As the third tier of government, the local government administration in the country is well recognized by the constitution. This recognition is spelt out in Section 7 ( 1) of the 1999 constitution which states that the system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is guaranteed under this constitution.
The constitution goes further to state that both the National Assembly and state House of Assembly shall make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to local councils in the federation.
It is, however, sad that despite this constitutional guarantee of the funding of local councils, the majority of the 774 local councils in the country are deprived of their revenue allocations to carry out their constitutionally assigned duties.
As a result of this, they have become a shadow of themselves. To put it succinctly, they have been emasculated by the various state governments which continued to hold on to their statutory revenue allocations under various guises.
The polity is awash with reports of state governments tampering with statutory allocations of revenue allocated to the local councils while the latter is unable to challenge this flagrant violation of the constitution.
This is why we want to support the current clamour for the autonomy of local councils. We consider the clamour for local council autonomy timely because the National Assembly is currently fashioning out a new constitution for the country.
As reflected in the various public sittings held throughout the country last year on the constitution review, the clamour for full autonomy for the councils should not be thrown overboard by the lawmakers. The will of the people must be respected.
Local councils are closer to the grassroots and it is only when they are independent that Nigerians can truly enjoy the dividends of democracy.
The new constitution should detach local government administrations from the state governments and ensure that funds go directly to the local councils.
Also, all the funds generated by the councils should be utilised by them for the benefit of the grassroots people.
A provision should also be made in the new constitution whereby funds allocated to local councils for grassroots development from the federation account can be monitored. In this way, an abuse can be easily detected and the culprits brought to book.