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S’Court’s judgement on LGA autonomy: A move that revitalizes the hopes of Nigerians

It has been established that prior to this time, Nigerian state governors controlled local governments in an authoritarian manner. The local government, the third tier of government, has been reduced to a mere department under state governments, in clear violation of Section 7 of the Nigerian Constitution. To tackle this unacceptable situation, the Federal Government, through the Attorney General of the Federation, took the 36 state governors to the Supreme Court to clarify the roles and powers of state governors and local governments.

In response to the Federal Government’s action, some commentators argued that the Federal Government’s decision violated true federalism principles, which acknowledge only two levels of government: federal and state. They also argued that local governments, being grassroots entities, should be under state control. However, it is crucial to recognize that each nation can determine its own federalism system.

The decision to have two or three tiers of government is a constitutional decision, made in accordance with the principle of national sovereignty. Therefore, states must adhere to the federalism system established by the constitution, as stated in Section 1(1) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, which establishes the constitution as the supreme law, binding on all authorities and individuals in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

On Thursday, July 11, 2024, the Nigerian Supreme Court, exercising its constitutional interpretation powers, ruled that states governors cannot control local government activities. The Supreme Court also ruled that states governors cannot receive or control local government funds. This ruling effectively bans the operation of Transition Committees, which has become commonplace in many states. Additionally, state governors will no longer control local government funds. This ruling reaffirms the autonomy of local governments in Nigeria and aims to boost grassroots development.

All patriotic citizens should welcome this development, which will enable Nigerians at the grassroots to enjoy the benefits of democracy and help address the lingering insecurity in various parts of the country. Credit must also be given to the current administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu for prioritizing adherence to our federalism system. The Tinubu administration is expected to implement further reforms to strengthen our government system and consolidate Nigeria’s federal status. This will also revitalize the hopes of millions of Nigerians.

Chukwuemerie Uduchukwu writes from Uyo, AkwaIbom State.