By Babatunde Ayedoju
In what may be described as the climax of a patriotic zeal at the creation of Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) by the Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu administration, the Ondo State House of Assembly convened a public hearing on Thursday in Akure, the state capital where traditional rulers, religious leaders and other stakeholders made their presentations concerning the proposed 33 LCDAs.
It would be recalled that towards the end of last month, the Ondo State Government announced the creation of 33 new LCDAs in addition to the already existing 18 local government areas in the state. The state commissioner for information and orientation, Mrs. Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, who addressed news men after the announcement hinted that the instrument for the creation of the LCDAs had been sent to the Ondo State House of Assembly.
The step taken by the state government was greeted with excitement by concerned stakeholders from different parts of the state.
Unfortunately, in the midst of the excitement over the creation of these new local government councils, a list surfaced and went viral online containing purpoted names of the new LCDAs. That happened even when the House of Assembly had not yet perfected its work on the councils
However, the state government was quick to disown the list circulated online. The Ondo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Sir Charles Titiloye in a statement entitled “Re: LCDA creation in Ondo State”, said the list did not emanate from the state government and, thus, should be disregarded by members of the public.
In the statement, he said: “The Government wishes to inform the general public that Creation of LCDA is strictly a constitutional process. List of Local Council Development Areas can only be properly ascertained from Ondo State Government official Gazette duly issued after passage of the enabling Law by Ondo state House of Assembly and the law is assented to by the Governor of the State
“Also the communities in each of the created LCDA will be published in the white Paper to be issued by the Government in respect of the recommendations of the Committee set up on the Creation of LCDA(S).
“Members of the public are therefore advised to await these official legal documents to be issued by the Ondo state Government in order to get the correct position of Government on the creation of Local Government Council Development Areas in Ondo State.
The Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Ademola-Olateju, at a parley with the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) few days ago corroborated the Attorney-General’s standpoint when she said that members of the public should disregard the list that was circulated online because the House of Assembly was yet to approve the names of the new councils. While not confirming that the names published were genuine, she added that it was wrong for anybody to have tried to leak such a list to the public.
Early this month, the House of Assembly committed the bill for the creation of the LCDAs to committee stage after it had scaled the second reading.
Earlier, while moving a motion for the bill to be moved to second reading and committed to Committee stage, the Majority Leader, Oluwole Ogunmolasuyi noted that the bill is a very important one that cuts across the 18 Local Governments and the 26 Constituencies for progress and development of the State, hence the need to give it accelerated consideration.
According to them, it will further add value to the State by bringing dividends of democracy closer to the people.
The lawmakers added that the creation of additional LCDAs will complement efforts of the existing ones in opening up rural areas to revitalize and widen the scope of economic potential of the State.
While noting that local governments were last created in 1996 in the State, they applauded the steps taken by the government in fast-tracking development and bringing government closer to the people.
To them, with the creation, leadership positions will further spread to those clamouring for it, while natural resources left untapped will receive attention.
Even the Speaker of the House, Olamide Oladiji, in an exclusive interview with The Hope had assured of the creation of LCDAs, if created by the government, would receive accelerated approval from the House. He had opined that LCDAs would bring governance closer to the people and serve as catalyst for development.
At the public hearing on Thursday, the speaker told the gathering that the Akeredolu administration would not hesitate to cancel or suspend any community or local government area where there is crisis or court injunction, even as he saluted the governor for towing the iine of other southwest governors that had created LCDAs earlier.
Speaking with newsmen after the event, he said that the good people of Ondo State could expect the outcome of the exercise to be in their best interest, even as he further commended the state governor for coming up with the initiative of creating the new LCDAs.
In their various submissions and petitions, the stakeholders who stormed the house in large numbers appreciated the state government for the gesture said the proposed LCDA’s would bring development and government closer to the people.
Some of the stakeholders frowned that at the moment, there was no authentic list of the names of the proposed LCDA’S except those peddled on social media, hence fuelling speculations.
Other petitions submitted by various stakeholders including change in the names of some LCDA’s, change in citing of headquarters while some are clamouring for additional LCDA’s.
Other speakers at the event proposed that paramountcy in traditional institution should not be altered in the process.
The scene was full of delegates of various communities passionately striving to convince the House about their desire to have a favourable outcome.
This could be seen in the agitation over the correct names of some of the new LCDAs to be created and the headquarters. At a point, the atmosphere became rowdy, as delegates argued with one another and the speaker had to summon security personnel to call the delegates to order.
Even the Deputy Speaker, Abayomi Akinruntan, could be seen at a point stepping down from the podium to pacify some of the agitated delegates from the Ilaje axis of the Southern Senatorial District of the state.
Some of the delegates could not hide their disdain as they lamented what they perceived to have been marginalised despite their population, size and contributions to the state’s economy.
At the end of the exercise, just before the national anthem, the Deputy Speaker, Abayomi Akinruntan, thanked all the participants for their patience and for their submissions, assuring them that the House would do a good job on the exercise.