Politics

Local gov’t, legislature, judiciary autonomy crucial for Nigeria’s devt, says Deputy Speaker

By George Odok Jnr

Deputy Speaker of Cross River House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Joseph Bassey, has said that granting financial autonomy to local government, the legislature and the judiciary was critical to the growth of the nation.

Hon. Bassey, who spoke to newsmen shortly after voting in favour of the financial autonomy for local government, legislature and the judiciary, said that the three tiers of government needed to function independently.

The house had deliberated on the 5th alteration/amendment bill of the Nigerian Constitution, which went through third reading and was subsequently passed into law through a physical voting of the 44 amendment bills that were transmitted to the house.

The Deputy Speaker said that the foundation of every government, was the local government administration, adding that it is critical because it is the closest to the people.

According to him, the local government administration had been an affiliate of the executive over the years and depending on the executive for appropriation and release of funds, hence it was important to grant the local government administration a full financial autonomy.

“There is no way the local government administration can function optimally when there still operate a joint account with the executive.

“In 1999, when there was a little bit of autonomy with no interference on their finances, we saw how most local government Chairmen did well in local government administration.

“After 1999, there has not been an effective administration in the local government because the governors control the joint account and only give the Chairmen what they feel is good for them.

“Sadly, the local government is now like a department in the state. In Calabar South, where there operate a joint account with the state and money deducted monthly for waste management, the contractors have not been paid for several months and most areas are littered with refuse dumps.

“If Calabar South had financial autonomy, I don’t think the Chairman would have allowed the refuse dumps to litter the roads because the money would have been used judiciously to serve the purpose,” he said.

He said that in developed countries, local governments host international events because they operate independently and function optimally without interference.

He frowned at cases were most governors were lobbying state houses of assembly to reject the passage of the local government autonomy bill, describing such act as “greed”.

On the autonomy for the legislature and judiciary, Bassey said it was long overdue, adding that check and balances cannot be said to be functional if the judiciary and legislature were still depending on the executive for their finances.

He noted that the 6th Cross River House of Assembly voted against itself on the bill to grant full autonomy to the legislature, adding that it was abnormal.

Bassey, who is also the House of Representatives candidate for Akpabuyo/Bakassi/Calabar South Federal Constituency, explained that the 7th and 8th assemblies of the state voted in favour of house of assembly autonomy.

He however, said that although the voting of the 7th assembly on the autonomy of state houses of assembly did not see the light of the day, the 8th assembly also voted in favour of the autonomy which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari and yet to be implemented.

“The autonomy of the legislature is one of the best things for separation of power. You cannot expect the legislature to function optimally when there are been paid by the executive, same goes for the judiciary.

“So, I voted overwhelmingly for the full autonomy of the local government, legislature and the judiciary. I must also commend my colleagues who voted in favour of these amendment bills too,” he said.

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