Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights, CCIDESOR, a civil society organisation has called for a constitutional reform that would guarantee the autonomy of the local government system.
The group made the call at a one-day stakeholders round table held on Wednesday in Abakaliki.
Chidi Igwe, CCIDESOR Executive Director in a paper presentation, ‘Legal Framework for Participatory Democracy in Local Government Administration’, said the 1999 constitution did not provide autonomy to local governments as a tier of government.
Mr Igwe said that the 1999 constitution only provided for democratic system of government in Nigeria where council chairmen and councillors are elected.
He said the dependency status of local government on the state government created room for undue interference in the management and administration of the councils.
Mr Igwe said that the lack of political and financial autonomy of the councils was responsible for lack of accountability in the system.
“Section 162 (3) of the 1999 constitution as amended made provision for funding of local governments by both the federal and state governments, the section also provided for a local government/state government joint account.
“The account is to be managed by the state through which the state shall transfer funds to each local government areas of the state.
“The provision placed the local government under the financial control of the state government. No legislative powers were constitutionally granted to the local governments.
“The Supreme Court affirming the dependence status of local governments on the states emphasised the fact that FG has no constitutional legislative powers with respect to the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of LGs.
“The constitution conferred such responsibility on the state governments”, Mr Igwe said.
He said the conduct of the local government elections by State Independent Electoral Commissions, SIECs, had also affected autonomy and democratic governance at the grassroots.
He commended the FG’s directive to the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, for direct payment of local government share of the federation allocations to their bank accounts.
He said that the provision would guarantee financial autonomy to the councils.
The round table meeting was attended by traditional rulers, civil society groups, officials from the local government service commission, Nigeria union of local government employees among others.