By Tata Mbunwe
Cameroon’s first ever Regional Councils have been established with 90 elected councilors per region but hope for autonomous regions remains bleak as appointed Governors will oversee the affairs of the elected body.
Although Government envisages that the Regional Council is an arm of decentralisation, power yet seems centralised around appointed Governors, with the Regional Code according them powers to crack down on the Regional Assemblies.
In as much as Governors must be present before Regional Council sessions can take place, the General Code on Regional and Local Authorities empowers Governors to “shutdown” council sessions if they discuss what is “illegal”.
According to Section 18(1) of the Regional Code, Regional Councils cannot discuss issues concerning State Universities within the region but are only permitted to discuss about the running of primary and secondary schools during their sessions.
They risk being called off immediately if they violate this provision.
The Governor can immediately shutdown a council session if “he finds any violation of their functions, such as holding meetings outside the few sessions prescribed for them annually by law, or discussing matters outside their jurisdiction,” according to Section 298 of the Code.
Regional Councils shall be prohibited from issuing Political statements or addresses threatening territorial integrity or national unity or collaborating with organs outside state structure, Southwest Governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai, said while addressing the maiden Regional Council session on Tuesday.
The extent of the Governors’ power over Regional Councils is not yet defined but the Governors directly represent the State during Regional Council sessions.
Some Cameroonians have opined that the presence of Governors at Regional Council sessions is an indirect means of silencing views that might oppose the state or the ruling CPDM party, which is the only party represented in the Regional Councils of the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions.
The state may likely influence the tune of Council deliberations through Governors who are rather answerable to the President who appointed them.
Mimi Mefo Info