LG’s Financial autonomy opens governors to impeachment – Prof Dinakin
By Josephine Oguntoyinbo & Babatunde Olorunleke
Financial autonomy given to local government areas in the country has placed a huge responsibility on the Houses of Assembly to supervise and co-ordinate activities of the councils.
This was the position of chairman of the Ondo State Independent Electoral Commission (ODIEC), Prof Yomi Dinakin in an interview with The Hope.
According to the professor of law, the responsibility will make them more assertive and invariably leading to friction between the Houses and Governors.
Recall that Nigeria Intelligent Unit (NFIU) recently disclosed that all transactions by local governments will be monitored by the body through e-payment module.
According to the agency, any transaction from any local government account without the fund first reaching a particular local government account will be sanctioned.
Dinakin, who frowned at the NFIU directive, noted that the step was an attempt to create political instability in states and make Governors susceptible to arbitrary impeachment.
He explained that the step is tantamount to removing the constitutional powers of the state governments as enshrined in Section Seven of the 1999 constitution to supervise and coordinate the activities of councils in their states.
The development, he said is like clipping the wings of state governors on their supervision and control over their local governments.
Although, Dinakin noted that the State Houses of Assembly are constitutionally empowered to supervise and control the local government and if councils’ funds are now sent directly to them, it would make the Assemblies more assertive.
He explained that if the Assemblies become more assertive, this portents a great danger for the state governors.
His words: “The local government as the third tier of government is still subordinate to state government and sending their funds to them directly does not make them independent.
“They are third tier of government for the purpose of administration. And the local government are under the supervision of the State Houses of Assembly.
The problem with Nigerians is that we don’t understand our responsibility. Possibly, the state Houses of Assembly messed things up all over the place. They are controlled and tossed around by the governors, so it is like the story of the tail wagging the dog.
“Ideally, when the Assembly sneezes, the governor must be shaking, if they have the muscle, if they understand their powers. But I hope this financial autonomy will be reversed because if the local government fund now comes directly to them, you will see how the state Assemblies will be impeaching the governors anyhow,” he added.
He also blamed the Houses of Assembly for not doing their jobs on the supervision of the local governments, saying they have lost their grip on the councils.
According to him, section seven of the 1999 constitution as amended gives power to state governors to administer, control their finances through a Joint Account. He however regretted that the intendment of that section in the constitution has been bastadised by many state governors who are supposed to coordinate.
Speaking on the possibility of conducting local government elections in the state, he said the state government has voted the sum of N1.25 billion for the conduct of local government elections in the state. He said the election would be conducted after the conclusion of the proposed Local Council Development Authority (LCDAs) creation exercise.
Dinakin said ODIEC has embarked on some re-organisation, training of electoral officers in preparation towards the election and as well opened up discusion with the committee set up by the state on LCDAs creation on the need for a referendum in the areas to be carved out as LCDAs.
He noted that the responsibility for the conduct of the referendum lies with the ODIEC. This he said will be done after the committee might have submitted its reports to the government.
The chairman added that by the third quarter of this year, ODIEC will also embark on ward delimitation. The exercise, he said is supposed to be done every 10 years according to the law, but regretted that it has not been done over the years.
He said the purpose of ward delimitation is to create additional polling units in areas which have recorded huge population growth.