By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
A former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. (Dr.) Chris Asoluka has called for a common tenure of 4 years period for the local government system in Nigeria, saying it was one surest way of making it viable and productive.
Asoluka made the appeal on the sidelines of his address to the members of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Course 44 led by Professor Sunday Ochoche at a study visit to GOTNI headquarters in Abuja over the weekend.
He urged the National Assembly to enact a legislation that will make it a possibility and also include the participation of civil society organizations in the local government system.
He said: “I merely traced the history and to underscore that the current trend is what we call territorial approach to local development. That promotes local governance because it includes those local government councils, the CSOs the Media these people take responsibility towards solving problems in their localities and he who wears shoes knows where it pinches.
“You cannot define a problem more than someone from that area. And it is no longer an issue of do them a favour. There has to be ownership of solution and when you have ownership of solution, you have responsibility, you have accountability and monitoring, then the quality of governance will improve. If governance and local governance are up to it, some of these problems could have been avoided because unemployment builds up from the local government, up to the state then to the federal.
“Security breaches very breach occurs in a local government, every Nigerian border is owned by a local government. So local governance would tend to make them own their area if there are problems they solve their problem.
“And like I qualified, local governance has to play a huge role as a catalyst; the CSOs have to play a role. And I can tell you given the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the emphasis in terms of support would be on this arrangement and no longer giving money upstairs and it wouldn’t trickle down to where the problem is.
“The national Assembly should have prioritized giving a unified tenure system for the Local Government administration in the ongoing Constitutional amendment. If it’s three years, three years, but I would have suggested four years, so that every elected person is four years. But with the current Constitution, under Section 7(4), 7(5), 7(6), the State House of Assembly makes laws for the Local Government”.
Speaking on the constitutional lacuna on the local Government autonomy, Asoluka called for the amendment of sections 7(1), and Section 7(4) of the Constitution to further strengthen the system.
“If there is a constitutional amendment, where local government councils are sufficiently empowered to make laws for their areas, but you see that state assemblies make laws that govern local governments.
“And most times they remove the chairmen, whereas the constitution should have been such that councils can vote or impeach their chairmen, and this tenure insecurity brings about some abuse.
“You won’t want to play the hard guy because you could be removed the following day but if there is a constitutional attempt to strengthen the local government, I argue that sections 7(1), and Section 7(4) as well as Section 162 sub 5, they (National Assembly) should be amended.
“I’ll give you example, the Federation Account is shared by three bodies. No other body is known to the federation account – the federal, the state and the local governments. But the portion of the local government is given through State and paid into the so called state joint account and indirectly controlled by the state government, so you cannot give someone with the right and take over with the left.”
Speaking on the Course 44 Team engagement, the GOTNI Executive Director, Mr. Linus Okorie said that there could not be effective political leadership that will positively affect the people at the grassroots without an effectual local government adminstration.
“The interesting thing is that when the members of Group 5 of the Participants of Course 44 of NIPSS came calling at the centre, their theme is on local governance. So we discussed on the role of leadership in entrenching great local governance in Nigeria
“When we talk about local governance, we talk about the quality of governance that can impact effectively on people at the grassroot and people from all sectors of the economy.
“My position is very clear, that if we do not invest in the leadership capital of those who are going to take over governance at whatever level, there is no way we can make any progress.
“So, the leadership competences of those who lead institutions is primary for growth to happen over time. Sustainable growth can happen, only when leaders are groomed and prepared and leadership impact governance in the way unimaginable,” he said.