11 governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC), under the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) yesterday, in Lafia, Nasarawa state called on the National Assembly to allow the state governments to determine the ingenuity or otherwise of the controversial local government autonomy being debated by the Lawmakers.
The governors, who faulted the National Assembly’s decision to legislate on the local councils’ autonomy, said doing so would undermine the nation’s democracy as it is only in a unitary form of government that the centre makes a binding decision affecting the generality of its citizenry.
In a communiqué by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state, after their meeting, the governors argued that state Assemblies have the same endowment as the national Assembly; hence it should be allowed to determine the future of their local governments.
The communiqué reads: “The PGF discussed constitutional amendment extensively and resolved that the issue of Local Government Administration, recognising the fact that Federalism is the basis of our sovereignty, is a matter within the purview of the Federating Unit and every attempt to legislate by the National Assembly on any aspect of Local Government Administration will tilt the country towards a unitary state. This will undermine and weaken the fundamental principles of our federalism.
Elaborating the rationale behind the governors’ position on the council autonomy, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo said: “We are in a federal system. The basis of our federation is the states, not local governments, and we are not going to reinvent the wheel in Nigeria.
“To legislate on autonomy can be handled by state governments that believe in it. You can’t impose one drug that cures all ailments. The fact of our diversity itself suggests that it is better to allow certain issues to be dealt with at the level of state governments.
“Abuja should not be the one prescribing one drug for every Nigerian ailment. We have Houses of Assembly and they are just as responsible as their counterparts in Abuja. That is the point we are making.”
“I also want to say that too often we forget how we got to where we are. In the name of autonomy in the past, some local governments were unable or unwilling to pay salaries of primary school teachers, such that in some states’ teachers were not paid for about five months.
“The result was that in those states, teachers were on strike endlessly. Part of the intervention now is to insist that local governments must give priority to the payment of primary school teachers’ salaries. If that means intervention, it is a progressive intervention.
“So, autonomy is not an end in itself; it is about the purpose of autonomy and the character of that autonomy and you cannot be autonomous from your own people
Other issues contained in the communiqué as discussed by the governors included revenue allocation, INEC’s bold step in registering the new party, killings of security operatives at Lakyo by the outlawed Ombatse militia in Nasarawa state, the unconstitutional ouster of a democratically-elected government in Egypt and challenges of APC.
“The Forum deliberated on revenue allocation and notes that in spite of recommendations made to the Presidency, no effect has been given to the extant proposals on the need to give more funds to the states and local governments because that is where the citizens reside.
The statement continued: “The PGF further recommends that the powers to alter the revenue allocation formula currently with the Presidency should be vested in the National Assembly henceforth.
“The Forum also condemns the killing of security operatives at Lakyo by the outlawed Ombatse militia and commends the Nasarawa State Government for the proactive steps taken in instituting a Judicial Commission of Inquiry with a view to bringing to book the perpetrators of this dastardly act.
“The Forum condemns unreservedly the repression in Egypt, following the unconstitutional ouster of a democratically-elected government and calls on the international community to ensure speedy resolution of the crisis.”
“We condemn what happened in Borno State. We have been in Borno State in solidarity with our colleagues there and the people of Borno State.
“The responsibility that we have is not just to verbalise our abhorrence of what has been happening there. We also take other measures, like supporting the provision of relief materials and also working at various levels to insist on a security cum economic strategy that will ultimately put paid to this carnage going on in that part of the country.”
On how the new party will overcome its internal crisis, the communiqué reads: “We don’t want to go into any defensive position about that. But you recall that in our statement we stressed one point: accommodation and tolerance of all interested parties who have joined in consummating this merger.
“There may be local dynamics and local realities to the merger that we must respond and attend to on the ground and I can assure you that it is something that is going on in all our states.”
The governors who attended the forum meeting included: The host Governor Tanko Al-Makura, Governors Kashim Shettima (Borno), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Abdulazeez Yari (Zamfara), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) and Adams Oshiomhole (Edo). Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha was represented by his deputy Prince Eze Madumere. Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Geidam, who is away in Saudi Arabia for the lesser hajj, sent an apology.