Who needs the Local Governments?

Who needs the Local Governments?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 12:22 pm

National Assembly.

By Bolanle Bolawole

I intend to join the fray on the constitution amendment charade going on in the National Assembly: They shot down devolution of power (aka restructuring) but upheld local government autonomy. The need to reflect the views of readers is, however, compelling enough for me to devote space to rejoinders this week. Hopefully, we shall return next week to treat the relevance or otherwise of local governments as the third tier of Government.

Suffice it to say here today that a third tier of government is an aberration in a federation properly so-called. There should be only the Federal Government and the federating units. Unfortunately, the 36 States masquerading as “federating states” are not; they are military creations. The federating states – the three regions at Independence, which later became four a few years after – have all gone into extinction, killed, as it were, by military decrees. The sure road to true federalism – and the survival and prosperity of this country – is a return to the 1963 Republican Constitution and not the hog-wash going on at the National Assembly. Next week!

Your piece “Western Nigeria: A sleeping giant stirs” rekindled lots of old feelings. How I wish the hands of the clock can just go back to that ‘’golden’’ period just for four years! The Yoruba have lost it some years back. Hopefully, time may still come that things may start to be put right. Hahaha!!! I can imagine the nostalgic feelings you would have had touring the Oshogbo that you knew. I had only passed through the town just once so far, on my way to Ilorin in the early eighties. – Akin Akinsola, U. S. A.

RE: Lagos House of Assembly’s sleight of hand. According to Section 124 sub-section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, “provisions may be made by Law of a House of Assembly for the grant of a pension or gratuity to or in respect of a person who had held office as Governor or Deputy Governor and was not removed from office as a result of impeachment and any pension granted by virtue of any provision made in pursuant of this sub-section shall be made in a charge upon the Consolidated Revenue of the State” It is the aforementioned constitutional provision that the Governors have, since 1999, relied preponderantly upon to use their respective State Assemblies to approve outrageous pensions for themselves.

Those who crafted this provision and inserted it in the 1999 Constitution were ignorant of an enabling circular, Reference Number B.63216/S-I/XT/8 dated 22nd July, 1992 from The Presidency, Office of Establishments and Management Services, Federal Secretariat, Phase 11, Ikoyi, Lagos. According to the said circular on the “Review of pension benefits”, “The period of qualifying service for pension is reduced from 15 to 10 years”. From the quoted circular, it can be inferred that there is no Governor or Deputy Governor that is qualified to be paid any pension whatsoever for serving any State of the Federation. The maximum number of years a Governor or Deputy Governor may serve is eight years. Mathematically, eight years is not equivalent to 10 years.

According to the law of Nigeria, Governors or Deputy Governors and other appointed or elected political office holders are only entitled to severance allowance approved by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation, and Fiscal Commission. According to a Vanguard newspaper report, President Muhammadu Buhari had told State governors that the obnoxious pensions law enacted by State Assemblies “must go if Nigeria must survive, describing the outrageous pension as scandalous”. According to Nelson Mandela, Nigerian “leaders have no respect for their people; they believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people they claim to serve” The same late president of South Africa told Nigerians what he thought we should do: “encourage leaders to emerge who will not confuse public office with source of making personal wealth” There are past Governors who are now serving as legislators in the National Assembly. They collect pension from their States and staggering emoluments for serving as legislators.

I am yet to know any country beside Nigeria where this immoral conduct is practiced. I want “On the Lord’s Day” to thoroughly investigate if the Lagos House of Assembly “was merely acting sleight of hand” as regards the ongoing amendment aimed at according due recognition to the Legislature by allowing the Speaker and Deputy Speaker to be paid pension for life when they cease to be in their present positions. For how long shall well-meaning Nigerians tolerate our leaders in the different arms of government to do whatever they desire and get away unchecked? It is high time Nigerians stopped folding their arms in allowing the wealth of the country to be in the hands of a few compatriots while the country as a whole is left to bear the economic woes created by the kleptomaniacs who govern the country. According to Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, 1988 “People should aspire for leadership only when they are ready to serve sincerely, honestly, and with dedication”.

