Why Southern, Middle Belt leaders oppose local government autonomy

By Joshua Omoloye, Abuja

Leaders of ethnic nationalities in the southern and central parts of the country have described granting both administrative and financial autonomy to the 774 local governments in the country by the National Assembly in the ongoing constitution review as superfluous and an exercise in futility.

They further faulted provisions of local government in the constitution as negating the principle of federalism The Trumpet gathered.

These were  part of resolutions reached at the meeting of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), held in Abuja.  The meeting extensively discussed the state of affairs in the country, particularly, the security situation, restructuring and the 2023 general elections.

A communique was issued at the end of the meeting and  signed by Chief Dr Edwin Clark,  Leader of PANDEF,
Chief Ayo Adebanjo – Leader, Afenifere, Dr. Pogu Bitrus – National President, Middle Belt Forum and Ambassador Okey Emuchay, Secretary-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo.

The leaders insisted on restructuring as a way forward for further development of the country.

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They maintained that  the existing constitution and structure of Nigeria are grossly flawed, therefore, insisted  on the fundamental restructuring of the country, to reflect true federalism, and enthrone equity, fairness and justice, before the 2023 general elections;

The meeting noted  that “local government affairs are state matters and that the listing of local governments in the constitution is inconsistent with the principle of federalism;

“Further notes that the ,reports of both the 2014 National Conference and the Governor Nasir El-Rufai – APC Committee on True Federalism of 2018 recommended that the Federation of Nigeria should remain as constituted by the Federal Government and the States, and specifically excluded local government from being a tier of government in the federation but only subject to the creation and administration of the states;

“That the legislations of the National Assembly granting local government autonomy are superfluous and exercise in futility”.

The meeting also declared that State Police is a sine qua non in a Federal System of government. The leaders said that there is no government, properly so-called, that is without the instrument and capacity to enforce its laws and maintain security within its territorial jurisdiction;

They posited that “the resultant effect of the monopoly of internal security by the Federal Government is the unprecedented dire state of insecurity in the country;

“Emphasizes that the designation of Governor of a State as the Chief Security Officer of the state is a ruse without being in control of the state’s security apparatus”

The meeting thus “urges that every state in Nigeria should have its own police, to complement the federal police”.

Furthermore, the regional leaders demanded the harmonization and immediate implementation of the Reports of the 2014 National Conference and the 2018 APC Committee on True Federalism aforesaid rather than “the current cosmetic Constitutional Amendment”, which was described  as a drain on the resources of the country and do not address fundamental issues including fiscal federalism.

They maintained  that the basis of any viable democracy, especially in a diverse and complex country such as Nigeria, is fair and even sharing of power.

The meeting therefore, unequivocally and in full resolved , again, call on all political parties in the country to zone their presidential tickets to the south.

“Accordingly, calls on all lovers of peace and equity in Nigeria, particularly our people of Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt region to reject  any political party that fails to zone its Presidential ticket to the South;

“Consequently cautions political stakeholders from Southern Nigeria against aspirations or actions that would compromise the shared resolve of our people”, the communique read.

The meeting was also attended by former governors, ministers, federal and state legislators,  top politicians and professionals from the Southern and Middle Belt regions, including His Excellency, Senator Jonah Jang, His Excellency, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Senator Femi Okurounmu, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Professor Ihechukwu Madubuike, Professor Charles Nwekeabu, Chief Gary Igwariwey (former PG Ohanaeze), Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, HRH Eze Cletus Iluomanya, Dr. Solomon Arase, Chief Supo Shonibare, Chief Sola Ebiseni.

Others include; Chief Edozie Ezeugwa, Eze Dr. Ibe Nwosu, Engr. Bekinbo Dagogo-Jack, Nze Ozichukwu Chukwu, Elder Steven Bangoji, Dr. Akin Fapohunda, Dr. Alabi Femi, Dame Betty Igbeyi, mni, Hon. Dr. Stella Dorgu, Nella Andem-Ewa, SAN, Dr. Ebun Sonaiya, Hon. Edward Pwajok, SAN, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, Eze Charles Olisakwe, Hon. Keftin Amiga, CP Iorbes Ihagh (Rtd)- PG MUT, Dr. Mrs. Esther Mangzha, Mrs. Beatrice Eze, Elizabeth A. Jibrin, Engr. Bayo Adenekan, Elder Mac Emakpore, Chief Douyi Douglas-Naingba, Akin Osuntokun, Hon. Jonathan Asake (SOKAPU), Comrade Jare Ajayi and Ken Robinson.

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