•Aregbesola, Sagay speak at national public discourseOsun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola and renowned Professor of Law, Itsay Sagay (SAN), yesterday described Nigeria’s three-tier federal structure as a fundamental error and an anomaly.
They said in a true federal system, no provision is made for local governments as federating partners.
According to them, the centre and the states make up federating units, while local governments ought to exist as states’ administrative units.
They said states, therefore, should be free to decide the number of local governments they want, when to create them and how to run and fund them.
Listing Nigeria’s 774 local governments in the 1999 Constitution is therefore an aberration, they said.
Aregbesola was the keynote speaker at the second edition of the National Public Discourse held in Lagos. It had the theme: Local Government Authority: How Autonomous?
He said: “When we talk about local government autonomy, we should qualify it. In a federation, the federating entities are the states and the centre.
“In a federation, therefore, autonomy makes sense only in the relationship between the states and the centre where we look at a spectrum that runs on the two extremes of unitarism and confederation.
“In a federal system, there is no provision for local governments as a federating partner, and to talk of one is to engage in peddling ‘federalism fallacy’.”
The governor said the issue of local governments’ autonomy should only come into play within the context of their relationship with their states.
He said Nigeria has a fundamental problem with the structure of its federalism, which has negatively affected its development prospects.
He said it is not logical that the 1999 Constitution confers power to create local governments on states, but at the same time makes their creation invalid without National Assembly’s endorsement.
“This is mainly due to tying the funding of local governments to allocation from the centre, because the Federal Government maintains an unhealthy stranglehold on the wealth of the nation,” Aregbesola said.
He added that local governments cannot be autonomous as long as they are dependent on federal allocation for their funding, and as long as the power of states to create them is seemingly made largely theoretical.
Aregbesola attributed the anomaly to the inherited military unified control (garrison command) of the federation.
Calling for fundamental changes, he said the creative talent of people would never be unleashed where the Federal Government maintains a stifling hold on the nation’s sources of wealth by taking over 50 per cent of the country’s wealth.
Sagay said Nigeria is a federation, so the idea of having autonomous local governments makes no sense.
“To have the local governments listed in the constitution is an aberration,” he said, adding that councils should exist as agencies of the states for development.
“It should not be mentioned at all in the constitution. States should decide how many local governments they need and fund them. We don’t even need a Federation Account.
“It is not the duty of the constitution to direct the state to create a local government area. A state should decide whether its local government officials should work on a part-time basis or not, or whether to run them like a parliamentary system. We don’t have to have the same system for all the local governments.
“If you want autonomy for the local government, then kiss federalism goodbye,” Sagay said.
Source: The Nation