Abuja — The House of Representatives Monday tackled the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) over its disagreement with the National Assembly on the proposed amendment of the 1999 Constitution to grant financial autonomy to local government councils.
The lower chamber of the National Assembly said the issue of granting autonomy to the 774 local councils in the country was long over due and accused the state governors of truncating it in order to continue to "pilfer" funds meant for the councils.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakary Mohammed, who made the position of the green chamber known, took exception to some comments credited to a member of the forum and the Kano State Governor, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, on the issue.
Kwankwaso had in an interview at the weekend kicked against local government autonomy and the constitution review, describing the National Assembly as a drainpipe.
Kwankwaso had in the said interview faulted the proposed review of the 1999 Constitution, saying the lawmakers embarked on the exercise for pecuniary gains.
In a terse statement made available to journalists Monday, the spokesman of the House accused Kwankwaso of making misleading statements about the position of the House on issues such as the local government autonomy, independence of the state legislature and constituency projects.
"Our attention has been drawn to a recent media interview where the Governor of Kano State, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, gave a lot of misleading conceptions about the seventh House of Representatives stand on local government autonomy, independence of the state legislature and constituency projects among so many other issues.
"The issue of local government autonomy as far as Nigerians are concerned is long over due, arising from our people public sessions as true representatives of the people.
"Our constituents do not agree with the current status where local government funds are being pilfered by governors (including Governor Kwankwaso) at the expense of the people and the chairmen (of councils) who are seen as mere boys for the job," he said.
Mohammed challenged the Kano State governor to tell the people of his state and Nigerians how funds meant for the local councils have been managed since he assumed office.
"We would certainly not accept a situation where governors turn themselves into demi-gods in the name of running a State/Local Government Joint Account.
"It is only in Nigeria that an elected governor of a state would speak to the media frontally eroding democratic ideals of which he is a beneficiary. It is saddening to note that local council elections have not been held in some states since1999 and one wonders what sort of government states are running," Mohammed said.
In response to some of the jibes Kwankwaso had thrown against the House, Mohammed said at no time did the National Assembly instigate the state Houses of Assembly against governors on the issue of autonomy for the councils.
According to Mohammed, the House of Representatives had never hidden its resolve for true federalism, where the federal, states and local governments would function as federating units for the benefit of the Nigeria people.
"Dr. Kwankwaso should realise that the current unitary federalism that is being propagated by him and his colleagues is responsible for the high number of graft cases against governors on corruption.
"Why is he afraid of the legislatures being independent in the state? The recent outburst seriously calls to question the integrity of a lot of men who masquerade themselves as state chief executives.
"A lot of state assemblies are an extension of the state executive council, where speakers and the house leadership permanently go cap in hand to the governors for their needs.
"If the state legislatures are independent as it is being proposed it would give the electorate a voice instead of the situation that keeps the governors as emperors of their various enclaves," Mohammed said.
On the issue of constituency projects, Mohammed explained that though it has been enshrined in the budget, members of the National Assembly only suggest the location of these projects while the execution of the projects is left in the hands of the various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in the executive arm of government.
"We neither handle contracts, nor cash, but in the said interview the Kano State governor erroneously referred to the projects as drain pipes.
"These monies being spent to improve the lives of our teaming population is not up to the ones he and his co-travellers squander in the name of security votes. Or where do governors get the funds to massage their flamboyant life styles of flying private jets for themselves and their family members?
"As a former member of the National Assembly, minister and governor, Kwankwaso should realise that a man who lives in a glass house should not throw stones," Mohammed counselled.