Analysis: Local Government Financial Autonomy
Basically, local governments are created to deliver services at the grassroots and bring governance closer to the people.
This division of power simplifies the activities of government and serves as a viable incentive for good governance and development.
Despite constitutional provisions that specify the powers of each level of government in the country, local governments are suffering from lack of autonomy.
Though, several efforts were made by successive governments towards ensuring that local governments enjoy autonomy but these have yielded little result.
A very good example was the 1976 reform, which made local governments the third tier of government.
Others included 1979, 1989 and 1999 constitutions, as amended, which recognized local authorities as the third tier of government and spelt out areas of jurisdiction for each level of government.
To strengthen their financial autonomy for optimum performance, funds were set aside for local governments from the Federation Account.
Furthermore, to make local councils financially independent, the funding was increased from ten percent in 1989 to fifteen percent in 1992 and over twenty percent in 2008.
In the bid to address the issue of local government autonomy, three bills were sponsored during the previous administration. The bills sought to amend section 7, Sub-Section 162, of the 1999 Constitution which borders on political and financial independence for local government administration in the country.
Reacting to the issue, President Muhammadu Buhari said a once vibrant tier of government, which occasioned development at the grassroots, had gone into oblivion, due to obvious reasons.
To bring governance nearer to the grassroots therefore, the Federal Government last week prohibited the meddling of states government into local government allocations.
This is coming as a result of the continuous embezzlement of cash allocated to local government councils across the country by state governments through the State Joint Local Government Accounts.
The Federal Government has set June 1 this year, as the takeoff date of the new order, making it compulsory for all local government allocations to go straight to their respective bank accounts.
This is a cheery news to Nigerians, especially those at the grassroots who are in dire need of government intervention.
To this end, if the plan by the Federal Government is going to see the light of the day, conscious effort is needed by all concerned.
Hence, the new policy emanating from the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, should serve as a major step towards true local government autonomy; being a tier of government that is constitutionally guaranteed and secured.