The idea of local government administration is to bring government down to the grassroots. It is believed that bringing it to the grassroots will enable the grassroots’ people to determine their own affairs, being in a position to know what they want and how they want it. But in Nigeria, this freedom to determine their own affairs has been stifled by the lack of autonomy the local governments enjoy.
Not too long ago, there was a massive clamour for local government autonomy which was taken to the National Assembly where after it was deliberated upon, was taken round the various state assemblies for their input. However, after the initial excitement, nothing has been heard again about the issue.
This means that the local government system continues to be imprisoned by state governments through the so-called joint account system.
Under the joint account system, funds from the federation account are supposed to enter a common pool in the states, with the states adding ten percent of their internally generated revenue and sharing across the board among the local governments.
This, ordinarily, will enable the local governments to operate autonomously without being tied to the apron strings of the state governments.
However, what we have today is a situation where local governments have been made non-productive, having become mere appendages of state governments. The chairmen go cap in hand to the states begging for money that is theirs.
Indeed, it is common knowledge that in the two years of local government administration in Anambra State, no meaningful development was recorded as the local governments were grossly handicapped by lack of finances. Thus, any local government that did anything more than constructing a borehole was considered successful. This is however not what it should be, especially as the people running the councils then were supposed to have been elected.
This has ensured that the people at the grassroots did not enjoy full democratic dividends accruable under a democratic system, making them losers.
But even worse hit are the council chairmen and councillors whose political futures had apparently been wrecked. For how indeed can any politician who promised their people various amenities enter and leave office without even attempting to fulfil any of those promises?
As the clamour for the conduct of council elections gain momentum again in Anambra State following the appointment of care taker chairmen and councillors by the state government at the expiration of the two-year tenure of the elected chairmen and councillors, we urge the state governor, Chief Wille Obiano, to recognize the important role of the third tier of government in rural development.
This recognition will mean giving them enough money to fully function as a government rather than what obtains now. They should be able to employ people and execute projects in their areas, thus contributing effectively towards the overall development of the state.
What obtains now is a situation where we have governments at the local level but no governance. Governance will come when they begin to work for the people. We are waiting for such a day.