Those referring to local government as the third tier of government get it wrong, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) said on Sunday. The NGF said the local government is not recognised by the 1999 Constitution as a tier of government. It said only the federal and state governments are recognised.
NGF chairman and Ekiti State Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi said the guidelines by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) on the financial autonomy for local government were issued by an agency oblivious of the provisions of the constitution.
Fayemi said only a constitution amendment can change the status quo.
He said any Constitution review in that direction will also require the approval by two-thirds of the 36 Houses of Assembly.
Fayemi told reporters in Lagos that the rift over the NFIU’s proposals and the controversy over government autonomy had shifted to the court, adding that parties in the dispute cannot take further steps outside the constitution.
Rejecting the unconstitutional description of local council as a third tier, he said: “As far as we are concerned, the position of the NGF on the issue is the position of the law.
“There is no law that has been passed in the country on local government autonomy. There have been several attempts, but it has never gotten 24 states Houses of Assembly out of the 36 in the country to make it happen.”
Fayemi maintained that Nigeria is a two-tier federation, contrary to the erroneous belief in some quarters.
He said: “Nigeria is not a three-tier federation; the talks about Nigeria being a three-tier federation is a distortion; it is just an aberration that we even have to go to Abuja to get approval on local governments.
“If you want to create 200 local governments, it is your business because you and your people in your state should figure it out. It should not be the business of Abuja because that for me is surreptitious unitarism.
“You cannot go behind to do what the constitution does not allow you to do and that was what informed our position at the NGF over the ridiculous instruction to banks.
“You know that you cannot confront us; you are now going to bankers. What is the business of the banks with the accounts maintained by local government as long as the accounts are funded and the proper persons run the accounts?
“Besides that, what is the business of the NFIU on local government funds? When you read the NFIU law, NFIU monitors what is going on in the banking system, internationally and locally and if you have a specific case of money laundering, please bring it up. You cannot have a general rule to address a unique problem.
“You can’t because you want to fight money laundering; you now say that states and local governments cannot run joint accounts, which is in the constitution of Nigeria. Section 162 and we have a case pending in court on the issue.”