DANGER LOOMS: Can CRS Survive the withdrawal of Federal Allocation to LG Councils?

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Joseph Odok|20 December 2016 There is growing demands for the withdrawal of Federal allocation from states without democratically elected local government executives. This is a welcomed development. Nigerian governors have become autocratic in recent times. It is inconceivable for a President to single handedly appoint a caretaker governor in a democratic government. It has never happened in the history of Nigerian democracy that a President has appointed a caretaker governor. On the contrary, state Governors in Nigeria have constantly abused the principles of democracy and our Constitution in appointments of caretaker administrators to oversee the affairs of the local government. Whimsically, the state Governors of many state in Nigeria have abused the Constitution and the principle of democracy to appoint stooges as local government administrators in flagrant disregard of the Constitution. Section 7 and 8 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As amended) provides for the local government as one of the three tiers of government. More specifically section 7(1) guarantees that that local government administrators must exist and be democratically elected. Section 7(3) provides for the financial autonomy of Local Government council from both state and federal intervention. It empowers the local government councils within the state to participate in the economic planning and development of area referred to as local government in the Constitution. Today in Nigerian democracy, there is over concentration powers in the Federal and state government in  utter disregard of the local government. The Jurisprudence of the creation of Local Government area is to bring development closer to the people. The nearest tier of government to the people is the local government area, but sadly many state Governors have flagrantly killed the local government tier as adminstrative arm of the Nigerian State. Local Government now exist to feed the arrogance of state Governors and the allocation to local government conscripted by state Governors to feed their greed Recently, the supreme Court reinstated dismissed local government administrators by the Ekiti State governor and re emphasized the financial autonomy of Local Government councils. Also, Governor Ayade Benedict has appointed Heads of Local Government Administration as caretaker of various local government in Nigeria. It is worthy of note that the interpretation of the supreme Court judgement in Ekiti State and Cross River State is distinguishable; while the Ekiti State governor sacked local government democratically elected chairmen, the Cross River State government appointed Heads of Local government administrators after the expiration of the tenure of sitting local government chairmen. The actions of both Governors though distinguishable show an affront on the Constitution and abuse of power. It is autocratic for a governor to wake up one day and dissolve existing democratically elected officials of the state. In same way it is an abuse of power and democracy to delay the election of Local Government councils executives only to impose a group of men on the people. Appointment of caretaker committee by any governor remains a slap to the power of the people to elect their leaders through a process of voting as prescribed by Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution (As amended). The law gave the governor a window to conduct local government elections within reasonable time and swear in such democratically elected chairmen before the expiration of the tenure for local government staff. The non conduct of pools by the government of Cross River State and the consequent swearing in of caretaker committee is an abuse of power. By interpretation of Supreme Court the landmark case of Ekiti establishing the autonomy and independence of Local Government councils and the need for non interference of state Governors in local government affairs. Also the recent moves by the Senate to stop Federal Allocation to Local Government without democratically elected officials, puts Cross River State and all states in both PDP and APC at the risk of losing allocation to local government from federation account. The conduct of Local Government Councils elections therefore should be a matter of urgent attention. Though some will argue that appointment of caretaker committee is not common to Cross River State alone, the fact of abuse of law by others does not justify a wrong doing. From the foregoing, it becomes imperative to compel the Cross River State governor to conduct local government elections as a matter of urgency. The fact of delaying elections until the expiration of the tenure of democratically elected officials of Local Government should be seen as a show of ineptitude, an abuse of the Constitution, a disregard to the principles of democracy, an abuse of power and the rule of law. The time to act is now; delay is dangerous. Joseph Odok
Social Change Agent