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Constitution, not suit will address LG autonomy – AbdulRazaq

Written by silvernewsng

By Onyeche Igwe

The Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has said the constitution needs to be amended “to expunge the Joint Account Allocation Committee” for local governments to fully have financial autonomy.

AbdulRazaq, who is the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, said though he personally believes in LG autonomy, the constitution provided for the JAAC.

“JAAC, in summary, pulls resources together to pay all teachers, health workers, traditional rulers, and other statutory duties listed in the schedule of the local government areas,” the governor explained.

“If we all want these to change as a national consensus, we believe that the constitution will have to be amended to expunge JAAC,” AbdulRazaq said.

He was reacting to the lawsuit filed by the Federal Government at the Supreme Court against the 36 states of the federation.

The Federation Government, in the suit filed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), wants the Supreme Court to order that funds standing to the credit of local governments from the Federation Account should be paid to them directly rather than through the state governments.

The Federal Government also wants the court to stop state governors from appointing caretaker committees to manage the affairs of local governments instead of duly elected local government chairmen and councillors.

Hearing in the suit has been fixed for June 13, with most of the states countering the prayers of the Federal Government.

AbdulRazaq, on Wednesday, insisted that Kwara State was not in violation of the provisions of the law on the subject.

A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Rafiu Ajakaye, quoted the governor as saying, “The position of the state in the ongoing legal proceedings on local government is that the state does not violate any section of the law regarding autonomy.

“It is my personal belief that each local government should manage its resources and be responsible for its obligations, including wages that are first-line charges. I also believe that the state governor should not be held liable if any local government is unable to pay salaries since we do not touch a kobo of their money.

“We also do not have any joint project accounts with any local government in the state, as was the case with the previous administration in our state.

“These are my personal beliefs. But my personal belief is not necessarily the same as the letters of the law, including the provisions of the JAAC, which is a creation of the Constitution. As of today, local government allocations are sent to the JAAC as required by the law. Section 162 of the Constitution is very clear on this.

“As things stand today, no activity of the local government in Kwara State is at variance with these provisions of the law. Our case in the court is not about my personal belief. It is, we believe, in the defence of the constitution, which created JAAC for reasons that are well-grounded in our experiences as a people. JAAC, in summary, pulls resources together to pay all teachers, health workers, traditional rulers, and other statutory duties listed in the schedule of the local government areas.

“If we all want these to change as a national consensus, we believe that the constitution will have to be amended to expunge JAAC,” AbdulRazaq said.

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