Abba Moro, the Senate minority leader, says reverting to direct statutory allocations to local governments will stop unnecessary interference by state governors in the affairs of local councils in Nigeria.
Mr Moro said there was a need to amend the 1999 Constitution and relevant laws guiding the operations of the local government system. He said this would help avoid further emasculation and illegal setting up of caretaker committee members at local government councils by state governments.
He said the Benue government had recently sacked the 23 elected council chairpersons and their deputies, 276 councillors, supervisory councillors, and secretaries, saying the act was unconstitutional.
Mr Moro explained, “From all standards by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, this is alien and illegal and, by all standards, is an aberration. The Constitution does not provide for the dissolution of the elected councils in Benue state or any part of Nigeria.
“There is no power in the Constitution that arrogates to state houses of assembly to recommend dissolution or suspension of local governments. And so, I felt that I should bring it to the attention of the National Assembly, especially the Senate, because all my efforts to persuade the governor, government, and Benue House of Assembly to rescind the decision fell on deaf ears.”
The senator added, “And I believe that as a senator representing the very good people of Benue South, which has nine local governments and 102 council wards, I have a responsibility to let the world know that this is what has happened to my constituency.”
The Senate minority leader also mentioned that the Benue government’s decision was wrong, adding he advocated local governments’ financial and administrative autonomy.
“As a one-time chairman of a local government, I feel a compelling need to make the Senate know and intervene in this matter because it is unconstitutional.
“This is an affront to the Constitution and, unfortunately, perpetrated by people who have sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that is the most worrying situation,” Mr Moro said.
He said the Senate recently passed a motion mandating the finance ministry to withhold funds appropriated for any caretaker local government committee, saying that the Senate Committee on Legislative Compliance was alive to its responsibilities to ensure compliance.