Of the three tiers of government operational in Nigeria, the local government administration is the one established to cater for the most basic needs and obligations owed to the people by the overall administration of the country.
Take away the local government set up and there are several millions of Nigerians who would never know nor feel the impact of government. Indeed, several millions would never realise the full extent of citizenship and the duties and benefits therein but for the existence of the local government system.
For a vast number of Nigerians, the highest and, sometimes, the only government official or operative within their vicinity is the councillor while their only hope of receiving any form of government assistance or support lies with the local government administration.
The importance of this level of government, therefore, cannot be over-emphasised while its seeming relegation in the scheme of things in the country will continue to be the subject of spirited discourse by discerning and well-meaning citizens.
Perhaps, it is in the light of this that the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), the umbrella body of the leadership of the 774 local government councils in Nigeria, is pressing for a more effective, better organised, more result-oriented and independent system that can deliver on its mandate without let or hindrance.
Speaking to newsmen at the sidelines of the association’s National Executive Council meeting in Kano earlier this month, a former Deputy National President, Mr Constantine Ikiako bared the mind of the group on a number of issues, one of which was a four-year tenure for chairmen of the local councils in the country.
Mr Ikiako who is also the Delta State ALGON Chairman decried the prevailing disorganised system where there is no uniform tenure of office for the councils’ heads across the country and made a strong case for a better state of affairs that will foster stability and greater leverage for service delivery.
“We think that the national and state assemblies need to ensure that there is harmonious tenure for local governments. For instance, some spend six months, some two years, while some three years.
“So, we have to make it, at least, three to four years. These are the issues we’re discussing and ensure we synchonise them”, he said.
According to Mr Ikiako, the council chairmen were no longer satisfied with being instruments of political patronage instead of being true agents of development that should be allowed to interface even with international development partners and thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his interventions so far.
“We want our offices to be turned into areas where ideas are discussed properly. All we hear are the contracts that were awarded before we came in, and the president has said it must stop.
“Unfortunately, it was witnessed with a stiff resistance, but we vowed it must stop so that we can focus on re-engineering in partnership with development agencies to grow the local governments. Our prayer is that subsequent governments will realise that local government need to survive for Nigeria to be better”, he emphasised.
While many Nigerians agree that the local government system needs more freedom from the seemingly overbearing influence of the state governments in order to perform optimally, critical observers of the system also point out that functionaries of the system have not done enough to justify the opportunities given them so far.
Exchanging views with The Tide in Port Harcourt, a public affairs analyst and community leader, Chief Loveday Okere, said that ALGON was not being fair to the people in asking for a four-year tenure in office as they had generally not done enough to stay for more than two years in office.
“As far as I’m concerned, there’s no merit in what they’re asking for . That will be asking for too much from the people they’ redisappointed for a long time”, he argued, adding that “This is because for a local government chairman who is not performing to stay in office for three years amounts to suffering the people at the grassroots. If you ask me, I will say that it should be reduced to two years so that the people’s suffering will reduce”.
According to Chief Okere, a two-year tenure with guaranteed periodic election as, and when due, would empower the people to either re-new the mandate of a performing chairman or reject a non-performing one through the ballot box.
“Anybody who wants to perform, one year is even enough for you to perform”, he said, arguing that anyone that is determined to make a desirable difference in the circumstances of the people would be adequately prepared for the task and therefore would not need much time to make desired impact.
He said even though the issue of autonomy for the local government was still one to be resolved, the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to remit allocations directly to the local councils has left the chairmen with the sole responsibility of managing their resources.
“Except they still have any complaints about some form of diversion of funds, they should be able to manage the funds that come to them as people who are there to serve the people”, he said, emphasizing that corruption, selfishness and greed on the part of the elected officials at the third tier of government had been the bane of development at the grassroots.
“The problem I know is that anyone of them that is elected into office, the most important thing in the mind of that person is to selfishly develop himself by carting away resources that are meant for development or diverting them to other sources, that is very selfish”. he said, adding that “Therefore I don’t see much challenge why any of them will say this is why I cannot develop my locality”.
Chief Okere said he would not subscribe to the call for the conduct of local government elections to be given to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) because he believes that power and responsibilities needed to be discentralised.
He said while he appreciated the fact state and federal constituencies’ election had become more competitive over the years, with a little more effort, elections at the local council level could improve as well.
“For now, it is for us to continue to put pressure on the governors who insist on winning every seat at the local government areas to give democracy a chance to thrive at the local level”, he said.
There is no doubt that there is yet so much to be done to get the local government councils in Nigeria to optimally deliver on their mandate. However there is much more to be done by the political leadership at the grassroots to give the people a sense that their interest ranks above anything also, irrespective of how long or short the leaders stay in office.
