Elder Dareng Bulus, is from Plateau state and represents the North Central. He, along with others, has canvassed for constitutional provision that allows the states to create local government councils, according to their needs. He says equal funds should be given to each state for their local government and also believes the NASS should abide by the wishes of the people by amending the constitution to provide for referendum. He spoke with Patrick Andrew
The preponderance of comments has been on restructuring Nigeria, what kind of structure should Nigeria be subjected to?
Added to the three tiers that already exist some people are agitating for zones. They want us to add another tier of government which I feel will be a bottleneck because I doubt any state would want to be subsumed in a zonal structure. That would mean they will have to elect a zonal president or governor or resident zonal leader or what?
All we need to do is to reduce concentration of power in the centre. That is devolution of powers from the federal to the state and local governments because things like primary education, health, agriculture, state police and many more should be done by state and not the federal government. In fact, the federal government is so unwieldy and that it is what breeding corruption.
At the moment, the contention is that the local governments do not have autonomy?
True, they should have autonomy, but at the same time the way local governments are distributed has left much to be desired. Imagine! one state has 44 local governments while another has eight. Where is the fairness? You see, the distribution was done by the military and it was done as it pleases some military leaders not because of any definable criteria.
For balance, the state should be allowed to create local government councils or development centres and then these states would take the responsibility of sharing equitably whatever revenue accruing from the federal government to their respective local governments.
It would then mean that if any state wants to have 30 local government councils or whatever number or development centres it can do so, not the lopsided politicized local government councils that we have now. So, the local government definitely must exist as autonomous bodies because they are the closest tier of government to the grassroots people.
But it would mean amending the constitution because, at present, the powers to create local governments reside with the federal government?
That is true. Because it is a constitutional provision that’s why there are problems. It should not be the case, the powers should reside with the states so that they can create local government according to their needs but not depend on the federal government to allocate funds to them based on the number of local councils.
Like Lagos state, they have development areas and whatever money they received from the federal government for local government they have been able to equitably distribute them. That way, the state meets the needs of the grassroots.
Should your recommendations be subjected to a referendum as suggested by Mr. President?
Of course, that is the right thing to do and though there is no constitutional provision we hope that would be corrected because the National Assembly has undertaken the processes for amending the constitution.
Now, we voted the NASS and the president said they are going to cooperate because we all are want good governance and the NASS are the product of the people who have entrusted this authority to legislate to them and so whatever the people want the NASS should cooperate. And the people want inclusion of certain provisions in the constitution so be it.