NATIONAL CONFAB: Key issues before northern delegates (4)

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This is the concluding part of this  presentation. The third part was published in yesterday’s edition of Vanguard

LOCAL Government Administration

Local Government Administration constitutes the third tier of governance in the context of Nigeria’s political structure. Local Governments are regarded as agencies for grass roots political participation as well as apparatus for rural development and transformation.

To effectively perform and make the desired impact, both as a tier of government and agency for political and socio-economic transformation of the rural areas, Local Governments must be given specific constitutional and fiscal responsibilities commensurate to the resources at their disposal.

CONSULTATION—Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar III (right) and some traditional rulers from the North after holding consultations with President Goodluck Jonathan at the First Lady's Conference Hall, Aso Villa, Abuja on Monday. Photo: Abayomi Adeshida.

CONSULTATION—Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III (right) and some traditional rulers from the North after holding consultations with President Goodluck Jonathan at the First Lady’s Conference Hall, Aso Villa, Abuja on Monday. Photo: Abayomi Adeshida.

Existing procedure

Responsibilities such as primary education/basic education, primary health care provision, basic skills acquisition programmes, construction and maintenance of rural roads, construction and maintenance of basic rural infrastructures such as rural markets and abattoirs, and community security co-ordination in conjunction with traditional institutions should be primarily handled by the local governments.

Consequently, therefore, local governments should be both politically and financially independent from the States direct control. Funds from the Federation Account be disbursed directly to the local government councils and the existing procedure of Joint Account with the States been abolished.

The political structure of Local Government Administration should be small, cost effective, and result-oriented. The structure should consist of Executive Council comprising the chairman and the supervisory councillors; and a Legislative Advisory Council to be headed by the most senior traditional ruler in the Local Government Area or a representative and comprising the Elected Councillors and at least half of its membership to comprise members across all social groups within the jurisdiction of the Local Government Administration.

Social welfare

Introduction: Nigeria should be in a state of emergency going by its social welfare indicators. It is terminally sick. (We restrict our conversation to the northern part of the country because of the audience). This is not because of the immediate threat of insurgency but because of the underlying factors that have contributed to insurgency: poor socio­-economic (demography, education, health; gender inequality; poverty) status.

The Human Development Index is 153 out of 187 countries. Nigerians do not live very long by international standards, with the country ranking 167th out of 176 countries in life expectancy. The Millennium Development Goals will not be met. By socio-economic indicators; Nigeria is de facto two countries of northern and southern Nigeria. The draft National Social Security Protection Policy; if adopted and implemented; provides the basis for responding to some of the challenges. Similarly there are several other policies in the pipeline or adopted and not implemented.

Recommendations

Universal access to health: Expand the National Health Insurance Scheme to include formal and informal workers; communities and the unemployed. The right to health should be enshrined in the constitution.

Primary Health Care: Re-emphasise primary health care as the closest health facility to most Nigerians. The primary health care system should be the base of the pyramid of the system instead of what looks like an inverted pyramid. Implement the Abuja Declaration of 15 per cent budgetary commitment to the health sector. Investment should be on the health system instead of current focus on buildings.

Investment in health: We recommend passing of the National Health Bill which will provide significant resources to the health sector. We recommend the National Assembly to pass the Violence Against Persons Bill and for the President to sign it immediately. Also, state governments pass similar bill.

Concentration of resources

Reprioritize health expenditure to be more efficient. There is concentration of resources at non-health and medical expenses and at tertiary level of health care. This needs to be reversed to optimize whatever resources made available.

Prioritize public health (nutrition, water, sanitation, vaccination etc) rather than the current medicalization of the health sector.

Education

Restructuring of Curriculum: Establish closer relationship between industry and the educational system to inform curriculum development, •emphasise teaching of history, civics and skills in schools, •emphasise vocational education so that graduates have skills that can be used as employee of other organizations or self-employed.

Investment in Education: Governments should endeavour to reach the goal of 26 percent annual budget dedicated to education as recommended by UNESCO, • Efficient use of existing resources should be emphasized because corruption is a major problem in the education system.             :

National Education Policy: Faithfully implement the current national education policy, •emphasise skills instead of certificates.

Return of missionary and private schools to original owners: Given the large problem of access to education and the high number of out of school children, governments should return schools to the origin owners under certain conditions including introducing non-discriminatory policies.

Nomadic Education: We recommend free and compulsory education for nomads up to secondary level. Their education curriculum should be tilted to reflect their special circumstances as nomads.

Institutionalising Almaajiri Education: Integrate secular curriculum in the existing system of Tsangaya and Almajiri schools including vocational training. Almajiri and Tsangaya schools should be given special subventions, •include religious studies into secular schools to encourage parents to patronize them and lessen the patronage of Almajiri and Tsangaya schools.

Housing: Affordable housing. Federal Government to adopt the draft National Social Protection Policy which providesamong other things (a) provision of land by government for development, (b) encourage the private sector to partner with the government in form of corporate social responsibility, (c) access to cheap and affordable mortgage financing, and (d) establish a framework that will address housing need of different economic groups.

