THE 8TH National Assembly will revisit autonomy for local government that did not sail through when various items were considered during the process to amend the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.
Though the amendment efforts did not produce a new amended constitution, the near-overwhelming requests for the amendment of the constitution particularly to grant local government autonomy was sadly rejected by the seventh assembly that failed to budge to the popular demand.
However, a member representing the Akoko North Federal Constituency, Ondo state, in the House of Representatives, Honourable Steve Olemija, has assured that the present assembly will consider autonomy for local governments because the members see the local councils as the cradle for development.
Lawmaker, a two-time council chairman, said it was unfortunate that the 7th assembly failed to accede to popular demand for the amendment of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution to give autonomy to the 774 councils. Hon Olemija said it was regrettable that despite the yearnings of the people to get the obnoxious state/local council joint account abrogated through constitutional amendment that would have placed the councils on first line charge, the 7th assembly failed to see the imperative of giving the councils constitutional autonomy.
“No, the eighth assembly will not allow the enslavement of the councils to continue. We shall return to the request for the amendment of the constitution. We shall dust up the document and ensure that the processes for the amendment of the constitution, particularly as it affects autonomy for local councils, are rekindled.
“The councils are closer to the grassroots and, therefore, deserve first line charge in the allocation of funds from the Federation Account in order to effect necessary infrastructural development in their respective areas. The House of Representatives will revisit the matter of local council autonomy.
“We think the 7th assembly made a mistake, they shouldn’t have rejected the overwhelming request for autonomy to the councils,” he said stressing that it would be necessary to return to the request by effecting the desired constitutional amendment.
According to him, whatever ill feelings their predecessors and some governors had against autonomy for local government will not be allowed to influence them, stressing that they were determined to ensure that the councils, which are closer to the grassroots, get the deserved constitutional powers to affect the lives of the people.
Olemija, one of the new members of the House of Representatives, applauded the federal government bailout gesture to states and suggested that rather than an outright loan to states it should be converted to grants.
He was of the view that the bailout could subsequently inadvertently create dangerous precedence for some financially reckless states take undue advantage of by insisting that the federal government provide similar lifeline.
“The bailout came at the most appropriate time because many states owed salary arrears. However, the bailout should not be treated as a loan because many states may be unable to service the loan. Rather, it should be converted to grants.”

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