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Should LGAs Be Financially Autonomous?

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Chike Nmerukini

– Lawyer

I think the funds for local governments should come directly
from the Federal Government to the local governments, because according to the
constitution, the local government is supposed to be autonomous. But because of
what happened in the past, the idea of joint account between the States and
LGAs was introduced so that States can check how local government funds are
used.

Incidentally, the States now take that as an opportunity to,
most times, deduct or delay the release of the local governments funds.

So, I think if the Federal Government does it directly, all
the local governments will improve. The States will be  there to check them. Nobody stops them from
checking them. But I believe the local governments should be funded directly
from the Federal allocation.

I think the local governments’ joint account with the State
governments which they call JAC is a problem because when they get this money
from the Federal Government, the States decide on their own when to release
this money, which is not supposed to be. Local governments should have their
autonomy. If the local governments are not allowed to run their affairs or they
are under the States, the State governments influence them. Most times the
State governments under this situation do not give the local governments the
chance to carry out their projects effectively, because they believe that they,
at the States, are doing more than the local governments.

There has been this argument that if the local governments
are financially autonomous, if their monies come directly from the Federal
Government, it leads to the proliferation of local governments as some States
may decide to create more local governments to attract more fund from the
Federal Government.

But in that case, I think a body should be set up by the
Federal Government to look into it even though we know it is the right of the
State assembly exclusively, to do that. But the Federal Government can set up a
body to check territorial boundaries and population through the census, so that
the States don’t just jump into creating unnecessary LGAs because they want to
get more money from the Federal Government.

So I believe local governments bring government to the
people at the grassroot, so they should not be killed through any means
whatsoever.

Dike Prince Obinna:

– Civil Engineering Consultant

In my opinion, I think the State government should control
the finance of the local government and monitor how the money is being used.
State governments are closer to the local governments and can monitor whatever
projects the local government chairmen are carrying out. Federal Governments
cannot do that.

So, for me, I don’t see the Federal Government releasing
fund to the local governments directly as being reasonable. State government
should be allowed to control the LGA funds. Unfortunately, most of our
governors are very dubious. Most of them don’t even have focus. Some of them
are just there to loot our treasury and get away.

Inspite of that, I still believe it is most idle for State
governments to monitor the finances of the local governments and ensure they
are put into proper use for the benefit of the people at the grassroot.

 

Victor Ali

– Public Affairs Practitioner

I think the local governments, funds should come directly
from the Federal Government. The idea of Federal Government releasing the LG
fund to the State, then the State to the LGAs is not good because atimes the
States starve the local governments of fund. So since the Federal Government
releases the State government ‘s fund direct to the state, they should also
release straight to the local governments because the local government is
autonomous just like the State. Because the LGAs funds are transferred from the
federal to the State, that is why the States have power to trap the funds of
the local governments.

Really, the local governments are not doing much, but there
should be a constitutional means of checking their excesses, especially the
chairmen. If they (federal and State governments) have a constitutional way of
doing that, then the local governments will perform.

However, a situation where the State governments control and
almost run the affairs of the local governments is not good. Because people are
feeling that since the States have upper hand on the local governments, any
local government chairman that does not tow the line of the state authority,
can be suspended not minding that the chairman was elected just like the
governors. All these people – governor, President, Vice President, local
government chairmen were all elected and for any of them to be removed from the
office, due process must be followed according to the constitution.

So I think that anything that should be done in the on-going
constitution review should be done properly, so that the local government as an
arm of government, should be truly autonomous. Any fund released by the Federal
Government should go to them directly.

I will also advocate that for us to be able to check the excesses
of those in authority both at the states and local government levels, the
people should know their rights. Let them know what the State and local
governments are supposed to do for them. If we are paying our taxes to the
local governments, we should be able to ask questions how the money is being
used. If the people stand up and know their rights, those in government will
sit up.

 

Dio Anamachree

– Graudate Student

I am of the opinion that the funds of the LGAs should come
direct from the Federal Government to the local governments.

