LG autonomy: ALGON says verdict, a new birth to democracy

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The Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) has hailed the Supreme Court judgment granting financial autonomy to Local Government Areas describing it as the “birth of a new democracy” in Nigeria.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Supreme Court on Thursday declared that it was unconstitutional for state governors to hold funds allocated for local government administrations.

The seven-man panel, in the judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, declared that the 774 local government councils in the country should manage their funds themselves.

The apex court held that the power of the government is portioned into three arms of government, the federal, the state and the local government.

The Supreme Court however, ordered the Accountant General of the federation to only pay in LGA funds into LGAs with a democratically elected chairmen and councilors.

NAN reports that this has put an end to Transition Committees, Caretaker Committees or sole administrators.

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Now, the State Assemblies have no other option than to pass the LGA autonomy bill once it gets to them.

Reacting to the judgement, the ALGON Board of Trustees Secretary, Chief Chukwudi Ezinwa, told NAN in a telephone interview on Thursday that the judgement was a “birth of a new democracy in Nigeria”.

He noted that a lot of atrocities had been committed by some of the state governors that had stampeded the Local Government from carrying out its operations.

While describing local government as grassroots government oriented, Ezinwa said “if we get it right at the local level, Nigeria would be great again as everyone belong to local government even the governors, president and other Nigerians.

According to him, once we get it right at local government level, states will have less work to do.

“To us at ALGON, we thank God and commend the Attorney-General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) for taking the bull by the horn and his political will power to pursue the case to the Supreme Court.

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“A lot of attorneys -general had come and gone but lacked courage to go ahead to make sure that local government was salvaged from the hands of governors.

“We equally thank the President Bola Tinubu for proving to Nigerians that he is a president with courage and that his Renewed Hope Agenda was for real as well as showing that he wants to correct all the wrongs,” he said.

He, however, called for full implementation of the judgment as there were a lot of judgments in the country that did not see the light of the day.

“We encourage the president, Federal Republic of Nigeria to make sure that this judgement is implemented.

“If implemented and local government is given autonomy, there will be a lot of change; insecurity and infrastructural decay will be handled,” he stressed.

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A Human Rights Lawyer, Desmond Kakaan, said the constitution never accepted Caretaker Committee adopted by the governors but elected Local Government Chairmen.

He said It was wrong for state governments to be given local government chairmen paltry sum from their money to run the affairs of the Council Areas.

While applauding the boldness of the Fagbemi, Kakaan said the suit was brought by him to the Supreme Court for interpretation.

“I know it was in agreement with Mr President as well as the president’s experience when he was governor of Lagos State and created more local governments and President Olusegun Obasanjo refused to release funds for them.

“With this judgement, people can now hold Local Government Chairmen accountable and a lot of infrastructural development will be witnessed at the local level.

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