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Battle to Save LGs

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A presidential committee headed by retired Justice Alfa Belgore suggests ways to salvage the nation’s local governments from the over bearing influence of state governors

The third tier of government, local government council areas will soon escape from the grip of state governors who have hitherto them prostate.  This is one of the recommendations of the Justice Alfa Belgore-led Presidential Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution and all outstanding issues from recent constitutional conferences.

The committee, while submitting its report to President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, July 10, in Abuja, called for an independent, incorruptible and stabilised local government system that could be administered by democratically elected officials. According to Belgore, a sound local government is necessary to deepen the principles of democracy and sound management at the grassroots.

The committee, which was inaugurated on November 17, 2011, reached unanimous agreements on changes in key areas of the Constitution, including provisions to strengthen fundamental rights as well as legal protection for all citizens, especially children, women and the physically-challenged; security of life and property, the protection of the law, speedy and fairer administration of justice and local council administration.

In addition, the committee recommended the strengthening of the Legislature at all levels and also to demand conformity with extant national regulations in the conduct of their affairs and the granting of the executive more flexibility in policy-making, like the removal of the Land Use Act from the Constitution but retaining it as a National Law.

President Jonathan had, in November 2011, set up the committee with a mandate to take a special look at the political and constitutional review conferences, judicial reform efforts, charter on human and people’s rights, environment and natural resources, local government joint accounts and the revenue sharing formula.

The committee was also mandated to develop draft bills on previously agreed issues that would go a long way in strengthening bonds.

These settled issues include strong recommendations from past Constitutional and Political Reform Conferences on National Security, Human Rights and Social Security, People’s Charter and Social Obligations; Environment and Natural Resources, Models and Structure of Government, Public Service, Power Sharing, Local Government Reforms and the economy.

Other areas of firm agreement include proposals for Judiciary and Legal Reforms, constitutional amendments pertaining to the Public Service, Anti-Corruption, State Joint Local Government Account, Traditional Institutions and Cultural Reforms; and Civil Society, Labour, Trade Unions and National Media Reforms.

Belgore said, while presenting the report, that the committee critically appraised the recommendations of recent Constitutional Conferences, endorsed many of the recommendations made therefrom and produced a main report, drafts of bills or the amendments to the constitution that will guide the National Assembly in its work.

The committee also reviewed many parts of the Constitution. In particular, according to Belgore, the committee put new visions into creating an optimally independent, incorruptible and stabilising local government system that shall always be administered by democratically- elected officials that must be accountable, responsive to local needs, directed, controlled and sanctioned by appropriated laws. This is intended to deepen principles the of democracy and sound resource management at the grassroots where it really matters.

He appealed for the jettisoning of the system of justice the nation inherited from the colonialists pointing out that the procedures Nigeria inherited from the colonial times which were originally meant for jury has not helped the speedy dispensation of justice. “The British have done away with the procedures while we still insist on them as sacrosanct, which is unfortunate,” he said.


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