Local government autonomy: Reps move against state governors

• As bill on election of LG chairmen, councillors passes 2nd reading

The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, renewed its efforts toward checkmating the level of impunity being perpetrated by some state governors, as members expressed overwhelming support for the passage of a bill on the conduct of elective offices at the Local Government Councils across the country.

The lawmakers expressed the solidarity during the debate on ‘A bill for an Act to alter section 7 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and for related matters,’ sponsored by Hon Dachung Musa Bagos.

In his lead debate on the general principles of the bill, Hon Bagos said the intendment of the proposed legislation is to instil democracy at the local government level and institute a law that will provide guidelines for periodic elections.

“Essentially, this bill seeks to provide for election and tenure of office for local government chairmen/councillors and also prescribe mode of exercising legislative powers of the local government council,” he stated.

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He said the bill “seeks amongst other things to alter section to alter section 7 (1) of the principal act by substituting section 7 (1) with new section 7 (1) (a) –(2) to provide for the office of the chairman and vice-chairman of local government as stipulated in the bill.”

The provisions according to him include, “qualification and disqualification of chairman, declaration of assets and liabilities, oath of office and election of chairman. Others include nomination and election of Vice Chairman, removal of Chairman or Vice-Chairman from office, tenure of office of chairman and election of councillors.”

The lawmaker noted that the current provisions in the constitution were nebulous and susceptible to abuse because it did not provide any guidelines.

Section 7 (1) of the 1999 constitution states that “the system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed, and accordingly the government of every state shall, subject to section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a law, which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.”

According to him, when passed into law, the bill will put an end to the practice whereby state governors dismiss and appoint local government chairmen at will without recourse to any law.

He argued that it was undemocratic for governors to unilaterally appoint local government chairmen and councillors instead of allowing people at the grassroots to choose their leaders through democratically conducted elections.

“This law will put paid to the present practice whereby local government chairmen are appointed by governors. it will make it mandatory for council officials to emerge through election.”

The bill was subsequently referred to the Special Ad-hoc Committee on Constitution Review for further legislative action.