By: Opaka Dokubo
Ex-APC National Chairman Tasks Party On Responsive Leadership
Chief John Odigie-oyegun, former National Chairman, All Progressives Congress APC), has charged the party’s leaders to be more progressive and responsive to the people.
He said this at the public presentation of a book”APC’S Litmus Test, Nigerian Democracy and Politics of Change”, written by Dr Salihu Lukman, Director-General, Progressives Congress Forum (PGF) in Abuja, yesterday.
“We are in charge today, a progressive government, a progressive regime, and I think it is proper that we show to the nation that when the people want some degree of change, “we should be responsive to it, we should address it, compromises have to be made, there’s no question about that,” Odigie-Oyegun said.
He added that the APC document on true federalism was still being worked upon before its release.
Odigie-Oyegun said the ideas of people from different parts of the country would be different up to the extent that they would want to go with the proposals in the document.
He said it was however, necessary, vital and mandatory in the interest of the survival of the country that issues regarding federalism were addressed.
“We cannot continue to allow the subject to become something that threatens our nation at any turn.
“So, the earlier we address it, the earlier we show that as a party we are responsive to the feelings of the people, the desires of the people and the wants of the people.
“It becomes easier then, to diffuse the kind of stresses that the nation is passing through today,”Odigie-Oyegun said.
He added that for those at the formation of the APC, the uniqueness of its Constitution and its manifesto promised change was meant by all members with their hearts and beings.
He said unfortunately, the forces of economics had made things not quite the way it was planned.
The APC former national chairman said there was need for the party members to do everything possible to keep it not just alive but very virile.
He added that in spite of general belief, the APC was one party that had put together things that meant hope for the country.
He said the fact that things were bad and people were angry and hungry was not questionable, saying that these were worldwide phenomenon.
Odigie-Oyegun decried the current security challenge in the country.
“It is my hope that we will begin to get control of the security of this nation,” he said.
PDP Rep Harps On Justice, Dialogue To Secure Nigeria
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), House of Representatives member has enjoined Nigerian leaders to tow the path of justice, equity, dialogue, and rule of law in the country.
Rep. Toby Okechukwu, the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, said this in a statement issued on Saturday in Abuja to commemorate the Democracy Day
He added that such path would help to arrest worsening insecurity and arrest separatist agitations across the country.
Okechukwu said that opportunities still abound in preserving the nation’s democracy and reconstruct the union to a more workable piece.
He said that June 12 was designated Democracy Day in honour of a symbol of the nation’s democratic struggles, the late Chief MKO Abiola.
He added that Abiola was unjustly denied the opportunity to exercise an overwhelmingly popular mandate handed him by the Nigerian people on June 12 1993, but only to be celebrated at death.
“The greatest debt the governments and leaders of Nigeria owe every part of this country and every Nigerian is a sense of justice and equity according to the letters and spirit of our constitution.
“The golden rule of justice is to do unto others as you would have them to unto you,” he said.
He called on the Federal Government to take conscious steps to do things that would promote national unity and earn it loyalty.
He also called on leaders to be proactive in creating a clement environment for peace to reign to arrest the present security challenges in the country.
Okechukwu commended the leaders of the South East and the Federal Government for the June 11, dialogue in Enugu to deescalate tension in the region.
He stated that it was a right step that should be sustained and replicated nationwide, while wishing Nigerians a happy Democracy Day.
Democracy Day: PDP Lawmakers Wants Observance Of Rule Of Law
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives has called for strict observance of the rule of law to improve democratic practice in the country.
The caucus made the call in a statement by its Leader, Rep. Kingsley Chinda (PDP-Rivers) last Saturday in Abuja.
Chinda called for an environment that would guarantee freedom of speech and standard operations for the fourth estate of the realm.
The lawmaker stressed the need to place greater value on Nigerian lives and for decisive and pragmatic steps to end the avoidable deaths in the country.
He called on the government to restrain the Police and other security agencies from further unleashing violence on unarmed youths and other peaceful protesters.
“They choose to go out and exercise their rights in commemoration of Democracy Day.
“June 12 is a symbol of democratic freedom and supremacy of the people’s power and should be respected by ensuring that all the tenets of democracy are adhered to in all ramifications.
“June 12 is not only about introspection, it is about renewing the commitments of all to the growth of democracy in our dear county.
“It is about ensuring that our country is never again enveloped by darkness, hemmed to the abyss by the sinister forces that threaten our collective rights and freedoms,” he said.
Chinda urged all Nigerians to hold on to democratic principles in spite of the challenges facing the country saying that “good will triumph over evil.”
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