Constitution Review and Imo Local Governments

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On Saturday Nov 10, 2012 a significant event took place throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was the day the masses were called out in the 360 Federal Constituencies to make contributions in the Nigerian Constitution, which serves as the Bible for leadership of the country.

 

The exercise also took place at the state levels conducted by the Senators, where matters deliberated at the Local Government levels were collated at the states.

 

However, one glaring observation in the whole affair was the enthusiasm shown by the people. Those who thought the masses would show apathy towards the exercise were shocked, as contributors/participants trooped out in their numbers, and were even waited patiently for the exercise to commence.

 

The message here is that the people ofNigeriaare beginning to develop keen interest in the affairs of their lives and are now ready to make contributions on how those who pilot their destinies are produced.

 

In order words, the masses are getting tired of sitting on the fence, only to complain when leaders begin to toy with their lives. This time, the people want to partake on the emergence of leaders, and therefore can have a say on how their lives are being managed by these leaders.

 

What it meant is that with the interest shown by the masses in the Constitution Review exercise, they would monitor the final production of this all-important document which they expect should be in use before the next general election in 2015.

 

Therefore, it is a signal that the 2015 general election will be dicey. They reasons are many, including that the masses would want the rest-run of this document for which they spent hours to participate in shaping.

 

The participation of the common people in this regard has given them the impetus to question the so called leaders, and therefore any attempt to hook wink the people may unleash a reprisal whose consequences no one can predict.

 

Many of those who wish that Nigeria would continue on the status quo, where the rich gets richer, and the poor gets poorer, were disappointed with the large crowd of committed Nigerians who trooped out to make sure that the pervious constitution, which reads like a personal draft by a few families in Nigeria, was panel beaten for the benefit of all.

 

The Legislators, led by the Speaker of House of Representatives Alhaji Tambuwal and his Deputy Hon Emeka Ihedioha were delighted that the outing has a resounding success.

 

But what is the meat of this matter of Constitution Review? The National Assembly in their wisdom had gone through the constitution and agreed that some aspects of the document does not fit the current Nigerian system, while also there is the need for some adjustments on the document to accommade the current dynamics of nature, which Nigeria as a Federation is facing.

 

These issues mapped out for consideration and review are 42 in number which include State Police, citizenship, rotational Presidency, immunity for serving Presidents and Governors, 6 Geo-political Zones, State Creation, tenure of Presidents, Governors and Council Chairmen etc.

 

In all these amendments, the one that attracted the interest of Imo people was that of Section 162(6) which sought to abolish “State joint Local Government Account” so that allocations due to Local Government Councils would be paid to them directly.

 

Another is “should the constitution be amended to deny revenue allocation to unelected Local Government Council?”

 

When these two amendments were mentioned at the various centres that Saturday across the entire Federation, the chorus was a loud yessssssss!

 

The reason for this general acceptance was not far fetched. The people at the grass roots, which is the Local Governments, have suffered undue deprivations through unfunctional Local Governments who have been hijacked by State Governors through out Nigeria.

 

It was learnt that the State Governors are doing every thing within their powers to stop these two amends from sailing through at the final documentation. They reason is because the State Governors depend on Local Government funds for their wild live styles including birthday parties and hosting of weddings for their families. But the question is, why would Governors stop this people-oriented amendments, when they know they will not remain in office for life?

 

The State Governors also use the joint account system to hold the LGA Chairmen to their whims and caprices. Instead of the local people who voted them into office, the fear of the Governors is the beginning of wisdom for LGA Chairmen. Under this scenario, the Chairmen virtually take instructions from the Governors, and the result is the poverty ravaging the grass roots today.

 

Rather than stay in their localities and solve the problem of the common people, the Chairmen reside in Towns where they can quickly reach the Governor, who has become a King and Emperor put together.

 

And for every LGA Chairman to return for a second term, he or she have to dance to the tune of the Governor who occasionally sends aides or visits the councils, where the meager funds sent to the LGAs are “packaged” back to the Governor for visiting the LGA.

 

Since the LGA Chairman is aware that the amount he was forced to sign by the Governor was not actually what accrues to his/her LGA, he/she knows that the Governor had already committed fraud, therefore, the Chairman begins right there to spend the council’s fund as his personal fortune, as the man who ought to call him to order has already soiled his/her hand.

The Chairman’s confidence is that there is no way you will catch him without first the Governor, from where the fund started missing.

 

With this development, how can any Local Government inNigeriarecord any meaningful development, despite all we hear and read about stupendous allocations going to these LGAs?

 

Again, the Governors prefer unelected Chairmen to loot the LGAs. The reason is that these Transition Council Chairmen have no power to question the Governor, since they were merely appointed by him or her. In this case the LGAs suffer more looting, because no TC Chairman dares ask questions because they were not elected.

 

Therefore, if the constitution amendment only succeeds in these two issues, it would have gone a long way in introducing sanity in the LGAs, which will spiral to the state and Federal levels.

 

This will produce instant results as the people will automatically become a check on elected Council Chairmen. The reason is that each Local Government will know how much accrues to it and have direct access to it. And I bet, the people will also have their own records.

 

There is a common saying by Igbos that we all know the shapes of our Bodies, and it is only for outsiders that we are covering our Bodies.

 

If LGAs begin to collect their allocations directly fromAbuja, no Chairman will fumble. Infact any Chairman who fails to give account of allocations collected risks having his entire family lynched through communal demonstration.

 

There would be no excuses of how Governors depleted the Council accounts, and therefore nothing left. This time the Council Chairmen will be directly responsible to the angry and poverty ridden masses who are beying for blood.

 

And again, if Governors realize that appointed TC Chairmen would not be released LGA funds, they will not dare appoint any body in the LGAs and if the constitution amendment includes giving National Electoral Commission the power to conduct state and LGA elections, the undue power of influencing who becomes a Local Government Chairman by the Governors would have finally been stripped off them.

 

These developments will not go down well for the Emperors who gain from the suffering of others, but it is good for the majority of people.

 

It is not as if our leaders do not know what is good for all, but they are only interested on themselves and families. Constitutions every where in the world are not drafted for the benefit of any group or individual, but for the majority and good of the Nation. Because as individuals and groups fade away, the Nation remains for ever.

 

There is no where inNigeriathat this mess of joint allocation has caused chaos, mayhem and financial deaths like inImoState.

 

For the past one year now, the grassroots in the LGAs are completely dead. The entire 27 Local Government Areas are not functioning due to legal and political bickerings between the State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

 

And with the look of things, none of the warring faction wants to cease fire, as the saying that when two Elephants fight the grasses suffer, plays out.

 

Okorocha, exploiting the constitution which gives financial power of LGAs to Governors, dissolved the Imo Elected Chairmen through a Radio Announcement.

 

The Chairmen proceeded to court and were reinstated again by court pronouncement. And Okorocha headed to court again challenging the judgment, after which the Chairmen also went to court.

 

It has been a ding doing affair. And who is suffering? The poverty stricken local people in the LGAs. And what is the crux of the matter? The Local Government fund. So, how long will this continue?

Therefore, it is a welcome development as the Constitution Review exercise came at the right time, especially for the people of Imo State, who wants to get themselves free from the strangle hold of a predatory State Governors who see the LGA fund as the private booty that should been dished out at will.

 

But the question is, will this Constitution Review exercise be a jamboree in the end, as those who hold Nigeria in the jugular fight to maintain the status quo which favours a few and deprives the majority the natural wealth of this oil producing nation that its citizens live in abject poverty? God forbid!