The House of Representatives is working on a bill seeking to empower the states of the federation to create local government areas without recourse to the Federal Government.
The proposal seeks to delist the current 744 LGAs from the constitution, thereby throwing the opportunity open for states to create more councils unhindered.
This is contained in the ‘Bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Cap. 23 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 to Delist the Local Government Areas from Part 1 of the First Schedule to the Constitution and Other Matters Related Thereto.’
The bill particularly seeks to delete Section 3(2) and (6) of the constitution “in its entirety.”
It also proposes that “the local government areas as provided under Part 1 of the First Schedule be deleted in its entirety.”
The bill is awaiting second reading.
Sponsor of the bill, Mr Olawale Raji, who is representing Epe Federal Constituency of Lagos State, said the process of creating more local governments in his state was stalled by the fact that it required constitution amendment to do so.
The then governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, had a running battle with the Federal Government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which frustrated his move to create 37 more LGAs for the state.
The Federal Government had argued that the decision was illegal because the state did not pass through the National Assembly while creating the councils.
Consequently, Obasanjo ordered the Federal Ministry of Finance to suspend disbursement of funds to Lagos LGAs from the Federation Account.
The Supreme Court later overruled the Federal Government, following a suit instituted by the then Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (now Vice-President), declaring that the Obasanjo’s administration had no powers to withhold funds for the LGAs or tamper with the Federation Account.
The court had also held that although Lagos had the power to create new councils, “there is still one more step or hurdle to be taken or crossed at the National Assembly for the plaintiff (Lagos State) to actualise the creation of the new local councils.”
The then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Muhammadu Uwais, who gave the lead judgment, nullified the new LGAs created in Lagos but asked that the withheld funds be released to the existing 20 LGAs.
The Tinubu-led administration had, however, maintained the 20 LGAs and the 37 local council development areas without allocation.
Raji said, “With this proposed amendment, it will now be possible for states to create LGAs as may be needed to suit their circumstances without resorting to amending the constitution. This will still go to the constitution review committee led by the Deputy President of the Senate (Ovie Omo-Agege) and the Deputy Speaker (Ahmed Wase).”