We all know that the local government monies used to come to
them directly from the Federal Government but because the State governments
wanted to secure more powers for themselves, they negotiated with the Federal
Government and gained the control of LGAs’ funds. The reason for the joint
account between State governments and LGAs, to me, is just for governors to
control the revenue of the local governments and that is why they are
clamouring that they should have a constitutional backing to do so.

But my opinion remains that Federal Government should
release LGAs fund directly into LGA accounts and not through the State
governments. That will enhance project execution in the local governments.

For instance, for some chairmen of LGAs to carry out certain
developmental projects in the local government areas, they have to obtain
permission from the State government. So if you are not a well articulated
chairman, if you are not focused, at the end of the day, you will not be able
to have any project on ground. The State government can still monitor the local
government but should not be receiving the monies meant for the local
governments. That is not ideal in a democratic government. Governors should
allow local government chairmen to control the fund of the LGAs. Sending their
monies through the state governments means denying them of their political
rights. Some LGAs, once they pay salaries, the money is gone. So, they are just
there to pay workers’ salaries. Some of them cannot sink ordinary borehole for
their people because the money is not there. But another issue is the Federal
Government monitoring the state governments to know how far they use their
money.

 

Kenneth Ibekwe

– Public Servant

I believe that the Federal Government should fund LGAs
directly, not through states, because the LG chairmen are elected officers just
like governors.

So, the local governments are supposed to have autonomy so
that they will be able to reach the grassroot. LGAs are very close to the grassroot,
they deal with us directly, not governors. So LGAs are supposed to be funded
very well.

Some governors make use of LGs money and the chairmen can’t
work with empty lands. And that is why you see nothing happening in many LGAs.
They use the little money they receive in paying salaries and that is the end
of it.

The masses are supposed to come out and demand for full
financial autonomy for LGAs so that they will be able to perform. We cannot
elect somebody and somebody somewhere is claiming to be his godfather,
siphoning the money meant for the LGA, it cannot work.

 

Miss Favour

– Student

I don’t think the problem is who controls the LGAs funds, or
not.

Our problem is corruption, selfishness and greed and unless
we deal with these vices, all we are doing will account to waste of time.

The monies meant for LGAs used to be paid directly to their
accounts, but instead of developing the LGAs with the money, the chairmen were
enriching themselves with it.  Workers
were being owed for months, there was nothing on ground to account for the huge
allocations they receive.

That was how the idea of joint account with the State
governments came up, believing that State governors would be able to control
the funds effectively. Unfortunately, we all know what the governors are doing
with the money, enriching themselves and starving the LGA chairmen of funds.
This has hindered development at the grassroot.

So which everway you look at it, the people are suffering,
while the monies meant for them are being spent by some individuals.

But what is the assurance that if the situation is reversed
to status quo, it would result to the the development of our LGAs?

So, I don’t know, whoever wants to control the local
governments fund whether States or LGAs, should go ahead.

