• Local Govt Admin Must Be Autonomous, Stakeholders Vow

By Henry Uche, Lagos

The collapse of local government in Nigeria and the need to grant it financial and administrative autonomy were the focus of a recent roundtable discussion in Lagos organized by Yiaga Africa. Stakeholders expressed dissatisfaction with the perennial disregard for local government citizens by some state governors, who have been accused of financially strangling the councils.

This disregard stems from Section 162(6) of the 1999 Constitution, which allows state governments to control local government funds through a “State Joint Local Government Account.” However, the 10th House of Representatives has indicated its willingness to amend the Constitution to recognize local governments as independent tiers with full financial and operational autonomy.

The proposed amendments aim to: Define local government as an independent tier with full financial and operational autonomy; Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of local governments to prevent overlaps and conflicts with state governments; Define the tenure of local government chairpersons and councillors to prevent undue interference.

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Stakeholders at the forum observed that since the return to democracy, local governments have been under the control of state governors, who often run them with caretaker committees instead of democratically elected officials. This has deprived citizens at the grassroots level of representation and access to essential services.

Yiaga Africa called on Lagos state lawmakers to expedite the review of the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission Law (LASIEC) in preparation for local government elections in mid-2025. The organization also highlighted the importance of Setting a clear timeline for local government elections; Ensuring adequate funding for local government elections and administration; Promoting electoral integrity and trust; Making electoral laws and information readily accessible to the public; and Factoring in the needs of people with disabilities in electoral processes.

Political analysts noted that in some states where local government elections are held, the ruling party often wins all seats, raising concerns about the fairness and credibility of the process.

The media, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders were urged to collaborate to advocate for local government autonomy and ensure that citizens at the grassroots level receive the full benefits of democracy.