Senator Smart Adeyemi
By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Senate Committee Chairman on Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Smart Adeyemi, at the weekend, rejected the opposition of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) to the move by the National Assembly to entrench local government autonomy in the 1999 constitution through the ongoing constitution review process, describing such plan as an invitation to anarchy.
Adeyemi, who was apparently making reference to a recent interview granted by the Governor of Rivers State and Chairman of NGF, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, where he said governors would resist all efforts aimed at granting autonomy to the existing 774 local governments in the country, explained that the lawmakers were ready to ensure that such plan did not see the light of the day.
Amaechi had in the report said: “There is no country in the world that there are three federating units; there are only two all over the world. Why should you say that there must be third federating unit in Nigeria?”
But Adeyemi, while addressing journalists in the National Assembly complex, said the ploy by the governors to ensure that the polity is run only by two tiers of government is nothing but an invitation to anarchy which he said would be resisted to the end.
According to him, those who threatened to exploit his background as a unionist to mobilise local government employees as well as labour unions to resist governors’ move to frustrate the inclusion of local government autonomy in the constitution, have through their overbearing influence, killed the local governments in Nigeria by denying them both the power and financial resources they need to function, a situation which he said had grounded governance at the grassroots and simultaneously impoverished the people.
Adeyemi, who represents Kogi West Senatorial district in the Senate, decried the alleged threats posed to civil rule by the governors through NGF, arguing that “there is never a system where governors constitute a forum and become policy formulators.”
He further said the attempt to promote the existence of only two tiers of government was to deprive people at the grassroots access to good governance, put the people in perpetual slavery and further aggravate the problems of ordinary people whom he said live in abject poverty.
Adeyemi, who lamented the increasing spate of poverty in the country, narrated how he had to build health centres across the local governments in his senatorial district, equip them with drugs and as well provide water because local governments in the state are completely incapacitated.
“This will not happen, not while we are here as senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Tell their excellencies of this country that it will pay us to have three tiers of government. Any attempt to reduce the powers of local governments is to prepare for anarchy...Now, the local governments are dead. They are not allowed to function,” Adeyemi lamented.
Speaking further, he added: “It will be inexplicable for anybody to scrap the local governments in a federal system,” described the governors’ move as a breach of the constitution, which he said, they swore to uphold.
While lamenting that the governors are overreaching themselves to the extent of creating the impression that they are above the constitution, Adeyemi described the operations of joint local government accounts, supposedly being run by both the states and local governments as fraudulent, recalling an encounter with a local government chairman whom he said was usually given paltry N40 million as monthly allocation instead of N150 million.
He also remarked that failure to grant autonomy to local governments will imply that the impact of local governments will not be felt at the grassroots, lamenting that the local councils are so helpless to the extent that they cannot provide boreholes to hapless citizens at the grassroots.
“We will do everything possible to resist attempt to stop the third tier of government,” Adeyemi insisted.