There is rising optimism for the realisation of local government autonomy in the ongoing constitution amendment as only the votes of eight states are required to make it a reality.
LEADERSHIP reports that out of the 20 state assemblies that have voted on the bill, 16 have voted in favour of LG autonomy – meaning that that out of the remaining 16 states that are yet to vote on local government autonomy, eight states’ vote will help to meet the threshold of 24 for the bill to scale the hurdle in the states’ Houses of Assembly.
It was gathered that out of the 20 states that have voted on the bill so far, three states – Lagos, Ekiti and Benue – voted against, while Adamawa abstained. The 16 states that have voted for LG autonomy are: Abia, Kogi, Edo, Ogun, Katsina, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Nasarawa, Niger, Kaduna, Cross River, Osun, Enugu, Kano and Bauchi.
The states had earlier given conditions to the National Assembly for the passage of the 44 bills submitted to them since March 2022. The conference of speakers asked for four bills: to establish state police; state judicial council; to streamline the procedure for removing presiding officers of state houses of assembly, and to institutionalise legislative bureaucracy in the constitution.
Some civil society organisations (CSOs) had berated lawmakers in the state assemblies for their lack of commitment in passing the Local Government Autonomy bill in the ongoing constitution amendment process. LEADERSHIP had earlier reported that most of the lawmakers, especially at the state level, had abandoned the constitution amendment process for politicking.
Despite calls by Nigerians and the international community for local government autonomy – where the third tier of government will receive and disburse their allocations without interference from state governors, the bill has not received the needed level of support when it was taken for concurrence at the State Houses of Assembly.
It was gathered that some state houses of assembly are unable to sit because most of the members have refused to come to work after losing in the primary elections. “Over 75 percent of them (state assembly lawmakers) lost their return tickets, so morale is low. We are working hard to push them to attend to the bills sent since March 2022,” the deputy national team leader, PERL- ECP, John E. Mutu said.
PERL- ECP is a governance programme funded by the UK’ s Foreign, Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO). Mutu expressed confidence that with the sensitisation going on in the states, the outfit will be able to get another eight state houses of assembly, out of the remaining 16 that are yet to vote on the bill, to vote for LG autonomy in Nigeria.
Also, three civil society organisations, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and Transparency International (TI) have asked the state assemblies to do the right thing and pass the LG autonomy bill.
Speaking through their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, the CSOs said most lawmakers are only interested in politicking rather than working on laws for the good governance of the country. “Like we have always maintained, most of these lawmakers are not really interested in constitutional amendment. What they have done is just justify the spending from the votes (funds) for the constitution amendment.
“This process has been going on and we have not got any favourable outcome. As far as we are concerned, the move by the National Assembly to show that they were working on the constitution was to justify the billions and other things spent in the name of constitution amendment,” he said.
Rafsanjani added that the lawmakers know exactly what they are doing, and now that many of the members in the state houses of assembly are not coming back, just like lawmakers of the National Assembly, Nigerians should not be surprised if the LG autonomy bill is not passed.