Jonathan and the Fallacy Called Local Government Allocation By Nasiru Suwaid
It was a masterstroke of a statement when it was made, which was the statement made by President Goodluck Jonathan at his controversial campaign rally in Kano, where he told the crowd that the 44 local government areas in the state have received over 250 billion naira, as their entitlement share from the federal government collated and collected revenue receipts. Expectedly, due to the large amount quoted and the fact that the local administrations in the state have been operating in a temporary arrangement, which enabled unelected sole administrators that are only answerable to the governor to preside, a fact that has been existing for the past three years since the coming into office of the Kwankwaso administration and in fact, the state is only now on the eve of local government elections, which ordinarily, people would be right as to wonder what is really happening. Of course, the governor in the chivalrous tradition of adversarial politics, answered back within hours of the bait thrown, by citing projects executed by the state government all over the place, specifically, he pointed to the two state universities built by his administration and proclaimed, the funds mentioned had been utilized in the creation of the tertiary institutions.
Many a critic of the state administration and indeed, some apolitical commentators, had pondered whether the governor was right to have stated spending allocations due for local governments to the other sectors of the state administration. Looking at the statement simply, it could be easily said that the governor erred, when he took funds that have been allocated to a specific and specified entity, having a distinct territorial mass and an established functional responsibility to administer as a government, yet despite all that, such funds were reallocated to other areas, even though the entitlements had already been published into a gazette as their due share. Unfortunately, within the context of Nigerian law and the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the governor has broken no law, were he to reallocate what was allocated to any local government areas within the boundaries of Kano state, because, an allocation and a gazette is not a law or an appropriation document, enabling the spending of such funds in the local government area, rather, it is a mere proposal for the funds to be spent there, which would still require an appropriation law to enforce the spending.
The problem is although a local government in Nigeria has a legislative arm, the body can only make a bye law, which is a subsidiary legislation that has not reached the status of an enabling law and the power of an appropriation can only be made in an enacted document. Thus, the appropriations of funds of the local government authority is only done by the state houses of assemblies, through the instrumentality of a codified law enabling the spending of the allocated funds, but, a state house of assembly is the legislative arm of the state government, not that of a local government area. The question that should be validly asked is if a local government is a distinct entity, having its individual, independent and a definite allocation, why is it unable to appropriate its allocations through its legislative arm that it had to rely on the legislative arm of a different tier of government, in this case being the state government. It is important to note that a state administration, which also receives its allocation via a gazette document, does not have to wait or rely on the National Assembly to appropriate its allocated funds, rather, all it needs is the input of its State House of Assembly.
In the context of Nigeria as a nation, we have a three tier system of government, which are the federal, state and local government areas. But, the fact that every tier of government is independent and separate of each others, in terms of their ability to appropriate funds signifies one of the fundamental characteristics of true federalism, which infers that it must exist for any of the three tiers to see itself as a fully pledged government. Unfortunately, while the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, had mentioned and enshrined the existence of local councils in Nigeria as a governmental entity, it merely made them an appendages of the state government, who cannot legislate, appropriate and act outside the powers conferred on them by the State Houses of Assembly. The next question raised by the presidential challenge is whether a governor can steal allocated and allotted funds, by misapplying them to such projects outside the council areas, unfortunately, within the premises of Nigerian laws, insofar as the funds were appropriated to be spent, the charge of any illegality does not suffice.
Now imagine this situation as an example of our legal predicament, Kano state government could seek an appropriation of the mentioned local government funds, to maybe buy an Ogogoro as a refreshment for a People’s Democratic Party rally to be held in perhaps the village of Otueke , Bayelsa State, were it to be approved by the Kano State House of Assembly, no law could be said to have been broken, insofar as the liquor was not bought and used within the territorial jurisdiction of Kano state and most importantly, the action was done to diligently implement an appropriation law of the state.
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