ByÂ Wole Mosadomi
MINNAâ€”Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, has agitated for financial autonomy for local government councils, saying that it is the only way out for the nation’s rapid development.
Gen. Babangida, who spoke after receiving a medal inducting him as a Life Patron and Ambassador of International Centre for Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Development at his Minna residence, noted that development will be even and sustained if allocations meant for the various local government councils are released to them directly.
He, however, remarked that while the money is released to them directly, they should be made to account for how it is spent by way of monitoring the various projects initiated and executed to maintain quality.
The former president pointed out that his agitation for financial autonomy for the third tier of government was borne out of the starvation of some local government councils in the past, especially during the first democratically-elected local government when they were starved of their legitimate funds for belonging to a different political party than the party at the federal level.
Babangida observed that as a Nigerian, one should be free to associate with any political party of their choice to give room for sustainable democracy.
In his address, Country-Director of the centre, Mr. Onuoha Oliver, who also presented a post-humous award for the late First Lady, Mrs. Maryam Babangida, eulogised her for the successes and outstanding achievements and impacts she made at the grassroots,Â especially as regards poverty alleviation and women empowerment.
Mr. Oliver condemned the Joint Account being operated between state and local governments adding that as long as it continues, it will continue to make Nigerians poorer â€œbecause the governors have taken the local government as an extension of their empires.â€
He also spoke on the need for the country to conduct a credible election in 2011 saying, â€œa credible election is panacea to poverty alleviation and if we elect visionary and people oriented leaders, Nigeria will achieve whatever dreams/visions she has even before the set target time.â€
While calling on the National Assembly to braze up for various challenges ahead in order to move the country forward, he also called on all Nigerians â€œto rise up and ask questions about our commonwealth and how it is being managed by our leaders.â€