Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Chairman, Delta State chapter of the Association of Local Government Chairmen of Nigeria (ALGON), Sir Itiako Ikpokpo, has blamed the inability of most local government councils in the country to generate sufficient revenue outside the federal monthly allocation on the lopsidedness of the countryâ€™s revenue sharing formula which places the third tier of government at a disadvantage.
He stressed that the disproportionate statutory revenue allocation method was responsible for the financial challenges being faced by the local government system in the country, describing as the meagre the â€œ20 per cent share of federal revenue allocation to the 776 local governments in Nigeria.â€
Ikpokpo, who is also the chairman of Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, made these remarks in Asaba while reacting to calls in certain quarters for local government autonomy in the country.
According to him, â€œThis is grossly inadequate to meet the councils’ first line charge, which is the payment of salaries, not to talk of provision of basic social amenities at the grassrootsâ€.
He differed slightly with advocates of autonomy, which he said could not achieve desired results without adequate revenue adjustment and conscious constitutional amendment towards reducing the powers at the centre.
He however debunked insinuations that local government councils in Delta State were under any form of undue influence from the state government, noting that the state councils did not suffer from diversion of funds by the state government as alleged in some other states.
The state ALGON chairman noted that overlapping revenue avenues created a situation whereby the Federal Government was denying the local governments of much needed revenue.
He identified â€œexcessive, overloaded, overlapping and domineering posture of the Federal Government both in revenue allocation and functionâ€ as the visible threats to the local government system in Nigeria.
Ikpokpo argued that â€œthe Federal Government has taken over all aspects of governance and services, including rural healthcare, birth registration and markets, even though it lacks the essential grasp and touch in these areasâ€, just to justify its â€œbogus 56 per cent shareâ€ of the nation’s revenue.
He therefore queried why a federal minister in faraway Abuja should be dictating where to site a primary health centre in a community or a Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) project in Isoko South.
He further observed that over 40 per cent of roads in the country referred to as federal or state roads were actually within the jurisdiction of local governments.
â€œSeveral core functions and internal revenue heads of the local governments have been hijacked by the overbearing Federal Government owing to its excessive powers and domineering attitudeâ€, Ikpokpo lamented. â€œThey now collect monies for birth registration through the Nigeria Population Commission even in our rural health centres, leaving the local governments with collection of bicycle levies. The question is, are people still riding bicycle?”
He said this bogus arrangement was partly responsible for â€œthe near collapse of all sectors of the economy in the countryâ€ and suggested that â€œconscious efforts should be made to rejig the local government system in areas of funding and functionsâ€ through urgent fiscal restructuring if the nation’s yearning for deep-rooted growth and development would be realized.