By Ononye VC
Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Wednesday, hailed the 9th Senate for passing the bill to grant financial and administrative autonomy to all the 774 local government areas of the country.
The Rights group also carpeted the National Assembly for voting against all positive laws aimed at enhancing political and economic emancipation of Nigerian Women, describing the position as backward, primitive and tragic especially because the negative votes against Pro-women Constitutional provisions took place ironically on the first day of International Women’s Month.
HURIWA stated that it is outrageous and sad to note that Nigeria’s central law making body dominated almost entirely by men behaved in a chauvinistic manner when the Nigeria’s 9th National Assembly declined citizenship to the foreign-born husband of a Nigerian woman whereas a Nigerian man’s foreign-born wife gets automatic citizenship.
The National Assembly denied Nigerians in the diaspora right to vote; denied women the ability to take indigeneship of their husband’s state after 5 years of being together; denied 35% appointed positions for women; denied women 35% affirmative action in party administration and leadership; rejected specific seats for women in the National Assembly.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, urged the members of the red chamber to ensure that the bill is also passed by their colleagues in the House of Representatives and eventually assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari and the 36 state governors.
According to reports, the proposed law seeks to amend the 1999 Constitution to repeal the state joint local government account and provide for a special account where all allocations due to the local governments’ councils, from the federation account and state government, shall be paid.
In the bill, each local government council is to create and maintain its own special account to be called Local Government Allocation Account into which all the allocations will be paid.
For administrative autonomy, the bill seeks to allow local governments to conduct their own elections.
HURIWA hailed the landmark passage of the bill by the Senate, noting that the law when passed eventually would answer the year-long yearnings of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria as well as the decade-old clamour for restructuring and true federalism by socio-political groups including Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The Ahmad Lawan-led Senate should be commended for this landmark legislation has reached the crescendo.
“However, the Senate must diligently follow through to ensure the assent to the bill by the executive as it may not pass because the state Houses of Assembly in Nigeria are hijacked by governors who steal from local government fund under the guise of running joint local government and state account.
“There are grave consequences of voting against these provisions already passed at the National level by the National Assembly which may be fought against by governors that are proving to be some of the most depraved and corrupt political office holders in Nigeria.
“Administrative and financial autonomy for local government areas are long overdue and these would go a long way to cut LGs dependence on states and boost rapid development at the grassroot.
”Amongst many others, autonomy for LGs would revive local economies, improve well being, infrastructure and security at the grassroots level as well as check the insane rural to urban migration that constitutes grave threats to national development and national security.
“To be extra clear, the proposed bill which if sees the light of the day, would see to the realization of community policing as local governments would have the funds to mobilise their various security apparatus to protect their people.
“Community-based groups, religious bodies, town unions must mount pressure on their state assemblies and governors not to jeopardise this revolutionary provision to bring developments and democracy to the grassroots and restore the proper democracy to the masses.
“Also, religious bodies and town unions must sensitise their communities on the benefits of reestablishing democracy at the local government level and autonomy in terms of finance and operational independence with elected councils having stable and uninterrupted tenures.
“Undoubtedly, viable local governments have the inevitable potential of creating jobs for school leavers and graduates to serve their communities and grow their local economies.
“The benefits of this landmark bill when it becomes law are numerous and it must be achieved before the 2023 general elections. All hands must be on the deck at this critical point,” the statement concluded.