BackpageAfter Restoring Full Autonomy For Local Governments, Exploring Council Police Should Follow

After Restoring Full Autonomy For Local Governments, Exploring Council Police Should Follow

June 2, (THEWILL)- The Supreme Court case initiated by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, on behalf of the Federal Government, against the state governments over local government autonomy is a landmark development in Nigeria’s governance structure. This case seeks to establish full autonomy for the 774 local government councils across the country, challenging the current practices of state governors regarding local government administration, which the Federal Government argues are unconstitutional.

The crux of the matter lies in the Federal Government’s assertion that state governors have been mismanaging funds meant for local government areas and unlawfully dissolving democratically elected local government councils.

The suit aims to prevent governors from forming caretaker committees, instead of allowing democratically elected officials to govern local governments. Furthermore, it seeks to ensure that funds allocated to local governments are directly disbursed to them from the federation account, bypassing state control.

The legal basis for the suit is rooted in several sections of the Nigerian Constitution, including Sections 1, 4, 5, 7, and 14, which the Attorney-General argues obligates state governors and assemblies to maintain a democratic system at the local government level. The suit seeks declarations that any dissolution of democratically elected local government councils by state governors is unlawful and unconstitutional.

The significance of this case cannot be overstated, as it addresses the longstanding issue of local government autonomy in Nigeria. The outcome could redefine the relationship between state governments and local governments, potentially impacting how resources are allocated and managed at the grassroots level.

The local government is an equal tier of government in Nigeria’s three-tier federal system, alongside the federal and state governments. As such, it is crucial that local governments are granted full autonomy to function effectively and serve the needs of their communities. The abuse perpetrated by state governments in handling local government affairs has been a recurring problem, undermining the principles of federalism and democratic governance.
One of the most egregious practices by state governments has been the dissolution of democratically elected local government councils and the appointment of caretaker committees. This not only disenfranchises the electorate but also opens the door for political patronage and mismanagement of resources. Furthermore, the control exercised by state governors over local government funds through joint accounts has effectively stripped local governments of their financial autonomy, rendering them dependent on the whims of state administrations.

This abuse of power at the state level has far-reaching consequences, as it erodes the very foundation of grassroots governance. Local governments are closest to the people and are best positioned to understand and address the unique needs of their communities. When their autonomy is compromised, it hinders effective service delivery and undermines the principles of accountability and transparency.

The situation in Nigeria stands in stark contrast to the United States, where local governments enjoy a significant degree of autonomy within the federal system. I am also in support of an amendment to the constitution that gives some form of policing powers to our local governments. In the US, a system of governance that exactly mirrors Nigeria’s system, local police departments and county sheriffs are accountable to their respective local governments, ensuring a more responsive and community-oriented approach to law enforcement. This system is reliable and effective.

The decentralised nature of policing in America allows for greater flexibility in addressing localised crime and security issues. Local law enforcement agencies can tailor their strategies and resources to the specific needs of their communities, fostering a stronger relationship with the people they serve.

Furthermore, the American model promotes accountability and transparency, as local governments are required to maintain detailed financial records and provide regular reports to the public. This level of oversight helps to prevent corruption and mismanagement of funds, ensuring that resources are used effectively for the benefit of the community.

In Nigeria, the case for true local government autonomy and the subsequent establishment of local police is compelling. The abuse of power by state governments in handling local government affairs has undermined the principles of federalism and democratic governance. This abuse has made the argument against State police even more compelling. If state governments cannot be trusted to refrain from abusing every power in their domain, what will keep them from using State police for every sort of selfish end? By stripping state governments of the right to oversee elections into the local government and granting true autonomy to local governments, Nigeria can foster a more accountable and responsive system of governance at the grassroots level.

The practice of perpetuating the same political party at the local government level as the party in charge of the state government has further entrenched the abuse of power and undermined the democratic process. Local communities have been deprived of their right to choose their own leaders and hold them accountable, as ‘s’elected officials often serve the interests of the state government rather than the people they represent.

By granting local governments the authority to manage their own law enforcement agencies, Nigeria can ensure that policing is closer to the people and more responsive to their needs. Local police forces would be accountable to the communities they serve, fostering trust and collaboration in addressing crime and security issues.

Furthermore, local government policing will align with the principles of federalism, where power is devolved to the lowest level possible, allowing for more effective and responsive governance. This approach would empower local communities to take ownership of their security and work hand-in-hand with law enforcement to address their unique challenges.
The resolution of the Supreme Court case filed by the Attorney General of the Federation is crucial in paving the way for true local government autonomy in Nigeria. A likely favourable ruling would not only affirm the constitutional provisions for local government autonomy but also set the stage for comprehensive reforms that would ensure the effective implementation of these provisions.

By stripping state governors and governments of their control over local government affairs and establishing a system of direct funding and democratic governance at the local level, Nigeria can unlock the full potential of its grassroots development.
After this step, the pursuit of local government policing should follow.


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