The Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, on Thursday declared that it was a subversion of the principles of the constitution for the federal government or its agencies to bypass the states to relate directly with local governments.
The governor, who offered his arguments on the nation’s federalism while inaugurating new Executive Secretaries for the 67 local councils and development areas in Osogbo, said only the states and the federal governments were constitutionally envisaged as federating units.
The governor spoke against the backdrop of agitations by local governments for autonomy, a system where their allocation would be received directly from the federation account.
Several efforts by the National Assembly to enact the local government autonomy through the review process of the 1999 Constitution had met with defeat at the state houses of assembly, under the directive of state governors.
According to Mr. Aregbesola, federalism is a constitutional arrangement in which power is shared between the units of government and the central government in which the sphere of authority of each is clearly delineated.
He said the federal government is not superior to the states and it is also not a supervising authority to the states, but just primus inter pares, (the first among equals).
“Local governments on the other hand, are not federating partners and therefore do not have direct relationship with the federal government,” he argued.
“It is a subversion of the federal principle for the federal government or any federal institution or agency to begin to undercut states and forge direct relationship with the local government.
“Understanding this point is important in defining the autonomy of the local government.
“The local government is an integral part of a state and its autonomy therefore is definable within the state. I agree and support therefore the notion of its autonomy in this light.”
He added that local governments should be not be shackled but they should be empowered to operate freely within their domain.
“We have had challenges and abuse. Some states have turned their councils into cash cows. While the constitution requires states to guarantee a democratic system in the local government, this has also been subverted into state’s fiefdom. But we cannot throw out the baby with the bath water,” he further said.
“The principle of federalism is important and we cannot sacrifice this on the altar of convenience. If there are abuses, let us address it, but don’t let us undermine federalism.”
Mr. Aregbesola queried the desire of local governments to go to Abuja to collect monthly allocations from the federation account, noting that it amounted to power without responsibility.
“The greater responsibility and true autonomy consists in being able to mobilise the people in your domain for development through revenue generation and economic participation by all,” he said.
“The officials we are inaugurating today have their autonomy within this umbra of responsibility. It is a new day in local government administration.
“Many people have strange ideas on how access to local government administration could be a get rich quick scheme. I have bad news for them.
“All of you being inaugurated today should have it at the back of your mind that this is a call to service, with little or no reward”. the governor stressed.
Osun State has added 31 new Local Council Development Areas LCDAs, three Area Councils and two Administrative Offices to make 67 local governments and development areas.
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