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‘Why local council system underperformed in Nigeria’

By Lawrence Njoku, Enugu
13 October 2021   |   2:57 am
A non-governmental organisation, Social Development Integrated Centre (SDIC), yesterday, said that the local councils would continue to underdeliver until they are removed from apron strings

A non-governmental organisation, Social Development Integrated Centre (SDIC), yesterday, said that the local councils would continue to underdeliver until they are removed from apron strings that have made them an appendage and subservient to the state governors.

It stated that between 2001 and 2019, the 774 local councils in the country received about N20.3 trillion as allocations from the Federal Government, but that despite the disbursements, solid developments have eluded the communities.

The group also stated that corruption, paucity of human capital, opaque fiscal systems and poor resources management had continued to challenge the effective delivery of the system, adding that the constitutional framework guarantees the autonomy and fiscal independence of the third tier in Nigeria had received little attention.

SDIC’s Senior Programmes Officer, Prince Edegbuo, who addressed a press conference in Enugu, yesterday, on “Participatory governance and inclusive service delivery in the local councils in Nigeria,” advocated an amendment of the constitution to create a legislative structure for a truly independent local council system, divorced from the states.

“This new legislative framework should make provisions that ensure the legislative and executive powers and functions of local councils to guarantee full autonomy. This new regime would include efforts to foster fiscal discipline in local councils and promote self-sufficiency through internally-generated revenue,” he said.

He said the interference in the local council administration was made possible by the state-local council joint account being controlled by the governors.

He lamented that governments in Nigeria had cultivated a culture of closed budgeting regimes, thereby blocking citizens’ participation, which now provides fertile ground for opacity and lack of accountability in the management of public resources.

Flanked by the partnering officials, Rural Engagement and Development Foundation (REDFoundation), Edegbuo said the implication of such action was that “communities continued to endure years of decay in health and educational infrastructural and a decline in the living condition and standards of the people in the local and suburban areas.”

The group, therefore, urged local councils to diversify and implement income-generating and mobilisation policy initiatives, saying that they would benefit from a clear and explicit description of their powers and functions, which would allow them to diversify their revenue streams and reduce reliance on federal allocations.

“We strongly believe that a transparent local government system, backed by a well-defined legislative framework to manage its resources subject only to the wishes of the people will deliver the needed development. It is when we have an independent local government that the people can confidently engage the council authorities to account for the resources that they are elected to manage on behalf of the people”, he said.