A former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General in Oyo State, Mutalubi Ojo Adebayo has faulted Nigerians who are clamouring for local government autonomy saying it simply shows the people do not understand the concept of Federalism.
He posited that in Nigeria, local government was never designed to function the way many Nigerians want it to. He added that in any federalism, local governments usually exist at the mercy and pleasure of the state governments.
The Solicitor who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria designate stated this while fielding questions on BOTTOM LINE- a popular political programme on IBR 92.5fm Ibadan at the weekend.
According to him, “federal or national government is the making of the component states or units in the federation who agreed to come together to form a government at the centre. There are just 2( two) tiers of government in any federalism and they are just the National or the Central or the Federal Government that they (all the component units or states) agree to create or form and the state governments. The Local Governments are not a tier of government in any federalism but they are part and parcel of the state government which has further subdivided itself into smaller units known as local governments for mere administrative purposes of the state.
“State governments are at liberty to create as many as local governments they desire as they may deem it necessary for the purposes of administering their respective states. That qas why Asiwaju Bola Tinubu remains an enigma , hero and icon in this fourth republic and this our nascent democracy because he challenged the contrived and warped status quo as the Governor of Lagos State when the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo withheld Lagos State funds allocation for creating additional local governments in Lagos State
“The case which related to the interpretation of the 1999 constitution was filed in the Supreme Court and the apex court validated the decision of Lagos but with a rider that it is inchoate because it has not yet passed the full rigours of the processes for constitutional amendments. The Supreme Court held however that the Federal Government has no right to withhold funds due to any state under the constitution. Today, many states have copied Lagos by creating the Local Council Development Area which the local governments that were created then by the Lagos State Government were converted to after the Supreme Court judgement.
“You see, the truth is that state governments are empowered to create local governments as they wish and local governments are answerable to the State Governments. The State House of Assembly is expected to supervise the activities of local governments.
So, in a federalism, there is nothing like local government autonomy as being clamoured for by many Nigerians. Listing local government areas in the constitution is very wrong and an aberration”.
Speaking further, Ojo said those who blame the governors for not giving local governments a free hand to operate are only ignorant of the law.
According to him, “a governor may give what is due to local governments in part or in full as he pleases. That is the spirit of federalism. That is why most times, we only appeal to these governors to at least allow the local governments to operate freely and not as a matter of obligation.”
He however faulted the 1999 constitution for some of its provisions which goes against the spirit of true federalism. For instance, he said the Joint Allocation Committee (JAC) introduced into Nigerian federalism by the constitution is wrong .
When asked what he will do first if ,per chance, he is appointed the Attorney-General of the federation he said “I will advise the President to re-work the constitution urgently and entrench true federalism in the polity”.