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Local council autonomy, panacea to insecurity, says Akinwalere

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Akinwalere

With disturbing level of insecurity in Nigeria, Ladi Adebutu Foundation recently organised a national discourse on using “Local Government System (Autonomy) as Panacea For National Security (Development)” held at the Olusegun Obasanjo Library, Abeokuta. Former National President, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Dr Adedeji Akinwalere, who was a lead discussant at the discourse told ROTIMI AGBOLUAJE spoke on why solutions lie in autonomous and functional local council system:

Why local councils in Nigeria are still ineffective
The country can achieve national development if local governments are structured to engender growth in terms of infrastructure. The first point we have to make here is that, the failure of local government system, which is largely engineered by state governments, is responsible for the crises and travails that we have in Nigeria. Our governors have made local governments unworkable, totally un-impactful and irrelevant to the extent people at grassroots have lost faith in governance at all levels.

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Researches have shown that there is high correlation between all these crimes; kidnapping, ritual killings, armed robbery, banditry, Boko Haram and whatever crises you can think of, and the failure of the system at local government level. In the past, local government would offer employment, do project, award contracts. But in recent times, all we hear about local government is how state governors hijacked their allocation.

We must not forget that the entire concept of policing started from local level. In the First Republic or even before then, from 1951 up to 1965, we had the Native Authority Police both in the Northern region and West and they were very functional. They knew criminals; they knew where the flashpoints were. But what we have today is a kind of policing at the grassroots; a force to enforce the law of a government that is so far away from people, to compel and force them to submission.

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There should be a return to the original local government policing system where people at local level are engaged. From what we have seen in the North East, Nigeria Police cannot solve these problems. Nigerian Army, including operatives of the Department of Security Service (DSS) cannot solve the problem. In fact, their combinations have not been able to solve the problem.  Now, they are integrating what they call civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) that is local: people who know the terrain and hideouts of these people, including the topography of the place.

Views on agitations for state Police
To have state police is in order, however, we must admit that we once had a Native Authority Police that worked. A lot of them have come out with some unacceptable and illogical argument in the past that Native Authority Police was corrupt but nobody could say they were not effective.  In the North, it was well organised and functioned very well up to 1978.  So, the solution to some of these local crimes lies not with just state police, it lies with community policing but not the type Inspector General of Police is doing.  But a Native Authority Police that can be well organised, that can solve some of the problems.

Role of traditional leaders in crime management 
The problem with Nigeria is that our leaders, whether at the Federal or State levels don’t read. They don’t know history or they just ignore History probably because they are afraid of it and that is why they are taking History out of our curriculum. The truth is that even before colonial period, we had our own native security system. Monarchs had their own army, the Benin kingdom had its army, Oyo Empire had its own, Ijebu kingdom had theirs. In fact, Ijebu kingdom in Magbonwon in 1895 faced colonial government in a war, although they were overpowered.

Apart from the army established by the various kingdoms, there was a policing system within each palace, which is still the case in all palaces today. We must find a way to integrate traditional rulers into governance.

On autonomy for local councils
We must commend President Muhammadu Buhari for that bold decision, but you will realise that nearly all the governors rose up against the order of the President we have. What we have is a system that has muzzled the functionaries at local government level. Even when they pay the money to the councils’ accounts, they still have to take the allocation to the states for re-disbursement just to fulfill all righteousness.

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We don’t need a new law or sanctions, there are more than enough laws which EFCC and ICPC can effectively deal with cases of fraud that emanated from transactions, it is just for them to up their games and align themselves with what Mr. President said. There is a huge fraud still going on under the operation, and the disregard for Mr. President’s order. That the President has given order is not enough, he must mobilise the anti-fraud agencies to follow up on the directive.

On need for regular auditing of Council’s accounts
Yes, I think to some extent, at the state level, we have the Accountant General for local government that could do that, but the person who is there is appointed at the whims and caprices of the state governor who is the chief architect of the misappropriation and misapplication of council funds, so where is the accountability?

The Federal Government itself does not have sufficient integrity to leave Abuja and go to Bauchi, Imo or Ogun State to inspect audited accounts.

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