When the converse holds, the oppressed people of Nigeria should change leaders in areas where they believe that something wrong has taken place. The payment of either pension or gratuities to past Governors, Deputy Governors or legislators at State and National levels is an aberration and should stop forthwith. Ironically, public servants who genuinely and patriotically served their respective States for not less than 10 years are being denied their approved pension and gratuities by State Governors who have approved pension for themselves. It is worrisome to note that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has not publicly protested this apparent abnormality. It is not too late for the NLC to go to the National Assembly and protest the inclusion of Section 124 sub-section 5 of the 1999 Constitution in the proposed constitution amendment. – Deacon Dapo Omotoso, Ado-Ekiti.

Your article entitled “Now that PDP is back…” refers. In your post-mortem of how Osun West Senatorial bye-election was lost and won, you identified three important factors which, in your opinion, resulted in the loss of the Senatorial District to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) by the All Progressives Congress (APC). These factors were: the controversy surrounding the death of the late Isiaka Adeleke (an accusation which was laid at the doorstep of the Government of the State of Osun); imposition of Mudasir Husain as the APC candidate; and the supposedly abysmal performance of Gov. Rauf Aregbesola. The controversy surrounding Adeleke’s death no longer exists as the coroner inquest into the cause of the deceased’s death has laid it to rest. This, however, does not detract from the fact that Adeleke was an illustrious son of the State of Osun and his demise will remain an irreparable loss to the state and its people.

The postulation that PDP’s victory in the bye-election was as a result of Hussain’s imposition is a lie straight from Dante’s inferno! And your submission that the loss is a bad omen for the ruling party is not only false; it is also an inaccurate interpretation of the whole political system. If fielding the best candidate for an election amounts to imposition, then, something must be utterly amiss. And if we may ask, do we talk of imposition where there was a primary to choose a candidate for an election? The Screening Committee erred when it disqualified Hussain and the Appeal Committee which upheld the disqualification on the ground that the electoral law mandated him to resign one month before the primary also erred.

They misread the letters and spirit of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which specifically states in Section 107 subsection (f) that, if (an aspirant) ‘is a person employed in the public service of the Federation or of any State or Area Council (other than a person holding elective office) and he has not resigned, withdrawn or retired from such employment 30 days before the date of election; then, he stands disqualified from the election.” But thanks to the National Working Committee of the party which, in its wisdom, upturned the decision of the Appeal Committee on the ground of ”error of law” On the other hand, what other name should we call a man who got a party’s nod to contest a major election, even when he was less than 6 hours old in the said party? It is sad that Nigeria’s major shortcoming as an independent nation is her contradictions. Nigeria is one enclave where world changers who are capable of effectively interacting and competing with their counterparts globally are reduced to mere means of self-satisfying ends.

So far, ours has been a case of “bread and butter” gastro-politicians exploring the womb of primordial innuendos with acidic fundamentalism, geo-political absurdity, and socio-economic silliness. It is curious that you chose to refer to some of this administration’s projects as “elephant projects” – that some schools were demolished and that they were yet to be rebuilt. We dare to say that the imprint of the governor’s performance litters the state. Aregbesola’s social protection programmes alone have become so attractive to other state governments and international agencies that a couple of months back, the United Nations International Children Emergency Funds (UNICEF) brought 15 states in Nigeria to Osun to understudy the state’s School Feeding Scheme, aka O’MEAL; the programme for the vulnerable elderly, popularly referred to as Elderly Welfare Scheme); the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (O’YES); welfare scheme for the widows, called O’widows’ and the rehabilitation of the mentally-challenged persons in the state (O’Rehab). 

Gov. Aregbesola has so far constructed close to 2000 kilometres of roads. Funke Egbemode rightly captured the mood of the moment when she remarked recently: “One thing is obvious: whether you are in Osun or you are outside the state reading about Osun, you definitely have a feeling that it is a secured state. And one good thing about a peaceful and secured state is that it attracts investors to the state because a peaceful and secured environment helps business to thrive.” What other confirmation of performance does any armchair critic require?  – Abiodun Komolafe & Kunle Owolabi, Osun State.

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