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Supreme Court grants financial autonomy to Local Governments

Written by silvernewsng

By Onyeche Igwe

The Supreme Court has barred the 36 governors of the federation from further retaining or utilizing funds that are meant for the 774 Local Government Areas in the country.

The apex court ruled that it is illegal and unconstitutional for governors to continue to receive and seize funds allocated to LGAs in their states.

It maintained that the “dubious practice” which has gone on for over two decades, was a clear violation of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

In its lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court held that no House of Assembly of any state has the power to make laws that could, in any manner, interfere with monies meant for the LGAs.

Stressing that the law mandated that LGAs must be governed by democratically elected officials, the Supreme Court ordered that forthwith, funds meant for the LGAs must be directly paid to them from the federation account.

“Demands of justice require a progressive interpretation of the law. It is the position of this court that the federation can pay LGA allocations to the LGAs directly or pay them through the states.

“In this case, since paying them through states has not worked, justice of this case demands that LGA allocations from the federation account should henceforth be paid directly to the LGAs,” the apex court held.

It further declared unconstitutional the appointment of caretaker committees by governors to run the affairs of the LGAs.

It held that the 36 states are under obligation to ensure democratic governance at the third tier of government.

The judgement followed a suit the Federal Government filed to secure financial autonomy for the LGAs.

Reacting, some experts said the matter doesn’t have any consequences on a sitting governor because governors will still have their ways to the LGA finance indirectly.

Local Government allocation will be directly paid to the LGA. The LGAs have Director of Finance/Treasurer who will have control over Local Government monies and these Directors of Finance or Treasurers are under the appointment, transfer and control of State Governors.

Again, governors have the political power to bring who becomes or work with them as LGA Chairmen. Thereby, having their ways.

On the other hand, governors still have power for other administrative functions in LGAs.

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