12 October 2003

Nigeria: Local Government Reforms Unconstitutional - Wayas

Abuja — Second Republic Senate President, Dr Joseph Wayas has described as "unconstitutional" the on-going local council reforms by the Federal Government.

Speaking on the topic "Prospects for a More Effective Local Government System in Nigeria" at a national seminar organised by the office of the Senior Special Assistant (Legal and Constitutional Matters) to the Vice President, Wayas noted that the 1999 Constitution did not guarantee reforms as well as the continued disbursement of statutory allocations meant for the third tier of government to states, outside the constitution.

"However, what is worrisome and agitating the minds of many Nigerians is the suspension of election into the local government considering the fact that its existence is constitutionally guaranteed by the 1999 constitution under Section 7 (1) which is still operational", he said.

Continuing, he remarked: "What is more, the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allo-cation Commission (RMFAC) is still disbursing the statutory monthly allocation due to that tier of government to it when the present local councils are not democratically elected or recognized by the constitution. This is an aberration with its unsettling consequences for our nascent democracy".

He argued that by the provisions of the 1999 constitution, elections into the council ought to have been held as at May 2002 stating that the reform was not in line with the constitution as the subsisting law was being ignored.

He further queried the stoppage of the operations of government at the local council level until reforms were completed, the duration of the council reform, just as he wondered whether reform in a democratic setting was proper without constitution review.

"It is my reasoned and well informed opinion that it would have been more comfortable if elections were conducted into that level of government while reforms are going on so that fresh elections in the future are organized along the line of the new reform", he said.

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