LG autonomy, avenue for corruption
By Ayodele Fagbohun
The strident clamour or agitation for local government autonomy now seemingly to have received the nod of the federal government, is not only strange to the spirit and letters of 1999 federal constitution as amended. But a gratuitous violence on the sacrosanct document that does not in the first instance and material sense assign any semblance of independence on the so called third tier of government which is an appendage and tied on the apron string of state government.
However, we must not be carried away and unduly influenced by the act of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Units that has recently given the councils some financial autonomy. This evidently is a federal government institution empowered to sanitise the finances of the local government councils from being recklessly plundered but to serve the purpose clearly spelt out in the constitution.
The call is borne out of ignorance or plain mischief or both by its masterminds, that is, some principal staff of local governments and their sponsors to appropriate or bluntly put, to swindle the common. Wealth and further impoverish the countryside.
Besides, it is vigorously asserted umpteen time and indeed in the public domain that states are recognised as the federating units. It is sheer aberration, superfluity and trite to claim from the blues that local government should be given autonomy to ingratiate vested interests which could inflict incalculable injury on the economic well-being and welfare of the people.
Hear what the constitution says: “The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils under constitution guaranteed accordingly, the government of every state shall ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.”
No law has recently been passed nor any plebiscite conducted to annul or reverse the existing law which is superior to any pious pronouncements oozing out from self serving and partisan governmental or official quarters that could stand the test of constitutional provisions.
Whilst I do not personally subscribe to a wholesale abolition of local government and its operation as an administrative unit vigorously canvassed in some articulate and highly responsible quarters of the country.
This rigorous and unassailable view is corollary of the reckless, astounding financial pillage, roguery and economic sabotage perpetrated with impunity by various local government administrators, advisers and collaborators nation wide.
In absolute and clear terms, the painful inexorable lesson that could be learnt is this. It is fully to trust the affairs of the people in the hands of the debauched, the frivolous and the sinecurist political gangsters gallivanting on the corridor of power.
On the foregoing untoward scenario, I humbly submit for effective and efficient administration, there is underlying proviso which makes local government the exclusive function of state government.
The system should be fine-tuned to play its statutory role in the life and destiny of the grassroots.
Towards this end, the people must not hesitate to subscribe either materially or otherwise to the growth and development of the local administration to meet the yearnings and aspirations of respective farmsteads, harmlets, villages, sub towns and the towns that constitute the council areas.
Thus, it is unthinkable and provocative in the extreme for the local government workforce to enter into unholy alliance under obtuse associations with covert aim of looting public coffers for personal enrichment! What a licence!!
These NULGE people must be told point blank that it is a breach of time honoured civil service rule for any local government staff to abandon his/her duty and indulge in political intrigues concomitant with unruly conduct ostensibly for local government autonomy whilst in the actual fact is egregious and wanton display unabashed naked power and brazen opportunism to fleesce government scarce resources dry at the expense of the fortunes of the gullible people to languishing in squalor and abject poverty in the country side.
We must say the deplorable outing of some political functionaries and their civil servants in the ill conduct of the local governments and apparent low and lack lustre state of affairs over the years leaves much to be desired.
The preponderance of public opinion is not anyway in favour of granting any financial autonomy to the local government for now and in the foreseeable future.
Why? The idea is bizarre and grotesque. It runs in palpable conflict with and contrary to the constitution, extant norms and best practice of contemporary history.
For emphasis, our constitution gives a place of pride and recognition to state government as the federating unit. It must be said in passing that the fear of the military is the beginning of taking the local government to the giddy heights of prominence.
In other words, the authoritarian nature of the military rule that held sway in the country for too long gave fillip to Unitarianism in all spheres of our public life, local government inclusive.
By way of illustration, the British parliamentary system of government was handed over to us on the eve of our independence in October 1, 1960. Even then, we refused to swallow hook, line and sinker the unitary system of our British colonial over lords.
For our local government then known as local council in the West and East; and Native Authority (NA) in the North was subsumed under respective governments in the country.
The current presidential system blindly copied from the United States (US) to which we pay lip service, the issue of local government is completely assimilated by state government. The hue and cry in the local government affairs is virtually absent in the United States (US).
Why the fuss about nothing? We must have a proper and good rethink and get out from inane absurdities and pretty indolence in a bid to quench voracious and insatiable desire to steal from the public till.
Time to redress the gross anomaly is now. All hands must be on deck to return local government to its pristine age of taking absolute control and care of the much neglected rural areas.
First and foremost, what should be of paramount importance, interest and concern to the public is to make the office of chairman a position of honour not to attract any jumbo pay but be manned by a reputable person who is beyond reproach. There must be considerable reduction in the overheads by allowing credible, transparently honest person, contented with a fixed civil service salary to run for the position of council boss.
At the apex of the council, we desire a rare breed of personnel to render unstinted selfless service and write their names in the hall of fame, thereby setting high standard in public morality and probity for others to emulate.
The honourable councilors who can either be elected or appointed by their respective wards must descend from the Olympian heights, evince robust patriotic zeal, be down to earth to share common destiny and identify with the rustic rural folks yearning for utmost service in their peculiar circumstances.
This must however be in accordance with the enacted laws duly passed in the House of Assembly.
In this connection, state government is obliged to bankroll its local government areas’ administration in taking the right initiatives and galvanize good governance in all its ramification.
In the similar manner and this is most vital and importance, state government should oblige constitutionally that the elected local governments to run its statutory term without let or hindrance.
We must reiterate that the local government should no longer be seen as hotbed of corruption, and venality, and dumping ground for a band of political hangers-on, riff-raffs and the political never do well that constitute themselves as dead weight and incumbrance on the smooth running of the local administration.