16th August, 2011
The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, has advised President Goodluck Jonathan to jettison his proposed constitutional amendment that aims to scrap the existing States/Local Government Councils Joint Accounts.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Tuesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said scrapping the accounts and allocating the LGCs’ share of the Federation Account directly to them will amount to making LGCs federating units, which can stifle development and deal a further blow to the nation’s wobbly federalism.
It said the argument in certain circles, which may have propelled the President to push the amendment – that the states deduct from the LGC funds thus leading to lack of development – does not warrant a constitutional amendment that will fundamentally alter – in the negative sense – the nation’s federalism.
ACN said the answer is not to allocate funds directly to the LGCs but to publish, as it is being done already, whatever is allocated to the LGCs, and also ensure that the relevant agencies of government are alert to their responsibilities.
The party said allocating money directly to Chairmen of LGCs will not translate to more development, as they (Chairmen) will simply be subjected to withering pressure by local, grassroots leaders (who ordinarily don’t have such access to state governors), many of whom believe such allocations should be shared.
Commenting further on the amendment being proposed by the president, the ACN said under the current constitution, the Federal and State Governments are the federating units, while LGCs are mere administrative units of state at the local levels.
”Making LGCs federating units (as being proposed by the Constitutional Amendment) will further strengthen the Federal Government and weaken all other units, thereby pushing Nigeria towards centralisation or unitary governance. As things are today, Nigeriaâ€™s inability to develop at the desired pace is due to over-centralisation brought about by the extended era of military rule,” it said.
ACN also warned that the proposed constitutional amendment would defeat the essence of federalism, which assumes relative autonomy and coordinate status among federating units, adding: ”With almost 800 states and local governments associating with one Federal Government, the characteristics of federalism will be lost.”
Listing other setbacks that can be wrought by the proposed constitutional amendment, it said power sharing among three tiers of government (instead of two) would introduce unnecessary confusion in the legislative, executive and judicial spheres, and precipitate jurisdictional conflicts, especially at the state and local government levels, which will inevitablyÂ lead to poor service delivery.
”While it is easy to distinguish functions that are usually left for states from those that should be implemented in common with the centre (like defence, international relations, currency, citizenship, aviation, customs, immigration), it would be very difficult to neatly sub-divide existing state functions between states on the one hand and local government councils on the other.
”For instance, the experiment of leaving primary education and primary health care to local governments while the states manage the rest has failed because these sectors must be administered holistically if they are ever to be efficient. Needless to say that making LGCs autonomous federating units not subject to state control will make it impossible to coordinate developmental efforts within the states, thus leading to disastrous consequences,” ACN said.
The party said while periodic constitutional amendments are desirable, such amendments must serve the interest of the nation and its people, instead of worsening a bad situation or achieving only cosmetic change.
”When placed side by side with the president’s single-tenure push through a constitutional amendment, it will seem that the president is embarking on the push for amendment just for amendment sake, instead of the impact it will have on the polity.
”If the president is so keen to champion constitutional amendments, we urge him to look at the kind of amendments that will make our elections more transparent, that will enhance national development by scrapping age-old anti-investment laws like the Railways Act and the like,” ACN said.