THERE are indications that the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) would oppose constitutional provision granting autonomy to local councils as one of the federating units in the country.
Its Chairman, Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, urged the National Assembly to insist on the existence of only two federating units- the states and federal government.
Amaechi expressed these views when members of the House of Representatives Committee on Youth and Social Development, led by Kamil Akinlabi Mudashiru, visited him in Government House, Port Harcourt Friday.
The governor told the federal lawmakers that in most countries in the world, where federalism is practiced, such as the United States (US) and Germany, there are only two federating units- the federal and state governments.
According to him, though there are counties in most of these countries, which are called councils in Nigeria, they don’t exist as one of the federating units.
To that effect, Amaechi declared that the NGF would thwart any move to grant local councils autonomy as part of the proposed constitutional amendment.
He said: “In Germany, there are two federating units. In America, there are local councils, but there are only two federating units- the states and federal government. The counties (or what we call local councils) are not part of the federating units.
“So, I want to urge the National Assembly to disregard this talk of autonomy for local councils that would make them one of the federating units. We will not support it; governors will not support.”
Amaechi also canvassed devolution of power, pointing out that state governments’ bid to support the country’s democracy should be strengthened by allowing state governors have concurrent powers in some areas.
He accused the federal government of making state governors not to fulfill their responsibilities to their states, saying states are carrying too many responsibilities that belong to the federal government.
“For instance, it is not our (state) responsibility to take care of the NYSC (National Youth Service Corps), but I would renovate the current NYSC camp in Onne and build more hostels.
“This is not my responsibility or that of any state governor; it is the responsibility of the federal government.
“You can see why we are talking about devolution of power, because the federal government appears to be taking too many functions and some of them, I am not saying they are not discharging properly, but they are not able to meet all of them, because they are too many,” he said.
The governor said the best thing to do in this situation is for the powers of the federal government to be devolved heavily downwards, so that the states can perform some of those functions.
On the contentious issue of financial autonomy for the state legislatures, Amaechi stressed the need for the respective legislatures to meet with the governors to deliberate on how much money the states get and how much both the legislature and the judiciary could get, so that the executive could still perform its functions and responsibilities.
According to him: “No matter what you do or say, the responsibility of disbursing resources still lies in the hands of the executive.
“If you compel, by law of the constitution, the governors to pay whatever the Assembly passes as law, then you cripple the poor states, because budget is an estimate.”
On his part, Mudashiru said the committee members were in the state to see the state NYSC Camp and thanked the governor for meeting the needs of serving corps members in the state.
“We want to put it on record that we appreciate what you have been doing for NYSC.
“It is only in Rivers State that you augment feeding of corps members and have such incentives as payment of stipends to assist corps members.
“You have approved construction of two additional hostels for corps members. You are proposing to expand the multipurpose hall. This record won’t go unnoticed,” he said.
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