The Senator-elect of Anambra Central Senatorial District, Sen. Uche Ekwunife at the weekend said that political and financial autonomy of local government councils was vital to the growth of Nigeria’s democracy.
Ekwunife who spoke while reacting to the new Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) guidelines designed to among other things ensure financial independence for local government councils, described the new guideline as a welcome development.
She stressed that beyond financial autonomy, local government councils equally deserve political autonomy which would in real terms ensure that elected officials were put in charge of local governments and were held accountable for funds that accrue to the councils.
She said, “As a member of House of Representatives, I pursued the amendment of Sections 7 and 162 of the 1999 constitution to guarantee political and financial independence for local government administration, the Bill was also in the pipeline in the Senate before I left the Red Chambers in 2015.
“The local government is an important arm of government – the closest to the people, and hence should not be subsumed by the State government as we have today in most states. They are very close to the traditional rulers and President-Generals of communities and if empowered, the communities can easily hold them responsible for their needs, an outcome that will drive governance down to the grassroots.
“With a vibrant and independent local government administration, provision of basic infrastructures such as: construction of rural roads, provision of pipe borne water, building of schools and markets can be undertaken by local government administration in communities within councils’ jurisdiction, which will drive competition at that level of government.”
Commending the new NFIU guideline as a step in the right direction, Ekwunife stressed the need for all arms of government, particularly the legislature to come up with the needed legislation that would guarantee the practice of local government autonomy as intended by the constitution.