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54—Vanguard, MONDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2012

The root of the rot in our local councils STAKEHOLDERS in Nigeria’s democracy gathered in Enugu last week to ponder on the issues and circumstances that have bedeviled local government democracy since the advent of the Fourth Republic.



HE three-day conference on how to rediscover the local councils organized by the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) at Nike Lake Resort, Enugu lived up to its billings. With resource persons drawn from leading higher institutions in Nigeria including inputs from eminent Nigerians and persons from the United States, Canada and Mexico among others, if the ideas canvassed at the parley were implemented the local councils, in no distant time, will become an oasis of development. A common strand of thought ran through the avalanche of papers and speeches made at the forum: The local councils must be granted fiscal and political autonomy, and democratised to enable them perform their onerous roles of providing needed services at the grassroots to improve the lot of the citizenry. However, the speakers differed on the approach. While some urged direct allocation to the councils and abrogation of the controversial state-local government joint account, some opposed the idea, saying it might be counter-productive in the long run. There were also suggestions that the councils should boost their internal revenue generation and depend less on statutory allocation. Other suggestions include removing or retaining the local councils as the third tier of government.

Roll call


eld between November 27-30 with the theme: “National Conference on rediscovering the Nigerian Local Government System in the Emerging Constitution,” eminent persons, who spoke at the forum included President Goodluck Jonathan, who was represented by his Special Adviser Political Affairs, Dr Ahmed Gulak; former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; former Senate President, Senator Ken

Nnamani; Governors Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Raji Fashola (Lagos). There were also Acting Governor of Enugu State, Sunday Onyebuchi; United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb Terence McCulley, who was represented by Consul General, Jeff Hawkins; ALGON President, Ozo Nwabueze Okafor and leaders of the association from all parts of the country; Dr Remi Ayoade; a team of Mayors from the United States of America including Eugene W. Grant and President of the Forum of Local Government Federations, Canada, Dr Rupak Chattopadhyay. Thought-provoking papers Leading papers delivered at the gathering include: ‘The functioning of the local government system in a federalist constitution: controversies, comparisons and consensus’ by Professor Muhammed Tawfiq Ladan of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; ‘The functioning of the local governments and their relationship with upper levels of government’ by Professor Assisi Asobie of the University of Nigeria, UNN; “Making local government for Nigeria: Fixing the missing links’ by Professor Haruna Dlakwa of the University of Maiduguri; ‘Federal account dependency, insolvency and access to development funds for local governments in Nigeria’ by Dr Sampson Ebimaro; and ‘The political, administrative and fiscal environment of local government in Nigeria, a historical analysis’ by Professor Adejo Odoh. There were also: ‘Local government and inter fiscal relations and transfers: STATES WITH the principle, process LGS and DEMOCRATIC Lagos Enugu Niger Rivers Kwara Ebonyi Ogun Adamawa Cross River

Jigawa Gombe Zamfara FCT, Abuja Taraba Sokoto Katsina Kebbi Imo **

L-R are: Former Vice president of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Gov. Babaginda Muza, Governor of Niger State, Acting Governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi at the event. PHOTO BY HILL EZEUGWU. structure’ by Professor Chikelue Ofuebe (UNN); ‘Local government system in Nigeria: The dangers of quasi-fiscal, political and administrative autonomy’ by Professor F C Okoli (UNN); “Comparison of local government systems in selected federalist countries’ by Barr Raymond Onyegu; ‘Does direct federal-local government relations undermine federalism?’ by Professor J I



not shackling councils in the state and elections have been regular. Citing the examples of Niger, Rivers and Kwara among others as states where regular council elections have been entrenched, he said some chairmen in these states have performed better than him. He urged states, which are yet to hold council polls to do so and deepen democracy in the

The President has no right to wake up and say he has dissolved a state government, so why must a state governor dissolve a council

Elaigwu; ‘Constitutionalising local governments in Nigeria: issues and problems’ by Barr Bamidele Aturu; and ‘MDGs: Countdown, appraisal and role of local governments in overcoming gaps and challenges’ by Dr Precious Kalamba Gbeneol (senior special assistant to the President on MDGs).

Councils understand the needs of the people – Nwabueze


elcoming participants to the event, ALGON National President, Ozo Nwabueze Okafor, who reeled out his achievements as chairman of Enugu South local council, said he was able to achieve the feats because Governor Sullivan Chime was


country. His words: “Devolution of power is the in thing now all over the world because the councils understand the needs of their people. If we are serious about national development we have to strengthen the local governments. About seven of the 15 MDGs fall under the purview of the local governments. Without autonomy and adequate funding how can meet the millennium development goals? If we strengthen the local governments we will bring development to the people because the council is a potent force we have to tap from.” We must enthrone true fiscal federalism – Fashola

Fashola, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Political Affairs and Legislative Matters, Hon Musilim Folarin, said the federal arrangement in the country was non-negotiable because it is the surest way to enhance development. He urged true fiscal and political federalism and devolution of power to the constituent units for every section to develop at its own pace. He also restated the need for state police noting however that the overall objective of governance at all levels is to improve governance and provide direly needed services and amenities to the citizenry. Relatedly, Grant lamented that only 365 local councils in Nigeria have elected administrations. Aside strengthening the councils, he advised Nigerians “to go back and ensure that your people are actually elected because Nigerian people must control their government.

We must uproot state-LG joint account – Nnamani

In like manner, Nnamani decried the prevalence of unelected governments in most states, noting that development strides were being witnessed in councils where democracy prevails. He opposed statelocal government joint accounts arguing that there is need for council budgets to be debated like those of the states

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