Recently, President Buhari declared his support for LGA autonomy and insisted that LGA must be given financial autonomy over their monthly allocations so as to enable them function as a third tier of government and not as an appendage of the state govt.
President Buhari does not seem to understand the recent realities of Nigerian political system. Granting autonomy to LGAs will be the final straw on the Nigerian state governments. More than 90% of the thirty-six states will collapse if LGAs are granted the kind of autonomy they desire. What do I mean?
The reason why states like Kano, Rivers, Delta, Sokoto, Imo, Ekiti and in fact a majority of the Nigerian state governments are still surviving today is because of their access to LGA funds. The reason why many Nigerian states can still pay salaries and execute projects is because they have been able to strangulate the LGAs within their domain. This is wrong but it has become our reality.
The LGA as a third tier of govt has already collapsed. Granting them autonomy will not necessarily revive them. In no distance time, the states will also collapse despite their strangulation of the LGAs, and later on, the federal govt will follow! This is by the way.
Kano state for example receives an average of N4billion in monthly allocation, the 44 LGAs in Kano state receives 4.2billion monthly. Making it a total of about N8.2billion for Kano state. If Kano state have not been having access to the N4.2billion LGA fund, it would have collapsed long ago. The reason why Kano is still alive is because of the LGA funds. This anomaly has become a standard practice in the 36 states of Nigeria. The governors argument is that their recurrent spending and capital projects cut across the LGAs so therefore they should be allowed to have access to the LGA funds.
In 2014 (just two years ago), during the attempted constitution amendment process, 23 states and their state governors and house of assemblies opposed LGA autonomy. Only Oyo, Ogun, Anambra, Adamawa, Nasarawa, Plateau, Kogi, Lagos, Ebonyi, Benue, Abia, Niger and Kwara supported the idea. That was how LGA autonomy died. I am sure by today, if the process is repeated, many of the previous supporters above will oppose it too.
Now, if you grant autonomy to LGAs, state governors will no longer have access to this fund and that could be the end of many states in Nigeria.
What then is the solution?
First, I agree that LGAs need to be autonomous (that is if they must still continue to exist), however the kind of autonomy that President Buhari and the federal govt wants to give them is not the kind of autonomy they need. The kind of autonomy that LGA needs is the same kind that state governments need.
First, it was wrong for the federal govt (through the 1999 federal constitution) to create LGAs. It was also wrong for the federal govt to fund the LGAs through allocations. This needs to be corrected first. If LGAs must exist, they must solely be the creation of the state governments. It is states that should create and fund LGAs, not the federal government. In fact, it is LGAs that should create and fund states in the same way states should create and fund the federal govt under true federalism. Thats another topic for another day.
The federal constitution needs to dissolve the 774 LGAs and make room for the states to create and fund their own LGAs or community govts. States can then create as many LGAs as they wish but as long as they can fund them internally.
Attempting to grant autonomy to LGAs without resolving the root issues of true fiscal federalism will only compound the Nigerian problem.
President Buhari and the federal government should be aware of all these. Except they just want to play politics without addressing the root issues which only restructuring and true federalism can resolve.