from inside out.

“But, the story of Nigeria’s local government system is one of promise and paradox, woven with threads of hope and frustration.

“However, the dream of achieving the objectives of the local government system encountered harsh realities. Successive governments often eroded local autonomy, limiting their financial resources and control over decision-making. Corruption scandals and mismanagement tarnished the image of some local governments, fuelling public cynicism. Uneven development across the country also meant limited resources were only sometimes distributed fairly, leaving some communities feeling neglected.

“Some governors play a crucial role in frustrating local government autonomy in Nigeria via constitutional alteration process. With limited financial and operational autonomy, local governments might struggle to effectively address local security concerns, like community policing initiatives, intelligence gathering, and infrastructure maintenance.”