LG autonomy: Supreme Court decision, a blow for true federalism – Ibori

FORMER Chief James Ibori, Governor of Delta State, stated Thursday that the Supreme Court’s decision to extend financial autonomy to local government councils was a serious setback to federalism.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, Ibori stated on his X account, “The Supreme Court has dealt a severe setback on the principle of federalism as defined by section 162(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”

“The clause clearly specifies that any money standing to the credit of the Federation Account shall be disbursed among the Federal and State Governments, and the Local Government Councils in each State, on such terms and in such manner as may be established by the National Assembly.

“Section 6 provides additional clarification on the subject. (6) Each State should establish a special account known as the ‘State Joint Local Government Account’ into which all allocations to the State’s Local Government Councils from the Federation Account and the State Government would be paid.

“The court’s decision undermines true federalism. The federal government has no authority to intervene with the administration of local governments under any pretence. A federal form of governance consists of only two layers.

“I am opposed to messing with the allocations to the Joint LG Accounts at the state level, but it does not justify this death knell to the plain mandates of Section 162 of the Constitution. The ruling’s consequences are far-reaching, with the following issues immediately coming to mind:

“1. Constitutional Interpretation: The Supreme Court’s decision appears to contradict the explicit provisions of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution.” This raises concerns regarding judicial interpretation and whether the court has overstepped its authority by reinterpreting plain constitutional wording.

“2. Balance of Power: The decision may alter the balance of power between the federal government and the states. Allowing federal participation in local government finances appears to centralise greater power at the federal level, which contradicts the principles of federalism.

  1. State authority: This option may result in less state authority. In a federal system, states should have considerable power over their internal affairs, including the administration of local governments.

  2. Financial Independence: The verdict may have an impact on the financial independence of states and local governments. If the federal government has the authority to directly meddle in local government finances, it may utilise this as a tactic for political leverage.

“5. Precedent Setting: This decision may pave the stage for additional federal intrusions in areas typically held for state governance, potentially leading to a more centralised government system over time.

“The requirement that local governments be ‘democratically elected’ goes without saying. Yes, I agree with the constitution’s viewpoint, but withholding their allocation is not the way to go. It’s wrong.

“In the next days, we will gain a better understanding of the Supreme Court ruling. An assault on the constitution is not the solution to tinkering with the Joint LG Account. If the verdict states that governors cannot temper, alter, or meddle with the joint accounts, that is excellent; they should not be doing so in the first place.

“However, expecting the Federal Government to pay local government appropriations straight to the local government’s account would result in complete disarray and unneeded friction in governance.

“Like the Hon. Justice Oputa JSC of blessed memory once stated in describing the Supreme Court, “we are not final because we are infallible; we are infallible only because we are final.”

“I sincerely hope for a swift review of today’s judgement, as it fundamentally challenges the notion of federalism.”




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