That local governments in Nigeria exist more in name than in actual sense is no longer news, given, as it is, that the chairmen whether elected or appointed have to practically be on their kneels to beg their state governors to perform their constitutional duties or rather fulfill their campaign promises as the case may be to the people.
Unfortunately, local government situation became worse under democracy, mainly as a result of greed and dictatorial tendencies of some state governors; and partly because the councils themselves indirectly paved way for the state executive usurpation of their power.
Local government, which is the third tier of government after the federal and state in Nigeria, has continued to suffer at the detriment of the masses. Not only that local government lacked financial autonomy, there is no democracy at the tier of government. The problem being faced by the local government was not caused by the nation’s constitution or the president, but various governors across the country.
Incidentally, it is what these governors would never take from the president that they are given to the local government chairmen, if not more on many occasion. They have for long been causing underdevelopment at the grassroots, especially by not granting the third tier of government financial autonomy.
In fact, most state governors collect allocations meant for local governments and give them “peanuts” at the end of the day, which would only remain almost nothing after the payment of workers’ salaries. Most of these governors later devised a means of real embezzlement of local government funds through the introduction of joint account system.
The demand for abolition of State-Local Governments Joint Account in most states of the federation has continued to raise absurdity of the operation of the third tier of government in a federal set-up.
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai had shortly after his assumption of office announced termination of the State/Local Government Joint Account. He added that his government would remit 10 per cent of its Internally Generated Revenue, IGR to local government councils in the state.
“I am happy to inform you that the government has abolished joint account in Kaduna State. There will be no more holding local government funds hostage under the pretence of joint account. The government will also do its best to remit 10 per cent of the IGR to the councils”, he said.
El-Rufai, who announced the decision while swearing-in chairmen of the Interim Management Committees of the 23 local councils then, urged the appointees to work hard to ensure that the yearning of the people were met. “You have no excuse to fail. Perform and bring real development to our state at the local level. This is to fulfil our campaign promises that we will not hold local government funds if elected”, El-Rufai said.
It is a known fact that the reason for creating the State Joint Local Government Account System by section 162 of the 1999 Constitution is to facilitate developments at the grassroots. The system is expected to ensure effective supervision of the distribution and efficient management of revenue accruing to the local governments from the Federation Account.
But analysts have noted that instead of being a useful system for rural development, the joint account system has, somewhat, negated the reason for its creation. They noted that there was extensive misappropriation of funds meant for local governments through the system and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to “liberate local governments from the shackles of state governors”.
According to Barrister Tiamiyu Ahmed, “The system serves as a means of making unnecessary deductions from revenue accruing to the local governments from Federation Account to the coffers of state governments in Nigeria”.
He described the joint account as a fraudulent practice aimed at looting public treasury, pointing out that unless the system was modified, it would be difficult for the local governments to develop through the system.
Ahmed therefore advocated the separation of roles for the state and local governments in the bid to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people at the grassroots. “State Joint Local Government Account System is the first step to stealing. State government should just contend itself with the supervisory role to the local governments. Let everybody be separately accountable for what it does. I think that is what the law of the land says”, he said.

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