A’Ibom Councils Hanging Precariously In The Balance As Senate Moves Against Unelected LGs
All the 31 Local Governments in Akwa Ibom State, are currently at the risk of being cut-off from receiving their monthly allocations from next year if the Tinubu administration implements the resolution of the Red Chamber of the National Assembly concerning unelected local government councils.
The Senate which is under the watch of a homeboy, Godswill Akpabio, wants Abuja to withhold statutory allocations to local government councils that are not democratically elected.
The three-year tenure of the local government administration in the state has expired. As at last week, the speculation in Uyo, the state capital, was that Governor Umo Eno is likely to constitute an undemocratic caretaker committee since there are no immediate plans for council polls.
Akwa Ibom State Independent Electoral Commission (AKISIEC) on December 4, 2020, gave out certificates of return to the then chairman and councillors-elect.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won all the 31 chairmanship and 367 councillorship positions in the 2020 local government polls that AKISIEC conducted. Chairman of the electoral agency, Aniedi Ikoiwak, a church elder, announced that at the presentation of certificates of returns to the elected chairmen and councillors whose tenure has expired.
The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state reacted to the election outcome, claiming that there was no election in Akwa Ibom. In a statement jointly signed by its then State Chairman, Amadu Attai, Caucus Chairman, Don Etiebet and State Secretary, Effiong Etok rejected results of the election
“We had informed all our candidates to the election and our teeming members and supporters throughout the 31 Local Government Areas and 329 Wards to ensure full compliance with the provision of Section 27 (1) & (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) that any election result announced or declared without compliance with the procedures stipulated by the electoral act shall be vehemently rejected.
“To this end, APC wishes to inform the general public that there was no election at all according to the provision of Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). Moreover, in their quest to rig and announce spurious results, all sensitive materials including the results sheet were nowhere to be found”, the party said.
The party accordingly informed the security agencies, the state government, the federal government, and the general public that they rejected in its entirety the result AKISIEC announced.
However, the Senate unanimously resolved that the move will deter the dictatorial tendencies of some state governors.
This resolution is coming against the backdrop of a motion moved by Senator Abba Moro on the urgent need to halt the erosion of democracy vis-a-vis the dissolution of elected councils in Benue State.
The lawmakers argued that the placement of caretaker committees to replace elected councils is an aberration, undemocratic and a breach of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
Senator Victor Umeh, who is representing Anambra Senatorial District, who seconded the motion, lamented that the issue has continued to undermine the local government system in Nigeria.
Consequently, the Senate condemned the arbitrary dissolution of democratically elected local government councils in Benue and other states.
Last June, the Alia administration suspended all local government executives in Benue. To therefore save the face of Nigeria’s democracy, the Senate urged Alia to adhere to his oath of office, obey the rule of law, review the constitution of caretaker committees, and reinstate the elected councils.
Interestingly, Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), guarantees a system of local government run by democratically elected councils. The constitution requires all states to enact legislation providing for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of local government councils.
The tenure of local council elected officials differ across states in Nigeria because it is determined by each state government. The state governments also have the power to determine when local government elections are conducted.
Each of the states has enacted its own legislation. While core functions of local government are defined in the 4th Schedule of the constitution, individual states may augment their responsibilities through legislation.
The Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) shared N906.955 billion with the three tiers of government in October 2023. According to it, from the N906.955 billion total distributable revenue, the federal government received a total of N323.355 billion, the state governments received N307.717 billion and the local government councils received N225.209 billion.
FAAC also said from N305.070 billion in distributable statutory revenue, the federal government received N147.574 billion, the state governments received N74.852 billion and the local government councils received N57.707 billion.
Abuja again received N48.517 billion, the state received N161.723 billion and the local government councils received N113.206 billion from the N323.446 billion distributable Value Added Tax (VAT) revenue.
The foregoing are what councils in Akwa Ibom are likely to be blocked from, without democratically elected councils in place. This is even as the 2024 appropriation bill has passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
The budget scaled second reading during plenary on Friday after an extensive two-day debate by lawmakers. President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday presented a record N27.5 trillion as the proposed budget for 2024, before a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
While Tinubu asked the lawmakers to expedite the consideration of the budget and ensure that the appropriation bill is passed before January, Majority Leader of the House,
Julius Ihonvbere, led the debate on Thursday, saying the budget will address “strategic areas” of the nation’s economy, expressing satisfaction that a chunk of the budget will be allocated to security.
Other lawmakers took turns to expatiate on the appropriation bill’s principles, making recommendations ranging from stringent scrutiny of the budget breakdown during engagement with heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), to effective oversight to block leakages.
In his contribution, Ahmed Jaha from Borno asked the president to allocate a “substantial amount” for security and defence, saying the country cannot record significant progress without the security of lives and property. Sada Soli from Katsina asked his colleagues to thoroughly scrutinise the personnel cost of MDAs in the budget to block “over-bloated” proposals.
“Let the committee chairs look at the issue of personnel cost because they are over-bloated”, he said, as Sani Bala from Kano, in his submission said the country cannot get its security right without securing its borders.
The lawmakers voted in favour of the appropriation bill when it was put to a voice vote by the Speaker of the House, Tajudeen Abbas. Subsequently, the house adjourned plenary to December 12 to enable lawmakers to engage MDAs who will appear before the relevant committees to defend their proposals.
Last week, the Senate and the house of representatives approved the 2024-2026 medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) and fiscal strategy paper (FSP) — parameters on which the 2024 appropriation bill will be framed.
The lawmakers approved $73.96, $73.76 and $69.90 per barrel as benchmark oil prices for daily crude oil production of 1.78 million barrels, 1.80 million barrels, and 1.81 million barrels, for 2024, 2025, and 2026 respectively.
Also, the parliament approved an exchange rate of N700/$, N665.61/$ and N669.79/$, as proposed by the federal government for the period 2024–2026.
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