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Opinion

Consequences Of High Bride Price

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Bride price is payment made by a groom or his kin to the family of the bride in order to ratify a marriage.  It is paid by the family of the groom to their future in-laws at the start of the marriage usually in cash and materials.
Bride price in Nigeria varies from one ethnic group to another.  What obtains as bride price in Rivers State may be different from Kogi State in terms of cash and materials required by the bride’s family. Although there are a few similarities in the list of items to be provided by the groom in Nigeria. 
It also varies from family to family. Some families collect as low as N5,000 while others collect as high as N1,000,000.
There are criticisms that this African tradition of paying bride price to the bride’s family before marriage degrades a woman by putting a required monetary value on a wife.But those who support the tradition uphold it as a cherished cultural and religious symbol of marriage.
Some families see bride price as symbolic, hence they ask for less. I have seen a situation where the mother of the bride collected N30,000 and later gave it back to the couple, asking them to put it in their bank account so that it will serve as a “starter pack”. This shows that she wasn’t really giving her out for money.
In our local setting, a marriage is recognised only when bride price and gift items have been presented to the bride’s family.  It is important because it validates marriage to give a woman respectable status in the society as a wife.
The importance of bride price can never be over-emphasised. It is one of the highest honours confirming a bride’s value and womanhood, giving a husband the full rights to the economic and reproductive powers of his wife. It is an honour bestowed on the parents that their daughter is getting married.
I see nothing wrong in payment of bride price but in recent time, the issue of high bride price seems to be competitive among families whose daughters are ripe for marriage.It is alarming and heart-breaking how newly-wedded couples end up paying debts years after marriage. When demanding for high bride price, some parents do not realise the fact that the yet-to-be couple will plan for church and court (Registry). The Registry requires little token. Although, the clergy will not ask, but the couple need to settle one or two things in church. 
More worrisome is the fact that some parents demand a live cow from an in-law as if the lady is to be exchanged. I know of a culture where cow must be provided to her kinsmen by the surviving husband or children before a late woman must be buried. The claim is that the man didn’t complete the marriage rites before the death if the woman. This is just to extort money from the late woman’s children.
A young man was mandated to pay about N2million to the wife’s kins after losing her during child birth, simply because he never completed marriage rites. What about the welfare of the surviving child?
A situation where a basin of fish that costs over N200,000 must be presented in the name of bride price for a traditional marriage to be contracted gave me concern. 
A father also demanded about N1million as dowry for his daughter. For Christ’s sake, no amount of money collected as bride price can pay all the expenses from birth to University level of a lady as this is the dream of greater percentage of our parents nowadays. No amount of money can buy a woman. “Her value is inestimable”.
High bride price can cause disharmony between husband and his in-laws. A young man was lamenting that after his marriage, his in-laws can never be allowed into his family. This is as a result of whatever high bride price they would have charged.
High bride price can cause a man to exhibit violent behaviours when he remembers how much he paid. He gets angry at every little thing the wife does which can lead to domestic violence. The implication is that the woman will suffer in silence with the fear that the man may demand for the high bride price if she leaves the marriage.
Income from her job or personal business is seen by the man as his. She is being denied freedom on using her income and often leads to a situation where the husband must be consulted before any monetary transaction in the family. This leads to hostile marital environment and can destabilise the marriage.
Man dominates the woman in terms of decision-making. The woman has little say or nothing when issues come up in the home. He can say: “Don’t talk, I paid heavily”.
One of the consequences of high bride price is that if perhaps divorce occurs, the bride and the family, according to customary norms, have to return the dowry. If the dowry were very expensive to the tune of N1million, they may not be able to pay back.
High bride price encourages gender inequality. It reduces the power and prestige of the woman with the perception that she was paid for.
High bride price leads to poverty. A couple may have been forced to incur debts in the course of marriage. These are young men and women who are starting life perhaps after graduation and have not made enough savings. Paying back debts incurred during weddings for two to three years should be discouraged.
For many young men, withdrawal syndrome sets in when they remember that they have to provide as much as N1million to marry a wife. You see someone going to marry at the age 50 because he didn’t have enough.  Even the ladies are also affected here. Some men get scared of going into such families or ethnic groups for marriage.  When will they train their children? 
No matter the status of the groom, minimal amount should be fixed for dowry to avoid certain consequences in future. Family of the bride should take cognizance of the fact that their daughter deserves some comfort in her new home.
It is high time the traditional institutions worked through their subjects in the various communities to create awareness on the dangers of high bride price in our society. 
Community heads who are saddled with the responsibility of marriage functions and rites should be advised to cut down some of the items and reduce the costs of available ones.
I call on local government councils to work with traditional rulers, community and family heads as well as women leaders to come out with minimum and maximum amount of money and other items needed as bride price and dowry. 
It should be domesticated in the by-laws of the local councils across Nigeria.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Opinion

