A few days back, two of my friends; Mr. Colawole and Mr. Femi, after reading my post “CHAOS” accused me of doing nothing (the very thing my article was all about). Mr. Femi bluntly told me that suggesting a solution would have been appropriate. Got me thinking and fortunately, news this morning gave me a clue as to how to offer a solution. I have decided to segment my solution, with each article to be posted tackling a particular problem highlighted in “CHAOS”.
So here goes; this article is to address the issue of governance and it will focus on the issue of local government autonomy. Last week, the dailies carried a piece about how both factions of the NGF (Nigeria Governors Forum) are opposed to the proposed autonomy of Local Governments in Nigeria. Both factions were vocal in their opposition, and they even suggested its illegal and claimed its implementation would the first of its kind in the world. Quoting the Vanguard newspaper here, in an interview with the DG of the Amaechi led faction of the NGF, Asishana Okauru, “there is no country where there are three federating units”. I was appalled to hear such a statement, especially since its purpose I assume is to undermine whatever goodwill the bill might find with the populace. Please, can someone remind these people that we are in the global village, where information is at the fingertips of all.
If for lack of proof, I know for a fact that Britain operates local government councils which are “autonomous”. Wikipedia puts it that “the pattern of local government in England is complex, with the distribution of functions varying according to the local arrangements”; the underlined, a clear emphasis on their autonomy. There is in total over 478 patterns of local government and they are divided into upper tier and lower tier authorities. To avoid confusion, I would advice a further read on local governments in England on Wikipedia. The United States also has local governments which are autonomous. Thus one wonders where the governors got their information that local governments being autonomous is alien to the world
The objections raised by the governors reveal a sinister desire to retain the status quo and keep Nigerians under perpetual bondage. We all know how governors have been with the local governments in their states. Most governors refuse to hold local government elections, till probably the tail end of their tenure, and they hold sway as Lords. They forget that its undemocratic and they appoint caretakers, and disburse funds to the 3rd tier of government only when they feel like, having deducted unlawfully some amounts. This is despite the state allocation and other monies that enter the state purse from the federal government such as security votes, ecological fund and the likes. They even run the councils like a family business, rewarding their close and faithful associates with appointments as caretakers. To buttress the extent of abuse by the governors, I will give an example of my state governor. After being elected into office, he refused to hold local council elections and instead appointed caretaker chairmen. And then my governor set about the task of constructing markets, garages, health centers, citing them as dividends of democracy and people were applauding him. Of course the logic was he was doing what no other governor had done, but does that still justify a governor taking on the duties of a local government chairman and claiming to be providing me with the dividends of democracy.
Sincerely, for so long these politicians have taken us for a ride and now is the time to stand against this continued systemic slavery. This opposition by the governors must be resisted. An autonomous local government will certainly clip the wings of the governors, depraving them of an avenue to continually siphon and embezzle funds meant for the grassroots. Therefore, the clarion call to change things starts now, let us use the social media, organize rallies, sensitize people and while we are at this, we must ensure that there is accountability from the councils. A good way to achieve this is having a forum or an oversight committee which is independent, and whose duty is to deter fraudulent practices and embezzlement of funds. This forum or committee will be made up of people in the locality who are of impeccable character and have the interest of the populace at heart. Also, the chairmen and councilors must not be afforded the luxury of immunity, and due process must be their modus operandi.
Hopefully Nigerians will rally round and fight for the autonomy of local governments. #givelocalgovtsautonomy. Spread the message