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Local government autonomy as panacea for security, growth

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Ned Nwoko


It is with great pleasure, utmost respect and sense of responsibility that I send greetings to you. As president, you have demonstrated admirable patriotism, commitment and passion for the peace, unity and development of Nigeria as a nation. Today, Nigeria as a developing nation is faced with a myriad of social, economic and political challenges which have been endemic and long drawn transcending successive governments. But even with the hydra headed constraints, you have continued to stand firm in your faith and hope in the survival and growth of the nation, especially with your anti graft crusade and selfless leadership style. 

I share your good vision that Nigeria must overcome her problems, rise above her inhibitions and move forward for the well being of her over 200 million people. 

In recent times there have been growing interest and anxiety in the affairs of Nigeria against the backdrop of corruption, socio-economic difficulties and insecurity by bandits across the country. I particularly share your concerns for the necessity of one Nigeria that would guarantee peaceful coexistence, equity and social justice among the diverse inhabitants. 

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I am elated that you have championed this move with your policy thrust of granting autonomy to local governments as well as ensuring independence of State Assemblies and the judiciary. Your quest remains a bold patriotic template that would strengthen separation of powers among the executive, judiciary and legislature, for the benefit of all Nigerians.

I join you and other well meaning Nigerians, as an impassioned citizen and concerned stakeholder in the Nigerian project to make a clarion call for the sustenance of these institutions. I specifically call for full autonomy for the local government administration in Nigeria as the bedrock of restructuring, true federalism and genuine democracy. Lack of independence in local government leadership has over the years produced a weak structure that could not safeguard lives and inspire good governance at the grassroots. 

My firm belief is that local government autonomy and direct funding from the Federation allocation account would embolden elected chairmen and councilors to work effectively with divisional police officers and traditional rulers to manage security as every crime is local. The prevailing situation where most state governors control local government funds through the federation allocation account, leaving the councils as appendages of the states, is grossly defective. Local governments deserve independence to attract experienced technocrats and successful business men who have the latitude and wealth of experience to perform as chairmen. I am convinced such arrangement would herald real democracy as elections would be fought locally and popular candidates would emerge regardless of political parties and godfather phenomenon. 

The recent resolution by Southern governors for restructuring should go beyond rhetoric and be matched with action. What is required urgently is for the National Assembly to ensure  implementation of administrative and financial autonomy in favour  of democratic institutions in Nigeria especially the local governments. 

Elections will be free and fair if local governments are independent. This will usher in the much needed election of credible aspirants. Council chairmen will be effective while Councilors will take charge of their wards. Also the kings will be held responsible for their towns and villages.

It has been generally observed that most Governors don’t know what goes on in local government areas. They rely on advisers who are most times not resident in the LGAs. Majority of the Governors control elections because they control local government executives. Free these executives and empower them through direct allocations and see what will happen with elections and security. The restructuring we need should start from the grassroots because it is the foundation of democracy. 

I also call on Ohaneze, Afenefere, Arewa, PANDEF and other groups to give total support. I believe that if this is achieved before the next general elections in 2023, everything will change for good, to the delight of all Nigerians.

We need strong democratic institutions at the various levels in Nigeria for the good of all. We need rule of law and social justice much more than ever before. The strike by judicial workers under JUSUN demands this reasonably. Judges deserve financial and administrative autonomy to function freely. State legislators should not be subservient to state Chief executives. Local governments must stand alone to drive effective governance at the grassroots. 

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It is a welcome development that public hearing on the review of the 1999 Constitution is holding simultaneously across the six geo- political zones from May 26 to 27, 2021. Local government officials in collaboration with traditional rulers must mobilize their people to participate massively. Political parties, civil society organizations, human rights groups, youths and women bodies and indeed all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion and social status must ensure full participation in the constitutional review process.

The needed and achievable restructuring is autonomy of local governments and independence of state Assemblies and the judiciary. My inner conviction is that such proper framework of institutional reforms will lead to the birth of a new Nigeria rooted in a glorious culture of self belonging, justice and fairness, peace and unity, political stability, economic prosperity and general fulfillment. A new Nigeria where democracy would live up to its true meaning as government of the people, by the people and for the people, propounded by the 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln. True democratic independence at the local governments, state assemblies and the judiciary represents the trajectory of our search for a better Nigeria.

Mr. President, I resolutely trust and have the confidence that you will do your utmost best as a consummate patriot and exemplary leader to bequeath a legacy of viable democracy to the present and future generations of Nigerians. May God continue to guide you in good health and wisdom to lead Nigeria towards the attainment of the positive goals and dreams of the founding fathers.
Dr. Nwoko, lawyer, former member of House of Representatives, wrote this as an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari.

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