Away With Open Grazing

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It was reported recently that the Federal Government had mapped out 30 grazing reserves for the implementation of a National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) under its Green Initiative project.
According to the report, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agriculture, Dr Andrew Kwasari, disclosed this while addressing journalists on the move by the government to resolve the persistent conflict between herders and farmers over land, water and pastures.
“The 19 Northern States have grazing reserves. So far, we have mapped out over 30 grazing reserves and on paper, we have over 400 grazing reserves.
“So, the northern governors have to be committed to working with the Federal Government, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, supervision of the NEC, to make sure that wherever those grazing reserves are found that we are able to convert them into lush green models specifically for pastoralists, and pastoralists will not migrate anymore…” Kwasari said.
He further disclosed that traditional rulers like the Gbom-Gbom Jos had been consulted and they suggested that the low hanging fruit for federal and state governments was to ensure that pastoralists were settled in gazette grazing reserves.
The presidential aide also said that this would take away any notion of land grabbing or taking of land from communities and giving to herders as was feared with the government’s stillborn Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) programme.
It would be recalled that the NLTP was launched by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve, Mayo-Belwa LGA of Adamawa State, in September 2019. The plan was to run from 2019 to 2028 as part of the federal government’s Green Initiative in collaboration with states, farmers, pastoralists and private sector investors under the auspices of the National Economic Council (NEC).
NLTP has a budget of N100 billion for the breeding of cattle and other types of livestock. Of this amount, the federal government would contribute 80% as grant only, while the participating states were expected to raise the remaining 20%, donate land, draw up the project implementation structure, and provide workers.
Besides Adamawa, the programme has also taken off in six other pilot states; namely Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara. Others which were reported to have voluntarily joined the initiative include Anambra, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti and Ondo States.
Given the foregoing, any peace-loving Nigerian would be tempted to assume that a viable solution has finally been figured out for the perennial herders-farmers crisis in the country. But President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent charge to his Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to identify the country’s gazetted grazing routes leaves one wondering if, indeed, he was acting from the same script as Osinbajo and Kwasari.
If there ever was any doubt as to the Presidency’s rejection of the collective decision of the southern governors to outlaw open grazing in their respective states, such was cleared by the President himself in his recent exclusive interview on Arise TV.
“What I did was ask him (Malami) to go and dig the gazette of the First Republic when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas…
“I asked for the gazette to make sure that those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to bring some order back into cattle grazing,” Buhari emphasised.
Honestly, I had wished that the President’s directive to the nation’s chief law officer was aimed at recovering only grazing reserves for the NLTP scheme as Kwasari did announce. But his inclusion of cattle routes suggests that Buhari is still not considering letting go of the now outdated nomadic grazing practice in Nigeria.
And just as the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) wasted no time in rallying behind the man, so also was his position quick in drawing flaks from socio-cultural bodies like Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) all of which insisted that the power to allocate land rested with the state governors and not the President.
Of particular interest was the reaction of Afenifere’s publicity secretary, Jare Ajayi: “Who designated specific routes as exclusively belonging to those who would be grazing cows? If you are doing this kind of thing in their own area, it is understandable (because) that is in their own area.
“I have not read anywhere that our forefathers sat down and agreed that these particular routes, maybe from Ogbomosho to Saki or Badagry, are for grazing…”
Again, some analysts have expressed the fear that if Buhari insisted on pursuing the recovery of grazing routes, prominent buildings in many parts of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), would be pulled down.
I still don’t get why Mr. President is seriously reaching for the list of cattle routes in First Republic Nigeria even when the 1979 Land Use Act entrusted governors with the control of their states’ lands years after the now sought-after gazette was published. With such power, can’t a state chief executive reapportion any previously gazetted grazing route or reserve located in his domain?
Buhari should please focus on promoting sedentary animal husbandry through the NLTP scheme in order to reduce the existing tension in the land. A good leader should be able to ensure peace in his domain even if he has to bend over backward to achieve it.

