…Say it's Key to Effective Government
By Chioma Ndife
The Justice Development and Peace Caritas (JDPC) of Awka Catholic Diocese has challenged the non-passage of the Local Government Autonomy Bill by the Anambra State House of Assembly.
JDPC criticized the House of Assembly members for stepping down the bill after the consideration it received at their plenary during a Town Hall Meeting held on Monday at Kenneth Dike Memorial Library, Awka, for trainees in the ongoing Community and Legislative Members Interactive Platform (CLIP) project.
Speaking at the Town Hall Meeting, the Project Director of JDPC, Rev. Fr. Simon Anigbogu, maintained that the Town Hall Meeting initiated by the organization was to disclose areas that would promote active participation in governance and ensure effective representation of elected office holders.
Fr. Anigbogu who was represented by JDPC Programme Officer, Samual Ololo, itemized the benefits which the masses stood to gain from the passage of LG Autonomy Bill. He implored House members to see that the bill was passed into law to increase the number of states in the federation where the bill had been passed.
Ololo who moderated the session regretted that none of the states in the Southeast had passed the bill out of the 9 states in the federation that had assented to the bill.
Speaking on the need for LG Autonomy, Anambra State Programme Manager, Community Empowerment Network, Elder Eloka Okafor disclosed that LG Autonomy Bill which was sent to the State House of Assembly had been suspended, saying that the public hearing that was meant to be conducted by the house members had been trashed out. He pointed out that local governments should be able to control their resources and that such resources should come to them directly from the federation account. He said that the joint account which the state government operated with local government relegated the autonomy of the local government and its functions.
He maintained that local government system should be functional, saying that it could only function effectively through the election of chairmen that passed through the electoral process and not transition or caretaker as run in Anambra State.
He explained that the passage of the bill would stop an unelected chairman from receiving money for LG through the federation account as they would be recognized under the new amendment. He beckoned on the law makers to ensure that the bill received their accent, saying that such would increase the number of states that had passed the bill in Nigeria.
Okafor who is a civil analyst said that the passage of the bill would open the political space for both the youths and the women folk, saying that the democratic practice in Nigeria would be deepened. He pinpointed the functions of the Local Government and disclosed the developmental projects to be carried out to benefit the rural dwellers.
He regretted that most leaders in Nigeria did not receive medical care in most primary health centres which they provided for the masses, noting that the LG as the government closest to the people, when empowered, could revamp most abandoned rural projects and engage more people in the governance of the nation.
Reacting, a participant from Umunze Community and the Secretary General of Umunze Progressive Union, Hypolite Olua, said it was important for the citizens to know the powers which they wielded and be able to recall leaders who performed below their expectation. He tasked JDPC to sensitize the people on the process of recalling non-performing leaders.
For his part, Obinna Okoroji blamed the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, saying that it was the major source of confusion in the nation. He advocated for a true federalism that allowed each state to come up with its own constitution.
Others, Chioma Okeke and Comrade Ejike Umenwa, identified fear as the main reason why people did not speak up, saying that JDPC should extend their platform for discussion making.