Local Govt Autonomy In Nigeria And The Unseen Forces

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By; BAYO AKAMO

Local government administration no doubt stands as a very important and critical one if not the most important among the other known forms of government (i.e state and Federal) in Nigeria and even beyond considering its closeness to the people at the grassroots as well as its direct impact on them when it cones into the areas of the needed developments for the grassroots.

Local government in a not fully developed country like Nigeria ought to be in the best situation to bring about the much needed development in and across the nooks and crannies of the country particularly in the remote areas and parts of the country if the local government administration in Nigeria are properly positioned and allowed to operate independently with any undue interference from either the state and the Federal.

In Nigeria, as at present, what seems to be the major obstacle to allowing local government administration to be operating as an independent form of government is the persistent opposition by state governments  (and some state Governors in most cases) and few bodies to the age long clamour for local government autonomy in Nigeria.

The persistent opposition to local government autonomy by state government and the state governors at large and  some others according to some political observed could best be linked to the continuous manipulations of the local governments for economic a personal benefits in some cases

However sensing the unending oppositions to the liberation of the local government administration in Nigeria, various groups, bodies and even individuals across the country are now up to the task of making Nigerians see the reasons for local government administration to be accorded its own autonomy thereby making it possible and realistic for it to play its expected roles in bringing about growth and development for the grassroots and its people.

Towards this direction, a two day Media/Civil Society Organisations’ (CSO) Capacity Building Workshop
was put up in Ibadan towards
discussing the ongoing constitutional amendment as it relates to local government development and empowerment, the challenges and achievements of governance at the grassroots and the ongoing activities of National Assembly on the constitutional amendment and the expected endorsement by state Assemblies on the Local government enablement.

*The objectives of the dialogue are to deepen understanding of media and citizens groups on the need to strengthen governance at the grassroots
*To increase understanding of media and citizens groups on their roles and responsibilities of local government.
” To build the capacity of journalists in Oyo state and set agenda around local government development.
*To improve the skills of media practitioners on reportage of local government issues and
*To broker relationships between media practitioners and citizens groups working on the local government autonomy.

A retired Permanent Secretary in the Oyo state Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Elder Emmanuel Adegboyega Adebunmi in his presentation entitled ” Challenges of Local Government since Independence ” at the 2 day workshop minced no words in declaring that a nation that refuses  to strengthen local government administration  and  allow it to function effectively  will never develop and that for Nigeria to get it right as a country,the  local government arm of administration must be given  total autonomy to operate .

Going down the memory lane, Elder
Adebunmi traced the advent of local government administration in Nigeria to the days Native authority and District Councils as it may be applicable in the days of runing administration from the Obas and Emir palaces in the olden Nigeria to butress his fact that local government remains the ” oldest form of government in Nigeria.

According to Elder Adebunmi, the history of modern day Local Government administration started with the outcome of the reports of the Ibrahim Dasuki led panel of 1976 during the  regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo as the Military Head of State . The setting up of the Dasuki panel was among others aimed at correcting the perceived “uncoordinated and the disjointed system in the system and have unified local government administration in Nigeria.

He added that it was  the reformation of  the Dasuki’s report in 1979 that local government administration was officially recognized as the third tier of government in Nigeria and  was included in the constitution that local government in Nigeria. should have a share from the Federation Account.

The retired Permanent Secretary maintained that the importance of local government to any society cannot be overlooked considering its closeness to the grassroots, saying, a nation that refuses  to strengthen local government administration  and  allow it to function effectively  will never develop

Lamenting that it was unfortunate that local government in Nigeria has been reduced to the background instead of promoting and projecting it for the needed development of the grassroots and its people, he said there are so many factors hampering the development of local government in the country and that  majority of it can be solved through  local government autonomy and that it was sad  that in Nigeria as at present, “local government is virtually non existence’ adding ” if just 30 percent of the Federal allocation were allowed to go into local government for there will be more development than what we are witnessing now.”

Advocating for the positive and upward reversal of the allocation to local government for the country to witness better development, and that  ” there is the need for reversal in the allocation of resources to the Local government. 35% of the Federation Account should go to the Local Government for Nigeria to have more development ” he called on  the Media to rise up and be in the vanguard of reversing the sharing formula in favour of local government in Nigeria.

The immediate past Oyo state Head of Service, Mr Soji Eniade  in his presentation titled ” LG Autonomy; The Bedrock for Sustain Development in Nation Building ” said good governance cannot be discussed without mentioning local government arm of administration and that local government administration is meant to cater for the interest of the people at the grassroots.

Mr Eniade who is now an All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirant in Oyo state pointed out that considering the unfolding scenario in the local government administration in Nigeria, it can easily be concluded that local government administration is far from being sovereign in Nigeria .

Stressing that there are many critical things to be put in place at the local government in the country before discussing about autonomy, Mr Eniade suggested that rather than talking about autonomy, what ought to be clamour for is that local government administration in Nigeria should be strengthen, saying, funding of local government must be strengthen .

Other Speakers at the workshop namely Comrade Abiodun Bamigbose while speaking  on “CSO, driver of Local Government Autonomy” and Barrister Ronke Ige emphasized the importance of the media in the advocacy and continuous sensitization of the public and those at the helms of affairs to see the reason for granting autonomy to the local government administration in Nigeria by doing the needful.

At the end of the workshop it was glaring that local government administration in Nigeria not just need mere  autonomy but a full autonomy in the areas of finance, political and to cap it all administrative autonomy if Nigerians especially the teeming masses at the grassroots are to enjoy real dividend of democracy as well as for the rural and remote areas across Nigeria are to witness the much needed development.

To achieve these. the Media and the Civil Societies Organizations needs to play the leading roles of not relenting in the continuous clamour for the realization of the much needed autonomy for local government administration in Nigeria with other stakeholders too not folding their arms on the struggle.

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