A Yoruba organisation, Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, has said the local autonomy proposed in the Constitution Review Bill by the National Assembly has “hidden traps” set to benefit Fulani herdsmen.
The National Assembly had last week passed two bills to alter the constitution to abrogate State-LG joint account and guarantee funding only for democratically constituted local government councils.
The proposals now require affirmation of at least 24 of 36 Houses of Assembly of Nigeria’s States and assent of the President to be constitutional.
But while many Nigerians have hailed the proposals as steps towards ensuring independence of the local governments, the ARG raised alarm, asking states to reject the proposals, in a statement on Sunday, by its spokesperson, Kunle Famoriyo.
The ARG alleged link between the retention of Land Use Act in the Constitution and proposals to grant the LGAs autonomy.
“There are traps hidden in the Land Use Act which the National Assembly cleverly refused to remove from the Constitution,” said the Yoruba sociocultural group.
It continued: “As an example, Section 6(1)(b) says that ‘(1) It shall be lawful for a Local Government in respect of land not in an urban area…to grant customary right of occupancy to any person or organisation for the use of land for grazing purposes and such other purposes ancillary to agricultural purposes…’ The customary right of occupancy can be as much as 500 hectares if granted for agricultural purposes, or 5,000 hectares if granted for grazing purposes.
“The main reason for the push to remove LGA from under the control of state governments is to make this clause in the Land Use Act enforceable. The so-called autonomy therefore is a “Greek Gift” and states with recent history of herdsmen attack had better collaborate with other states to reject it. ARG will work with states in the southwest to totally agitate against it.
“The advocates of autonomy for LGAs need to convince Nigerians of the benefit of such, despite the glaring fact that it is an aberration in any federalism and it works against development. If Nigeria is yet to get the possible maximum good governance from 36 executive powers granted to states, what will creating additional 774 executive powers bring? Total waste and failure.”
The ARG added that the proposals, if successful, would run counter to the spirit of federalism and worsen the LGAs.
“This plan will further destroy federalism in Nigeria and turn it effectively into a unitary state. However, we must remind Nigerians that there is nothing the federal government has taken over, since the enactment of the Unification Decree 34 of 1966, that has flourished.
“As example, the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan was already hosting international boxing fight before it was taken over. Today, it cannot even host national championships. In the same vein are WNTV, Obafemi Awolowo University, Cocoa Research Institute (CRIN), Moore Plantation and many other notable institutions.
“We can assure you that LGAs will be worse off if this so-called autonomy is allowed to pass. This is because those controlling Abuja have no better plan for the country other than as a conquest. ARG warns all state Houses of Assembly to resist this legislation,” said the ARG.