Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives on Monday expressed optimism that the proposed financial autonomy for State Houses of Assembly and Local Government Councils will address the growing level of discontentment and disenchantment by the generality of Nigerians.
The Speaker gave the charge at a consultative meeting for building consensus among the conference of Speakers, National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and leaders of thought on local government and State Houses of Assembly Autonomy by leveraging on the ongoing Constitution Review exercise.
Dogara also applauded the overwhelming support for State Houses of Assembly’s financial autonomy in the last aborted Constitution Alteration exercise in the 7th Assembly, having learnt from the bitter experience of the 2nd Alteration of the Constitution where the State Houses of Assembly on their own turned down autonomy for State Houses of Assembly.
Reiterating his position that financial autonomy for local governments and State Houses of Assembly will bring good governance and dividends of democracy to the states and rural areas, Dogara noted that “Indeed, financial autonomy for the State legislatures is one of the most important ingredients for good governance at the State level.”
Stressing the need for continous dialogue and consensus building in democratic governance, Dogara said it provides a platform for thorny and divergent views to be discussed, harmonised and addressed amicably.
“Democracy in practice, is a process through which government actors and citizens’ representatives continuously dialogue constructively in order to build harmony and consensus on critical and competing issues and interests.
“Consultation is a very critical element of any democracy because it provides a platform for thorny and divergent views to be discussed, harmonised and addressed amicably,” the Speaker noted.
While urging them to put the interest of the nation first by adopting the recommendations, he noted that the ongoing Constitution Amendment exercise affords lawmakers the opportunity to improve on governance from the grassroots to the top.
He observed that the “amendment exercise could not have come at a better time than now that there is a loud and deafening call across the nation for restructuring and deepening our democratic systems and processes.
“As leaders, we must use every opportunity to find ways of strengthening Nigeria’s unity through effective governance and delivery of public goods and services that will lead to an improvement in the livelihoods of the average Nigerian.
“If we can make the local government system work effectively, most of the discontentment and disenchantment among the rural population and the generality of Nigerians will be greatly reduced.
“The Constitution amendment process provides an opportunity for the National Assembly in collaboration with the State legislatures to enhance our governance architecture, strengthen our democratic institutions, entrench equity and social justice in our polity and most importantly put Nigeria on the part of greatness that Nigerians crave for.”
He commended the leadership of the State Houses of Assembly, DFID and PERLS for the partnership and support in the previous amendments, and called for same as the legislature strives to find lasting solutions to the bottlenecks that have inhibited the ability of Nigeria to achieve its true potentials.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja