Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State has kicked against granting autonomy to local governments in Lagos and other states of the federation.
Presenting Lagos State Government’s position on the proposal to amend the 1999 Constitution in Abuja, Nigeria, Fashola said it was improper for the constitution to grant autonomy to local government councils in the country. The governor said the Nigerian constitution made it compulsory that local government councils, shall be the administrative organs of states at the local level.
"Thus, it is provided that each State legislature must establish LGCs and make statutory provisions for their structure, functions and finance. The constitution also provides that LGCs will participate in the socio-economic affairs of the state. Although local governments are guaranteed a share of the funds accruing to the Federation Account, their share is required to be allocated to the relevant states for the benefit of the LGCs in accordance with the applicable state law," Fashola stated. Fashola, who was represented by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye, at the presentation of Lagos’ position in Abuja, added that "It is our position that any proposal to confer LGCs with autonomy, distribute funds directly to them and make them into federating units would be erroneous."
The reasons adduced by Fashola for insisting on no autonomy for councils were that making LGCs federating units would further increase the dominance of the Federal Government and weaken all other units, thereby pushing Nigeria towards centralisation or unitary governance. He argued that this move to grant autonomy to councils would also defeat the essence of federalism because "Federalism assumes relative autonomy and coordinate status among federating units. With almost 800 states and local governments associating with one Federal Government, the essential characteristics of federalism will be lost."
According to him, if autonomy was granted to councils, power sharing among three tiers of government (instead of two) would introduce unnecessary confusion in the legislative, executive and judicial spheres as it would also precipitate jurisdictional conflicts, especially at the state and local government levels, which would inevitably lead to poor service delivery. While it is easy to distinguish functions that are usually left for states from those that should be implemented in common (like defence, international relations, currency, citizenship, aviation, customs, immigration), it would be very difficult to neatly sub-divide existing state functions between states on the one hand and local government councils on the other. For instance, the experiment of leaving primary education and primary healthcare exclusively to local governments while the states managed the rest has failed because these sectors must be administered holistically (primary, secondary and tertiary) if they are ever to attain optimum efficiency.
"With LGCs as autonomous federating units and not subject to state control, it will be difficult to coordinate developmental efforts within the states. This can inhibit developmental efforts," Fashola argued. On rotational presidency and others, the governor said is the position of the government that inclusion of provisions relating to rotation of executive offices in the constitution is antithetical to the unity of the country. "It is understood that the rationale for the proposed inclusion of the provision is to ensure that every tribal group in Nigeria is given the opportunity of participating in the governance of the country. It is our view that rotation of executive offices is not an antidote to the challenge, unless the system of rotation will accommodate the over 250 ethnic groups and sub-groups in the country. It is therefore the position of Lagos State that rotation of executive offices should not be included in the constitution for the following reasons: it tends to encourage tribalism and ethnicity rather than merit and national unity and practical adherence should be given to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom from discrimination," he explained.
The governor added that his government would call for the abrogation of the six geo-political zones, saying that though, not recognized by the constitution, the zones had become representative of a political configuration of sort, adding that it is not uncommon to have political appointments and decisions recognising this loose arrangement. "It is therefore the position of the Lagos State Government that the six geo-political zones should not be given constitutional recognition. The provisions of section 14(3) are comprehensive enough to reflect the federal character of the country and the need to promote national unity, without the need to create sub-national governments with consequential dilution of national unity," he said.
On creation of more states, the governor stated that "It is the position of the Lagos State Government that the Nigerian federation does not at this time require the creation of additional states. This view takes into consideration the huge cost which the administrative machinery and personnel of the new states will entail. It is our view that most states are not sufficiently viable to justify further sub-divisions. Also, we want to draw attention to the largely untapped administrative potentials of the existing local government councils, which can easily be used to cater for local or sectional interests. Experience has shown that creation of a new state may even provoke further agitation among ethnic or tribal groups that may now feel justified to also ask for theirs." On derivation, Fashola argued that it should not be limited to petroleum alone, stressing that it should be applicable to all resources and all revenues collected into the federal purse, adding that the right of all communities in the management and exploration of resources within their territories should be guaranteed by the constitution.