RMAFC pushes for Local Governments autonomy

Barbara Bako, Abuja.

The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has supported the Federal Government’s continued efforts to use legal means to free Local Government Councils (“LGCs”) from the strict control of State Governments by putting the constitution provisions into practice.

The RMAFC Chairman, Mr. Mohammed Bello Shehu, in a Statement on Wednesday observed that LGCs as the third tier of government domesticated at the grassroots level ought to be outside the control of State and Federal governments as they are solely established to ensure effective governance at the grassroot.

The Nigerian Constitution recognises three levels of government: federal, state, and local. The Constitution establishes the Federation Account from which the three recognised levels of government receive funding for operations.

Mr. Shehu criticised the dominance of State governments over LGC affairs, which weakens the LGCs’ capacity to exercise political, administrative, and financial autonomy.

As a result, the LGCs are unable to deliver the kind of high-quality social and infrastructure services to the grassroots that the Constitution guarantees.

He pointed out that at the lowest level of governance, the LGCs’ political sway has rendered it nearly impossible for the general populace to choose their leaders.

The statement added that the Commission is of the opinion that giving full autonomy to LGCs will reduce the rate of poverty and rural urban migration, and bring more dividends of democracy to the people just as it will attract more qualified candidates for council elections that will improve governance system at all levels in the long run.

Mr. Shehu said, “Full autonomy will engender good governance, transparency and accountability at the local level. Security challenges like banditry, kidnappings, terrorism, electoral violence, etc, would be reduced to the barest minimum if the quantum of funds meant for local governments is channeled towards rural development.”

He added that “This will raise agricultural productivity, increase income generation, arrest rural-urban migration, create wealth and generally improve the socio-economic living conditions of the rural populace”.

The Chairman proposed that full autonomy for local government administrations (LGCs) could halt the current wave of insecurity that is sweeping the nation.

As the closest level of government to the people, LGCs would allow the populace to participate more effectively in the country’s governance system and have more autonomy in determining their own needs for development.

Mr. Shehu emphasized the importance of granting full autonomy to LGCs, allowing them to recruit, manage staff, raise finances, make bye-laws and discharge their functions without State government interference, thereby ensuring their full bureaucratic autonomy.

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“Financial autonomy of local government entails the freedom to impose local taxation, generate revenue within its assigned sources, allocate its financial and material resources, determine and authorize its annual budgets without external interference. It also relates to the disposition of tax poWednesdayrs, retention of revenue and methods adopted in sharing centrally collected revenue in accordance with the constitutional responsibilities of all levels of government”. He maintained.

The Chairman further said, “it is worth noting that the Constitution has made it explicitly clear that there must be a democratically elected local government system in place and that the Constitution has not made provisions for any other systems of governance at the Local Government level other than democratically elected local government system”

The RMAFC holds the opinion that statutory allotments from the Federation Account should be paid directly to Local Governments’ coffers in order to confer fiscal autonomy to them.

For this reason, the Commission fully supports the Federal Government’s ongoing lawsuit, which seeks an order allowing local governments to receive funds directly from the Federation Account that are standing in their credit.