President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration will support a constitutional amendment to free local governments from the stranglehold of state governments.
Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, said in a statement that Buhari made his position known when he received the leadership of the Association of Local Governments in Nigeria (ALGON) on Thursday in Abuja.
He stated that the President told the ALGON leadership that the amendment, when carried out, would better the lot of Nigerians at the community level.
He stressed that a constitutional amendment was urgently required to clearly define the relationship among the three tiers of government.
He described the frosty relationship between states and local governments as a “very serious constitutional problem”.
“The relationship between the three tiers of government is not a very nice one, especially that between the local governments and the states.
The states feel like they own the local governments if they are of the same party. It is worse if they are not.
This is a very serious constitutional problem and unless there is absolute clarity and transparency, the relationship will continue to be exploited against the interest of the ordinary people of the country,” he added.
Buhari advised the ALGON executives to hold consultations with their people and lawyers with a view to presenting a bill that would seek constitutional amendment to free the councils from the stranglehold of the states.
He said “this will limit the damage they can do to you. The quicker you do this the better, so that you can help your people much more.”
He acknowledged the request by ALGON for the release of $3.2 billion wrongfully deducted by the Federal Government for the final settlement of foreign debts in 2005.
President Buhari said the government recognized the judgment debt but the timing of the request for its repayment was wrong, given the current economic situation in the country.
In his remarks, the acting ALGON National President, Alhaji Ibrahim Karaye, stressed the need to ensure the sovereignty of local government administration in the country.
The ALGON leader expressed the Association’s full support to the President’s programmes on improving security, anti-corruption campaign, and economic revival.