Give absolute autonomy to local govt to enhance effectiveness, says group

A group under aegis of Social Development Integrated Centre – Social Action, has called for the amendment of the constitution to allow for absolute autonomy of local government in the country.

Daily Sun reports that the group noted that financial and administrative autonomy to the third tier of government will allow it to play its roles effectively.

Bukola Adedeji, the Lead Cluster of the group in Ekiti State, made the call during a press conference held at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Secretariat, Ado Ekiti, capital of the state, where she explained that a truly independent local government will help in delivering the needed development in the various communities across the country and positively impact the lives of the people at the grassroots.

She said : “We strongly believe that a transparent local government system, backed by a well-defined legislative framework to manage its resources subject only to the wishes of the people will deliver the needed development.

“It is when we have an independent local government that the people can confidently engage the council authorities to account for the resources that are elected to manage on behalf of the people.”

She advised government at all levels particularly, local governments, to diversify and implement income-generating and mobilize policy initiatives for the benefit of local governments.

“The 774 local governments in Nigeria received a total of 20.3 trillion naira from 2001- 2019 as allocations from the federal government. In spite of these remarkable disbursements, what is left to show for it in terms of development can only be obtained on paper. The communities have continued to endure years of decay in health and educational infrastructural and a decline in the living condition and standards of the people in other local and suburban areas.

“Several reasons have been adduced for the challenges facing the local government system and its inability to provide effective service delivery to communities. These include, poor funding, corruption, paucity of human capital, opaque fiscal systems, poor resource management etc. However, the shortcomings in the constitutional framework that guarantees the autonomy and fiscal independence of the local government in Nigeria and how it affects service delivery have received little attention.

“State governors have annexed the local government authorities and tied them to their apron strings, making them an appendage of the state and subservient to the governors. Even though some of the state governors would claim that they don’t interfere with the day-to-day running of the local council activities but there could never be a truly independent local government without cutting the aprons of the state governments away from it, in other to birth to a third tier of government with complete autonomy.

” This interference is made possible by the state local government joint account which is controlled, expectedly by the state governors. Funds meant for the local government are being held back and administered by the governors and given in piecemeal to the local council authorities.

“The total amount finally handed down is hardly enough to carry out any meaningful project after the payment of salaries of council staff. Funds meant for community development are deducted for various fictitious reasons, the state/local government joint account initiatives, election sponsorship and other deductions not accounted for. Most governors who do this, claim that the local government would mismanage the resources if left to manage them.

Relatedly, Adedeji called on council leadership in Ekiti State to operate a transparent and inclusive system as required by the law.

She tasked the Head of Local Government Service Commission to direct all the LGAs to hoist functional websites and create channels of communications, like dedication phone numbers, functional email addresses, sms numbers, whatsapp lines.

She also advocated the need to direct the departments of research and budget to ensure that Needs Assessment of communities are carried out with the full participation of the people while special attention should be given to women and girls’ development and empowerment.

According to her, such development will give people sense of belonging, participation and also enable the councils to meet up with its primary responsibilities of impacting on people at the grassroots.

She stressed the need for youths to be encouraged to learn current skills relevant in today’s world. Micro credits, soft loans and non-interest loans should be made available as this will in small measure increase small holder farmers yield and increase the internally generated revenue of local governments.

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