LGs Autonomy: A lifeboat for salvaging ordinary Nigerians

Re: Tinubu in Kano – Daily Trust

The step taken by the federal government in taking the 36 state governors to the Supreme Court, while seeking to extricate the country’s 774 local governments from suffocation by the middle tier of governments is absolutely a ray of hope for ordinary Nigerians and a laudable effort at consolidating the country’s quadriplegic democracy. This concerted effort will definitely grant the third tier of the government the opportunity to have direct access to their allocated funds from the federation account as stated by the amended 1999 constitution of the country.

The idea of granting full autonomy to local government councils is a very commendable effort, seeing how state governors turned allocated funds for the LGs into their inherited estates, thereby hindering them from receiving crucial complaints from the masses and grappling with pressing issues of rising poverty, gender disparity, menace of out-of-school children, massive unemployment, exacerbating insecurity, education and health challenges, job creation and others, at the grassroots.

It is undeniable that the escalating poverty and spiralling insecurity hitting the country can only be addressed when the long-awaited dream of local governments’ full autonomy becomes a reality. Poor Nigerians are looking forward to having listening ears at the grassroots for them to lodge their complaints. 

In a recent statement, the chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Mr. Mohammed Bello Shehu, said “Full autonomy will engender good governance, transparency and accountability at the local level. Security challenges like banditry, kidnappings, terrorism, electoral violence, etc, would be reduced to the barest minimum if the quantum of funds meant for local governments is channelled towards rural development.” 

According to the recent World Bank data, 89.8 million Nigerians were poor as at the beginning of this year. It added that an additional four million Nigerians became poor last year, raising the figure to 93.8million. It also projected that the number of poor Nigerians will rise to 100.9 million if the government is not capable of compensating vulnerable citizens for the ill-considered removal of fuel subsidy. A very crucial question here is: What sort of effort is President Tinubu making to address this endemic poverty?”

When receiving members of the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress last year in Lagos, President Bola Tinubu said, “I am committed to supporting a strong and ideologically-determined democracy that is progressive, inclusive, and focused on eliminating poverty while providing quality education for our children. To be frank, Mr President’s vision of eradicating poverty on the land and throwing his weight behind goal four of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which aim to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030, will never be accomplished without actualising full autonomy of the LGs. 

Today, the top remedy for the increasing out-of-school children, which is among the major problems constituting a very serious threat to national security and future stability of the country, is the attainment of full autonomy of the LGs as there is an estimated 15 million out-of-school children roaming the streets. If urgent action is not taken, when these children grow up, they may turn into phone snatchers, drug abusers, cultists, prostitutes, political thugs, pick-pockets, bandits and kidnappers. This reminds me of the saying, “A hungry man is an angry man.” An ancient Greek philosopher, scientist and polymath, Aristotle, also said “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” 

It is imperative to know that the underlying causes of escalating poverty is the lack of full autonomy of local government councils which are the closest tiers to the masses. 

Real development and poverty eradication can only be witnessed when this third tier of government can stand on its own two feet. 

The full autonomy of the LGs is considered as a constitutional move or a matter of survival for the millions of impoverished Nigerians living in extreme poverty, severe hunger and fright. Some public commentators and analysts see it as the resuscitation of the country’s ailing and comatose democracy, which is on the verge of life and death. 

Mr President should continue to strive to accomplish this life-saving vision of rescuing the vulnerable populations at the grassroots level from the strangulation of state governments. 

We appeal to our good-listening Creator to fill the hearts of our state governors and members of the legislature with empathy, understanding and discernment in order to allow this life-saving vision to come into realisation.

 

Mustapha Baba Azare, Bauchi State ([email protected])

 

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