Members of the House of Representatives have passed for second reading a bill seeking financial autonomy for local governments.

The bill seeks to amend Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution, which currently provides for a joint account for state and local governments.

All federal allocations to the local government areas are routed through state governments, a provision that had been blamed for the subservient situation of local government areas.

Advocates say financial autonomy for local governments will give unfettered freedom for local government administrators who currently serve as an extension of state governments rather than an independent arm.

Nkeiruke Onyejeocha, an Abia lawmaker who sponsored the bill, said the joint account must be abolished if the objectives of local government areas to be met.

“Unless more stable internal source of revenue are exploited, and state-local government joint account abolished, the objective of strengthening local governments relationship with state and federal governments will remain a mirage,’’ Mrs. Onyejeocha said at plenary Wednesday.

She railed against the lack of transparency, accountability and true federalism brought about by the current join-account system for state and local government.

“The practice of true federalism is lacking in Nigeria, especially at the local government level.

“Some state governments deprive their local governments of principal source of their revenues,” Mrs. Onyejeocha said.

The lawmaker said her amendment will replace current practice with a Local Government Council Allocation Account” in which all funds accruing to every council shall be paid into.

“The amendment also stipulates that disbursement shall not be made from the account except by a bye-law passed by the Local Government Legislative Council,’’ she added.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara mandated the Special Committee on Constitution Review to take up the matter for further deliberation and consideration.

Mrs. Onyejeocha’s proposal is part of the ongoing review of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, as amended.

 

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*Photo credit: Nigerian Eye