The creation of the local government as a third tier of government in Nigeria in 1976, was to bring government and governance closer to the people.
And central to bringing government closer to the grassroot is to accelerate development at that level and to ensure that those functions that cannot constitutionally sit under the jurisdiction of the federal and state governments are undertaken by the local government .
However, it has become worrisome that successive governments in Nigeria and Abia State in particular, have frustrated this constitutionally assigned roles of local governments, thereby rendering the system redundant, unproductive and ineffective. To halt this age long drift and restore sanity, in the local government system, certain basic steps , must be taking .
RECOMMENDATION FOR A BETTER FUNCTIONAL LOCAL GOVERNMENT SYSTEM IN ABIA STATE ”
(1) EXTENSION OF THE TENURE OF ELECTED LOCAL GOVERNMENT CHAIRMEN .
The tenure of elected local government chairmen, in Abia State, was before 2006, three years, until the administration Of Gov Orji Uzo Kalu, through the Abia State House of Assembly, surreptitiously reduced it to two years, in the middle of the tenure of elected Chairmen and their councilors. And it in important to add that two years is barely enough for any meaningful developmental project to crystalize and bear the desired fruit. In view of this, it is therefore imperative to increase the tenure of the local government back to three years for greater productivity .
(2) TO RECLAIM THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT LANDS, ACROSS THE 17, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREAS OF ABIA STATE, APPROPRIATED BY INDIVIDUALS.
Local Government lands across Abia State have been illegally and surreptitiously aquired by groups and individuals for personal use . A panel of inquiry should be set up with the view to reclaim these Lands .
(3) RETURN OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT REVENUE WINDOWS, HIJACKED BY THE STATE GOVERNMENT.
The Local Government as a third tier of government is a revenue generating arm, by virtue of her constitutional responsibility but regrettably, the Abia State government have over the years hijacked all the revenue windows of the local government and remmitted patry sums of money to the local government .
This has rendered the staff and workers of local governments redundant, unproductive and dependant on federal allocation alone . For a more resourceful and productive local government system, in Abia State, the State Government, should hand over all Local Government, revenue windows back to the local government. This will enhance effectiveness and optimal performance .
(4) GRANTING OF AUTHONOMY , TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCILS.
One of the greatest challenges facing the local government in Abia State, vis-a-vis, discharging their constitutional responsibility to the people at the grass root, is the unconstitutional tampering of Local Government Funds by the State Government . The State Government, have over the years given overhead and running cost only to the local governments, while holding firmly to large chunk of their funds. This has not only negatively impacted on the welfare of the workers but have also affected the overall development at the grass root level , Hence , the need to extend full authonomy to the local government, to enable them effectively discharge their responsibility as the third tier of government, to the grass root .
(5) MOBILIZATION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT STAFF BACK TO FIELD WORK, FOR AN ENHANCE IGR DRIVE.
One of the ways through which local government raises her revenue profile is by collection of tolls, rents, levies and issuing of licences . By effectively deploying the local government staff back to field work to share the demand notices, the internally generated revenue of the various councils will be enhanced. The mode of revenue payment should be fully digitalized to block leakages and checkmate corrupt practices .
(6) ELECTION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT CHAIRMEN.
The icing on the cake, is electing credible, responsive and focused people as local government chairmen for effective and efficient administration of the local government. Over time, we have elected people into offices, as council boss’s, who lack vision and mission , and this have negatively impacted on grass root development . For a better governed and a better functional local government system in Abia State, credible people must be elected as Chairmen and Chairperson,to foster grass root development
BY HON OKEZIE OBASI, A GRASS ROOT MOBILIZER AND FORMER ELECTED COUNCILOR , UMUAHIA NORTH.