HomeViews and ReviewsWho Will Save Local Governments?

Who Will Save Local Governments?

Until one Council Chairman raised his voice loud in August 2022 about the denial of his monthly local government allocations by Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, most of the 774 local government councils in the country have been suffering in silence.

Silence brought about by the Emperor-like behaviour of state Governors who cornered the monthly funds meant for the councils under the State/ local government joint account allocation foisted on the country by the obnoxious 1999 Constitution.

Though Wale Adedayo, erstwhile Chairman of Ijebu East Local Government, allowed his head to be used to break the coconut, via his removal by his councillors, he may not suffer in vain after all.

The action of Senator Sulaiman Kawu-NNPP of Kano South Senatorial District, who last week openly chastised all state Governors in the country, for cornering money meant for their local governments, has reawakened the conscience of other federal legislators to do the needful and take urgent steps to remove the thieving hands of the Governors from the joint account.

By so doing, the governors will allow the councils to breath.

Strangely but not surprising, the remaining 20 local government chairmen in Ogun State went and prostrated before Governor Abiodun in an embarrassing way to disclaim Adedayo, their colleague.

It was a show of shame, which in normal political clime should have seen the councillors lose their seats. But since in Nigeria anything goes, they remain in the ‘service’ of their people.

Adedayo was not only impeached by his councillors, he was equally detained for days by the Directorate of State Services, DSS.

He was subsequently arraigned in court for ‘lying’ against the Governor.

Before Adedayo sent his petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, he sent a copy to a former state Governor and party Elder, Segun Osoba, probably to intervene.

But then, politics took over and today the accuser in Adedayo has become the accused.

Several of such abound in most of our states and local governments but with their chairmen compromised, little could be achieved.

It also by inference meant that the dream of using local government as the agent of development is compromised in so far as their funds are released at the mercy of governors who also determine the nomination of the councillor and subsequent election.

Isn’t it strange that the 19 council chairmen in Ogun State who rose to condemn and deny their colleagues, couldn’t show the people of their constituency what they’ve done with the money they’ve been collecting from their Governor?

Thanks to the docility of the populace who resigned to fate and threw up their hands and remain helpless about the dearth of infrastructure in their councils.

This is in spite of billions voted for them by the Federal Account Allocation Committee, FAAC, but which they- the council chairmen, gleefully signed away to the state left only with salaries to pay primary school teachers and civil servants, while the governors pocketed the remaining after doling out tokens to the beggarly council chairmen.

As it is in Ogun State, so it is in virtually all 774 local government councils in the country.

Worst still, some states like Anambra, havenot conducted local government elections for the past eighteen years. Yet somebody who ruled that state for eight years wanted to be Nigeria’s President.

Nobody needs to guess what Peter Obi, who never conducted council election throughout his eight years tenure in Anambra State would have done with Nigeria.

Though evidences abound to show that local council elections were far from being transparent as all seats are always won by ruling parties in the state, yet people would have exercised their right to be given opportunity to elect their leaders even within the parties as primaries are conducted to elect candidates.

When the reformed local government system was effected in 1976 during the Murtala/Obasanjo regime, it was done with a view to making the councils engines of rural development through democratically elected councils. It remained so till 1994.

In fact, Yours Truly, as a newspaper Correspondent in Ogun State, could testify that local government councils between 1986 and 1993 also made public presentations of their annual budgets with the citizenry free to contribute or criticize allocations or priorities.

It is an irony that local government councils were reasonably accountable even under the military junta.

You could even point to projects they executed in their various local governments.

Today, 25 years after the advent of the Fourth Republic, the local government system has been reduced to beggarly third- tier of government with governors behaving like emperors over council chairmen who were equally elected by the people.

Where then is democracy?

If governors can sit on local government funds, why should they be elected in the first instance?

Unfortunately, former President Muhammadu Buhari lacked the forcefulness and political will to ensure the amendment to Section 7 of the Constitution that could have given autonomy to local councils and ensure that unelected councils have no access to funds from the federation account.

President Buhari, as usual, succumbed to blackmail by state governors, most of who also hide under the guide of fighting what they regarded as violation of the principle of Federalism. They often argue that state’s autonomy would be defeated if local governments were not under their purview.

Had they effected reasonable development at the local governments with the funds they cornered, the level of poverty and underdevelopment ravaging Nigeria today would have been drastically reduced.

According to Senator Kawu, who also has allies in Senator Uba, Ahmed Lawan and Kalu, governors across the board indeed prevented local government autonomy in the country by frustrating efforts by state assemblies to amend the Constitution which would have revisited the provisions of Section 7 of the Constitution on local government creation and administration.

As things stand today, only a display of a strong political will by President Bola Tinubu could restore local governments by engineering the state governors to let go and be content with their 26% allocation from the Federation Account.

It is only by doing this that funds released under the different programmes contained in the Renewed Hope Agenda could get to the grassroots and not end up in personal accounts of governors and officials in the states’ bureaucracy.

Local government as the closest tier to the people is better placed to implement grassroots programmes with multiplier economic and social effects on the people.

President Tinubu has to do the needful and let governors realize that ravaging poverty in the country can only be mitigated and reduced by allowing councils assess their funds for development at their grassroots, where the incidence of pervasive poverty abounds in the country.

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