How Not to Liberate Local Governments

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While delivering a keynote address in Lagos recently, radical lawyer, Femi Falana, called on the Federal Government to ensure proper funding of Local Government Councils, to help boost job creation for young men and women. He specifically argued that at least a billion naira each should be dedicated to the LGCs from funds recovered from anti-corruption cases.

The position advanced by the radical lawyer is a step in the right direction. But much more needs to be done to ensure that funds meant for improving the lot of young working-class people at the local government areas are indeed utilised for such purpose.

State governors have practically paralysed the LGs by underfunding them and looting the meagre funds released, through puppet executives. In Lagos state for instance, Governor Sanwo-Olu and others before him have turned the LGs to “shop for the loyalists”, with patronage being the order of the day.

Last month, the Lagos African Action Congress (AAC) asked Governor Sanwo-Olu not to turn the LGCs into Automated Teller Machines (ATM) for the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the pockets of stalwarts of their party.

AAC further showed that:

“The NFIU has exposed that Sanwo-Olu has deducted over N370million from the N750million allocated to Alimosho Local Government. This means that five LCDAs will be put to squeeze with just N320million left.

Lagos AAC calls Governor Sanwo-Olu to return the #370million immediately! We also call on the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), National Union of Teachers (NUT) and other trade unions to rise up and defend the LGCs from the bloody teeths of the gluttony.

This is the character of the APC government since 1999. That is why they forcefully rig every LGC elections through the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC).”

In Cross Rivers state, Governor Ben Ayade refused to conduct elections into the LGCs for the past five years. This is one area Agba Jalingo, the State Chair of African Action Congress (AAC) has challenged the state government. And it is one of the reasons he was arrested and is being prosecuted for alleged “terrorism.”

Also, in Ondo state, Governor Akeredolu has ignored all calls to conduct LGCs elections. That is why he imposed Caretaker Committees that celebrate the buying of “four tyres” for old council buses!

Local Government Councils are the structure of governance closest to the grassroots where working-class people live. They should be centres of vibrant democratic dynamics. But all of this cannot be imposed from the top. That is partly why attempts by President Buhari “to rescue LGCs from state governors” have met a brick wall, even with the activation of the National Finance Intelligence Unit (NFIU).

It is the workers and communities in the Local councils that can liberate the LGs from the stranglehold of the state governors. Trade unions with structures across all local government areas such as the National Union of Teachers (NUT), National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) have to take up the struggle for people-led local government councils.

They will have to mobilise the communities and ensure LGC Chairmen and other officials are held to account on a regular basis by the grassroots through mass meetings across each ward, convened independently of the LGC structures, but rather from below by the trade unions and community-based associations.

by Kunle Wizeman AJAYI

 

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