Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has accused state governor of cornering funds meant for local governments, leaving rural areas under-developed and impoverished.
Dogara also described as highly unacceptable and “evil,” a situation where governors see themselves “as middle men who continually hijack funds meant for the councils, in the name of joint account.”
The Speaker went further to state his opposition to the existence of care-taker committees in running local government councils, this was even as he reiterated the resolve of the National Assembly to grant financial autonomy to the 774 local government councils.
He maintained that lack of elections at the local government level is crippling democracy and denying Nigeria the much-needed development at the third tier of government.
Dogara, according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Adamu Hassan, made his position known during a media parley with senior journalists, yesterday.
The speaker also said said northern governors have proven to be more disposed to hijacking allocations meant for councils. He disclosed the likelihood of clauses being introduced in constitutional amendment bill that will not only outlaw caretaker committees but would also, stop allocation of funds from the Federation Account to local governments that do not have democratically-elected councils.
Dogara equally stated that the federal parliament will consider abolishing States Independent Electoral Commission (SIECs) thereby empowering the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to take over their functions.
“As a matter of fact, joint account is one of the biggest evils because it gives authority to local government ministries in the state.
“In most states, especially in the North, where we don’t have oil, the ministry of local government in the state is regarded as the ministry of petroleum resources.
“We all know when funds are allocated to the councils, instead of getting to the councils, they are hijacked at that level and appropriated, according to the whims of the powers that be.”
Meanwhile, his deputy, Hon. Yussuff Lasun has sponsored a bill which seeks to restrict persons who have acted as president or governor for more than two consecutive years, from contesting for that office for more than a term.
The bill equally seeks to compel presidential and governorship candidates to nominate their running mates from a different zone.
Leading debate on the bill, Lasun said it was aimed at protecting the two time limit for president and governors in the country as enshrined in the constitution.
The deputy speaker said Sections 137(1)(b) and 182(1)(b) of the 1999 constitution, stipulates that the president and governor of a state shall serve in those capacities for a maximum period of eight years.
He, however, said the Constitution equally envisaged situations where a vice president or deputy governor may have to act as president or governor, in the event of the death, resignation or impeachment of his or her principal. He said that when such a situation arises, anyone who has acted as president or governor for more than two consecutive should be eligible to contest for that office only once.
Furthermore, he said when the President and state governors attach intended portfolios of ministerial and commissioners nominees before submitting the list to the legislature, it will enable the parliament assess the capacity of the nominees.
The Speaker, Hon Yakubu Dogara, who presided over yesterday’s plenary, referred the bill to the Special Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the constitution.
Similarly, a bill to alter Section 1(3) of the sixth schedule of the constitution also scaled through second reading in yesterday’s plenary.
The bill, which is jointly sponsored by Hon Karimi Sunday and Hon James Falake, seeks to empower the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to appoint chairman and members of the National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunals in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. That function is presently performed by the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA).
Falake, while speaking on the bill, said divesting the PCA of the power to appoint National and State Assembly tribunals will give room for check and balance in electoral petition matters, as the Appeal Court President also appoints the appeal panel.
The Speaker also referred the bill to the Special Ad-Hoc Committee on the Review of the constitution.