THE Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon.ourable Yakubu Dogara, on Wednesday, said that the National Assembly would not relent in its effort to grant financial autonomy to the 774 local goverment councils in the country.
A statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, noted that lack of elections at the local government level had been crippling democracy and denying the much needed development at the third tier of government.
The statement also quoted the Speaker as saying that the House under his leadership would grant financial autonomy to the 36 states Houses of Assembly.
The statement quoted the Speaker as saying: “As a matter of fact, joint account is one of the biggest evils, because it gives the authority to local government ministries in the state. In most states, especially in the North where we don’t have oil and so on, the ministry of local government in the state is regarded as the ministry of petroleum resources.
“We all know when funds are allocated to the councils, instead of getting to the councils, they are hijacked at that level and appropriated according to the whims of the powers that be,” the statement noted.
He decried a situation whereby governors have constituted themselves as middlemen who continued to hijack funds meant for the councils in the name of joint account, which he described as “evil.”
The speaker further described as aberration and illegality the continuous existence of caretaker committees manning the affairs of local government councils.
Going forward, Dogara, revealed that clauses may be introduced in the constitutional amendment bill that would not only outlaw caretaker committees but would also stop allocation of funds from the federation account to local governments that do not have democratically elected councils.
As a step to end the illegality perpetrated by state governments, the speaker disclosed that the parliament would consider abolishing States Independent Electoral Commission (SIECs), thereby empowering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to take over their functions.
He also called on the media, civil society organisations and well-meaning Nigerians to be vigilant and ensure that the proposed amendments were endorsed by at least 24 out of the 36 state assemblies by mounting pressure on them and the governors.