Social security: Rights of Senior Citizens: We recommend cost effective, age appropriate and gender sensitive means of delivering unconditional social transfers to the aged.

Compulsory insurance

Unemployed Nigerians: We recommend unconditional cash transfer of a minimum of N5,000 per month to all unemployed persons.

Insurance: We recommend compulsory insurance for formal and informal sector employees and self employed persons. Sccondly, Government to create enabling environment for private sector involvement in pensions and insurance provision schemes for the informal sector that is able to afford them. Thirdly, expand conditional and unconditional social transfer scheme for the children, women and aged.

Pension and Gratuity: We recommend that the scope of workers covered through the contributory pension scheme is expanded by including workers at all levels of governments. Secondly the old pension scheme should be integrated with the contributory pension scheme. Thirdly, severe punishment should be prescribed for those involved in fraudulent pension activities.

Poverty and Wealth Creation: We recommend aggressive inclusive economic growth to reduce poverty and implementation of pro-poor policies such as social security, free education and health services and public works.

Status of married women: State of Origin and State of Marriage: In order to remove such blatant discrimination against married women and encourage national diversity and unity through marriage, women who marry outside their states of origin should enjoy special privileges when appointments are made to reflect federal character.

Same rights and privileges

Any person who resides in a state for a period of five years should be given the same rights, privileges and obligations of someone who is originally from that state.

Affirmative action: We recommend affirmative action up to the next 20 years. This is in line with the spirit of the National Gender Policy of 35 per cent position for women in appointive and elective positions. This policy should be extended to other areas where women and girls find it difficult to compete on equal basis with men and boys.

Political participation: In line with the spirit of the National Gender Policy, we recommend a legislation to make it compulsory for political parties to ensure minimum of 35 percent of elective, appointive and contestable positions are preserved for women. All appointments by governments at all levels preserve minimum of 35 percent position for women. The private sector is encouraged to preserve minimum of 35 percent of positions for women.

Discrimination: We recommend the National Assembly to pass the Violence Against Persons Bill and for the President to sign it immediately. Also, state governments pass similar bill. All discriminatory policies, laws and practices should be abrogated immediately. These will include the Nigeria Labour Law which prohibits women from working night shift in public or private industries and agricultural undertakings.

Child Rights Law: We recommend that those states which haven’t passed the lawto do so.

Child’s Rights law Implementation Bodies: We recommend the setting up of a National Commission for Children to oversee the implementation of policies on children. Its equivalent should be set up at state levels.

Disability Rights/Welfare: We recommend the passing by the National Assembly of the Disability Bill which :provides for the protection of persons with disabilities, promotion of their welfare and provision of institutional framework for implementation of the bill.

Conclusion: We recommend the immediate adoption of the National Social Security Protection Policy which out outlines basic principles of State’s obligations including to: •Secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen; •Provide suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled; •Ensuring that all citizens have the opportunity for securing adequate means of livelihood as well as adequate opportunity to secure suitable employment; • Ensuring that provision is made for public assistance in deserviing cases or other conditions of need.

Role of traditional rulers and (traditional) institutions in governance: Over the last one hundred years of Nigeria’s existence, traditional institutions have undergone tremendous changes, both in content and form.

Political transformations

In parts of Nigeria where these institutions have essentially been the vehicle of political transformations of their respective societies since pre-historic times, the difference in the political and socio-economic substance of these institutions at the eve of colonial conquest and now is like the difference between life and death. During the pre-colonial period the traditional institutions wielded what – in the jargon of modern political vocabulary ­can be termetl as both the executive, legislative and judicial powers in their respective societies.

During the colonial era these institutions were progressively stripped of these powers through the introduction of western political structures of governance while preserving their ‘moral’ authority and integrating them into the new mode of political administration.

In addition, the Councils of Chiefs that were established during the colonial period and survived down to the First Republic enabled these institutions to be systematically integrated into the new political system by providing counsel to the new leadership and also as socio-political link between governments and the grassroots.

However, over the last twenty years or so, the traditional institutions: have been systematically destroyed in their essence and ironically boosted in their form.

Traditional authorities

One of the major reasons for this unfortunate state of affairs has been the creation of ‘artificial’ traditional institutions/structures, which had undermined the organic historical basis of the moral authority that these institutions wielded from their citizens.

To argue in favour of traditional institutions is an understatement. Traditional Institutions – perhaps not in the multiplicity to which they exist in Nigeria today – are part and parcel of the social fabric of many Nigerian communities.

As such, they are a factor in the political, economic and social structure of Nigerian State. But, to make them responsible and effective, both as historical edifice and relevant to contemporary challenges, they have to be reformed first. As no one is likely to dispute the fact that the traditional institutions in Nigeria today have been bastardized largely through artificial and unproductive multiplication.

The most appropriate role of traditional institutions is in the area/jurisdiction of advisory councils that can be established at the national, state and local government levels. Traditional Institutions can be given specific duties particularly in the areas of religion, security, and immigration matters.

Concluded

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