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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Opinion

Short, Sharp, Shock-Treatment

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There was a recent allusion from the Nigerian President, or the Presidency, about the possibility of some impending shock, meant to restore sanity in the country. It came as a warning to those who were alleged to be intent on destroying or destabilising Nigeria via insurgency, agitation and causing mayhem. Therefore, it has become needful to alert Nigerians about Nature’s Standing Order of Short, sharp, shock treatment (SSST), as a mechanism of restoring order when humans allow disorder to grow too high. In truth, there is such mechanism in the scheme of things.
Those who are familiar with Jewish cosmogony via the Kabbalah, would know that there is a flow of Divine influx, also known as Zazahot or lighting flash, which is an up-building and a restorative system. The 5th anchorage of that Divine Circuit system known as Geburah or Judgement has the duty or responsibility of restoring order and bringing about a balance, when disorder and imbalance become overwhelming in creation or a section thereof. Disorder and imbalances usually come from humans.
Being endowed with a free will and the freedom to make personal decisions and choices, which are often mis-used, humans bring about disorders and imbalances which distort the beauty and harmony of creation. Accumulation of massive impurities would necessitate a cleansing process to reduce the results of human engagements in acts of impunity, shamelessness and irresponsibility. Before catastrophies come there are usually warnings.
In the case of Nigeria, the warning signals have been persistent and loud enough even for obtuse persons to be aroused to a state of alertness. Nature has a process of educating human beings through bitter personal and collective experiences. No one can say that such warning signals and bitter experiences have not been there for quite some time. As a process of ensuring justice, there are watchers and weavers whose activities in the 100m of destiny entail monitoring the deeds of everyone with utmost accuracy. There are also provisions for deep reflections and possible redressing of imbalances.
Nigeria has been brought to its current sad state of affairs through many follies and deliberate acts of mischief. From Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s book Reforming The Unreformable, we are told that more than 5,000 board seats existed as sinecure, with political leaders having enormous patronage powers. We are told that a bad public service is certain to produce bad governance, even if the right accountability and other mechanisms are in place. Thus, there is a spiral of malfeasance.
From public service system, to tertiary education, we are told that “a systemic rot has befallen Nigeria”, apart from “inflating the budget by doubling or tripling the allocations…” Even with the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) bill which was approved in May 2007, there was no transparency or accountability in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. In both physical and process audit there are deficiencies in management and utility.
Okonjo-Iweala advised that “special care be taken to ensure that oil revenues are spent wisely to build up durable long-term assets whose benefits can be shared with future generations”. Nigeria’s great dependence on oil and gas whose vulnerability to global volatility of commodity market are important factors in the country’s need to reshape its economic structure and growth based on diversification. With regards to corruption, Okonjo-Iweala said that “cynicism about the fight against is greatest when allegations of corrupt acts on the part of the elite are not investigated with any vigour even when investigated …”
If human verdict is reflected in the dismal and sad score card available in the public domain, then the verdict of the watchers and weavers of human destinies must also be far worse. There are indications globally that visibly gathering dark storms would surely result in some catastrophes whose true nature no one can tell accurately. For Nigeria as an individual nation in the global family, it is obvious that the shock alluded to by the President is an omen of things to come.
However, no one is in a position to predict exactly the nature and intensity of the shock the president had in mind. Reacting to the President’s statement, a number of Nigerians expressed sadness that it was a warning to agitators who allegedly are trying to destabilise and disunite Nigeria. But the situation obviously goes beyond current activities of political agitators and bandits.
Normally it takes a long time for storms to amass such power that would result in a destructive shock. Therefore, it would be myopic and wrong to judge the Nigerian situation from a one-sided perspective. Across the globe, Nigeria features as one of the delicate zones where some shocks are most likely to arise. Already harbingers of warning signals include activities of Boko Haran and other agitators for Islamic states and sharia laws, spate of kidnappings and demand for ransom, etc. The commando-rescue-style of an American farmer held hostage in Northern Nigeria placed Nigeria as a vulnerable nation.
Prelude to any coming shock usually includes complacence arising from gluttony over loots. The fact that a few highly-placed Nigerians tried to exonerate late General Sani Abacha of accusations of looting, despite exposures of such deeds, is another evidence of a nation which needs a shock to regain sanity. It takes the collaboration of humans through various activities, to serve as agents in the fulfillment of the mechanism of destiny. Such human agents rarely know that they are serving the course of Nemesis.
Unlike the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) with its attendant miseries and woes, SSST comes as mechanism of Divine intervention, to ensure that those who deserve to die, die the death they deserve. It is fast and thorough, with long-lasting effect. It is a weapon of sective elimination.

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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