EZUGWU OBINNA

Feelers from Lagos State government indicate that Governor Akinwumi Ambode has concluded plans to get rid of the 57 Executive Secretaries appointed by the immediate past governor of the state, Barr Babatunde Raji Fashola. This is even as the affected secretaries have reportedly been lobbying various All Progressive Congress (APC) chieftains in the state with a view to saving there jobs and the governor had himself asked them not to panic.

Hallmark was reliably informed that the ongoing moves by the governor to reform local government in the state was part of the plans being put in place to get rid of the executive secretaries, comprising of those currently presiding over the affairs of the state’s 20 local governments as well as the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs).

The secretaries who were appointed by Fashola in November 2014 towards the end of his tenure to replace former chairmen who had served out their tenure pending the conduct of a fresh election were meant to spend six months within which period a proper election was to be conducted.

The 2015 general election and all the activities that came with it as well as the transition programmes may have prevented the conduct of the election, thus enabling them to continue in office beyond July this year when their tenure would have come to an end.

While the conduct of an election may not be in the offing yet, it was revealed that part of the reforms being initiated by Ambode would include appointing new set of people to take over affairs of the LGs and LCDAs pending when elections would be held.

This according to sources, is in line with the reforms being undertaken in various state ministries and departments which had resulted in the replacement of the heads of the ministries involved.

It would be recalled that the governor had at a meeting with members of the various Community Development Associations (CDAs), Community Development Councils (CDC) as well as other stakeholders in the state hinted on the need to initiate make local authorities more responsive to the aspirations of the people while pointing out that it was the intention of his administration was to return governance back to the people which, according to him, was in line with his goal of presiding over an all-inclusive government.

Ambode had had stated his administration’s commitment to make community governance the driving force for economic and social development in the state which he noted prompted the establishment of Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs which has placed community development in the heart of its policy formation.

“The government alone cannot provide all community needs as of date, the people have to be mobilised to do it themselves to complement government efforts, rather thanvreplace same,” he had said.

“It is this ‘Self-help or Community Development Approach’ as a veritable tool for sustainable development advanced by this administration that I now urge you to embrace,” he concluded.

To this end, the governor had upon taking office on May 29, set up a Local Government Reform Committee headed by Mr. Nurudeen Adeyinka Ojora-Adejiyan.

The committee was charged with making recommendations that would help reposition the councils system for better service delivery and ensure even development and synergy in governance in the State. It was consequently mandated to examine the structure of the existing local government administration in the state with a view to dentifying factors inhibiting maximum performance and quality service delivery by local governments as well as revisit the criteria for instituting inter service exchange of staff, knowledge and skills between the state and local government services.

In his comment at the presentation of the report to the Head of Service, Mrs. Ijora-Adejiyan revealed that the committee made very interesting findings which showed that the current local government has been battling issues ranging from funding to structural problems.

It disclosed that there was a disconnect between the local authorities and the populace resulting in inadequate community participation in the affairs of the local government.

After its deliberations, the committee urged the government to undertake reforms in the state public service, starting with various ministries down the local government level which would involve involving various stakeholders in the running of local governments.

“We recommend that local governments should as a matter of policy involve community development associations and other stakeholders from the planning to execution of policies and projects, thus ensuring that the yearnings and aspirations of the people are met,” Ijora-Adejiyan said.

“There is no doubt that Ambode will make positive use of this as he understands the place of the Local Government in governance and had met with Executive Secretaries to sensitize them on the various reforms going on in the state and the need to bring everyone on board as the reform is critical for even development and progress.”

Meanwhile the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)Lagos chapter had accused the governor of planning to further delay the conduct local council elections in the state.

In a statement by its spokesperson, Mr Gani Toafeek, the party PDP had claimed that the APC government was not interested in conducting elections into the local government councils, and accused the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC)of conniving with the APC to delay the polls.

“The Lagos State chapter of the PDP has reiterated her conclusion that the APC government in Lagos is not popular among the electorates, especially for any grass roots elections and as such deliberately frustrating the conduct of local council polls long overdue since October 2014.

“The PDP has at this time accused LASIEC as an electoral body which has exposed itself as an appendage of APC in the state and not at all independent in its decisions and administration.” Toafeek said.

“The delay to conduct council polls in Lagos is deliberate to eventually give undue advantage to the APC. The defence put up by the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters (who was quoted to have blamed the delay in the conduct of the council polls on the Independent National Electoral Commission claiming that the electoral body has not concluded the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards and thus the polls cannot be conducted at this time) is preposterous, repulsive and clearly an indication that APC will turn out to be a party of impunity and inconsistencies,” he said.

He had also alleged that the state’s councils were not operating in accordance with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.

“This is an aberration to Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees only democratically elected local government administration. The APC is unpopular and thus avoiding any grass roots election,” he concluded

In a chat with Hallmark, however, a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Abiodun Tobun, stated denied that the local governments were running contrary to the law.

“We cannot do anything outside the law so the law still empowers the Lagos State government or any executive governor to have caretaker committee for three months, which is renewable to enable us, put our house in order so that it will not be that some people would be disenfranchised during the local government election”

“Like I said the executive secretaries have three months to spend after the expiration Lagos House of Assembly is a House that knows what to do at the right time”, said Tobun “It was not as if the Lagos state government is not ready to conduct the local government election, but the then PDP controlled government were not ready to release the voters register so it was as if they want Lagos State government to go and start fresh registration of voters for the local election, and you know it will take a long time”, said Tobun