HomeBreaking News#AGF Makes Case For Scrapping Of State Electoral Commissions

#AGF Makes Case For Scrapping Of State Electoral Commissions

By HEADLINENEWS.NEWS correspondent 

ABUJA – The Attorney General of the Feder­ation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, has advocated the abolish­ment of State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs).

Fagbemi led discussions during Monday’s National Discourse on Ni­geria’s security challenges and good governance at the local government level in Abuja.

He said despite constitutional provi­sions aimed at safeguarding the auton­omy of local governments, instances of arbitrary dissolution, abolition, or fragmentation by higher tiers of gov­ernment, especially state governments persist.

He noted that the provision of the constitution, specifically under Section 162(5-8), regard­ing the State Joint Local Govern­ment Account, has been cited as empowering state Assemblies to determine local government revenue allocations. This, he said, has led to concerns about state encroachment on local revenues.

“Since 1999, there have been numerous cases of state gov­ernments hijacking local gov­ernment revenues. Due to weak constitutional provisions, the existence of local government councils is often controlled by state governments.

“Local government elections lack consistency across Nigeria, with some state governors dis­solving their councils and ap­pointing caretaker committees instead. Moreover, there are numerous instances of abuse of the joint account system by various state governments.

“The erosion of financial autonomy within local gov­ernments has hampered their capacity to fulfill statutory obligations. Under a genuine federal framework, ensuring robust autonomy for local gov­ernments is imperative. Regard­ing identified implementation challenges of constitutional/ legal provisions, this highlights the pressing need for reform”, he noted.

Continuing, Fagbemi said, “One enduring challenge fac­ing Nigeria’s federalism is the continual neglect of granting autonomy to local governments, which constitute the third tier of governance. Despite being constitutionally designated to serve as a vital institutional framework for grassroots ser­vice delivery and national de­velopment, local government authorities in Nigeria have consistently underperformed in providing essential services to citizens, largely due to their lack of autonomy.

“The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not provide adequately for the political autonomy of the local governments. The resultant ef­fects of these inadequacies are that the state governments have the discretion to determine the nature, content and direction of local government elections and political activities.

“The failure of the constitu­tion to articulate a clear line of authorities to both the state and local authorities and the con­tinuing debate over the involve­ment of state governments in distributing local government allocation from the Federation Account has affected the capac­ity of LGAs to provide essential services at the grassroots. Rath­er than function as a tier of gov­ernment, LGAs have been op­erating as an appendage of the state governments in Nigeria.

“The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nige­ria falls short in delineating the political autonomy of local gov­ernments, leading to significant consequences. State govern­ments wield disproportionate influence over local government elections and political affairs, undermining the intended in­dependence.

“This ambiguity has blurred lines of authority, fueling ongo­ing disputes over the allocation of funds from the Federation Ac­count. Consequently, local gov­ernment authorities struggle to fulfill their mandate, function­ing more as extensions of state governments rather than auton­omous entities. This structural deficiency hampers the effective delivery of essential services at the grassroots level, perpetuat­ing a system where local govern­ments lack the agency to govern effectively.

“Local government chair­men are always imposed on the people by the state governors. This erodes the three elements of good governance at the local government level, which are citizens’ participation, transpar­ency and accountability. The im­posed chairman will be account­able only to the governor rather than the people. This results in lack of transparency and non-in­volvement of the citizens.

“High level and rampant cor­ruption. The absence of admin­istrative and fiscal autonomy to LGAs created a dependency situation than independent one conceptualised under a true federal system of govt. The local governments in many instances have continued to suffer fiscal emasculation in the hands of state governments. In all these unwholesome abuses, Sections 7 and 162 of the 1999 constitu­tion, among others, have been an escape route for many state governments to manipulate the local government and reduce same to a mere department in the governors’ office.

“State joint local govern­ment account (SJLGA) has been the anti-development instrument used to frustrate every progressive and patriotic action to make the local govern­ment work since the return of the country to democracy in 1999. And finally, what are the solutions/recommendations to the observed problems/chal­lenges: LGAs are created by the constitution.

“Accordingly, in a tiered sys­tem like ours, constitutional amendment is imperative be­fore a new system of local gov­ernment administration can be instituted. Good governance at any level of governance is not possible without the transfer of authority, responsibilities, capacity and resources.

“This is even more so for the LGAs. Accordingly, constitu­tional reforms should, among other things, aim to: increase fiscal and administrative auton­omy of local government sys­tem to enhance its effectiveness and efficiency; fiscal autonomy should be balanced with fiscal restraint by strengthening the internal controls system, pro­cesses and infrastructure for public financial management; ensure inclusiveness and citi­zens participation in the gover­nance of LGAs; allow the legisla­tive arms of local governments to decide what they should do with revenue accruing to them; need to capacitate LGAs for ef­fective governance. Capacity building involves equipping local government officials with the necessary skills and knowl­edge to perform their duties effectively, control corruption and institute transparency and integrity in financial account­ability of LGAs.

“We are therefore challenged to play our respective roles, when called upon to do so. The best time to act is now. To achieve this, many experts have proposed that there is need for the scrapping of the state inde­pendent electoral commission. Their functions and powers should be transferred to the independent national electoral commission because the state independent electoral commis­sion remains an appendage to every incumbent governor.

“I applaud the House of Rep­resentatives for taking decisive action to address the core issue affecting local government ad­ministration in Nigeria.

“This bold initiative reflects a commitment to revitalising our governance structures, offering hope for resolving persistent se­curity and governance issues. I eagerly anticipate ongoing col­laboration with the House lead­ership and members, as well as with the broader National Assembly, on this vital matter.”

AGF, Ozekhome Warn Against Legis­lative Fiat On National Anthem

Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince La­teef Fagbemi (SAN), on Mon­day, warned that the issue of the national anthem should not be treated with legislative fiat, adding that Nigerians must be carried along for their inputs.

This is coming on the heels of a similar call for wider con­sultations for Nigerians to accept whatever national an­them is proposed and buy into it by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN).

Speaking at the public hear­ing on a bill for an Act to review the National Anthem organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, the AGF while commending the National As­sembly for the move said Nige­rians must be carried along for their required “buy in”.

“It is my considered view that the decision to change Nige­ria’s national anthem whether by replacing it with the old one or a new one, should be subject­ed to a wider process of citizen participation through zonal public hearings, resolutions of the Federal Executive Council, Council of State, National and State Assemblies, etc.

“The outcome of this process is bound to be a true reflection of the wishes of the generality or majority of Nigerians.”

Also cautioning the Nation­al Assembly on expeditious passage of the bill, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) called for wid­er consultations for Nigerians to accept whatever national anthem is proposed and buy into it.

According to him, the Na­tional Assembly should widen the scope of participation in the process of coming up with such an Act for general acceptability.


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