Nigeria has three tiers of government. The federal, state and local government. All these three tiers of government have stipulated duties which are enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and anticipated of them to execute. These duties are not only enshrined in the constitution but they are well specified, in a such a way that there can be effective administration in all the three tiers of government. The drafting committee of our constitution envisaged such a scenario that they did not give room for the absolute control of the state government by the federal government or the local government by the state government. Our constitution does not give room for absolute control of any tier of government by another tier of government.
Unfortunately, while the federal government has rarely interfered with the activities of the states except where the constitution gave them the right to do so let alone think of engaging in activities that depict them as “owners of the states”. The states are doing exactly that with the local governments. The states have turned the local governments to their “private estates“ where the governor being the leader of the state dictates and does whatever he likes with the local government supported by a minute fraction of the population who dictates what happens. Otherwise, how does one talk about a scenario where local government chairmen are sacked and appointed at will. The last time I checked, no president since 1999 has done even half of what governors are doing to chairmen, to them. Even at the darkest hours of our nascent democracy but we have had situations where some states have failed to conduct local governments elections for about a decade or so, where caretaker committees became the order of the day. Why caretaker committees? Why not duly elected chairmen and councilors? But then what difference does it make to these people that are saddled with the responsibility of protecting the rights of the citizens of their respective states but ends up doing the direct opposite? Well, caretaker committees if at all they have any merit then that merit has been defected and it has been overshadowed by the way, these caretaker committees have been run across the length and breadth of this country. A situation where caretaker committee chairmen are appointed, sacked and then appointed and sacked again, in a manner that has become almost endless without conducting elections to usher in substantial chairmen, vice chairmen and councilors cannot be said to be a good thing. Going forward, why do the states government really prefer caretaker committee to duly elected chairmen, vice chairmen and councilors? That is if there is anything like duly elected chairmen, vice chairmen and councilors again. In majority of the states I certainly know, nothing like duly elected chairmen, vice chairmen and councilors. Mark the words, “duly elected chairmen, vice chairmen and councilors”, and not just a show of shame that have been going on in many states across the length and breadth of this country as local government elections. The reason why states government prefer caretaker committees are quite obvious and chief among them is that, the states have easier unfettered access to the local governments funds through the caretaker committees than duly elected local government officials. Yes, note the words “duly elected”, again! Another reason is that there would hardly be any member of the caretaker committee or even appointed local governments bosses, in the name of elections that would have dared question no matter how horrible the decision of the governor or any of his aides that aided in the shameful, carefully planned appointments of cronies as elected chairmen, vice chairmen and councilors. “Who born them” to question any of the decisions of the bosses when just a simple phone call could bring their tenure to an unceremonious end or a simple command would do. Before any letter or paper is sent if highly necessary! You see it is extremely easy for the governors to always have their way under this kind of arrangement. No doubt the governor is the leader of the state where he or she governs and deserves the utmost respect of all and sundry. And I am not here to dispute that, all that I am striving to assert here is the unfortunate and totally unacceptable situation we find ourselves today as local government administration here in Nigeria. Although, as I asserted ab initio the governor is the leader of the state, but the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gave him or her clearly what he or she can do. There is a well outlined code of conduct, duties and responsibilities. Any attempt to cross that boundary or exceed the limits set by our laws, is absolutely an attempt to undermine our constitution, the states, the authorities and the people for whom government itself is established and whose interest must be supreme and thus, protected. A situation where local government chairmen are given a meager fraction of their subvention which is barely sufficient to pay workers is not only a direct disregard for our laws, the office these people occupy but also a slap on the faces of the Nigerian citizens. While most of the local government chairmen, vice chairmen and councilors seem very comfortable under this arrangement is something that extremely annoys me but why would they not! When most of them were never truly and duly elected! Why won’t they? When a vast majority of them were appointed based on their loyalty and never competence to serve. Why won’t they when the only interest they serve is that of the governor or as the case may be the person that forwarded their names to the governor to be appointed? You see the earlier we comprehend this the better it gets for all of us who truly want a great Nigeria that can function effectively. Talking about elections, please just look at most of the states that have been conducting local government elections in this our dear country and critically study them. Only a few of them have a semblance of credibility. A vast majority of the states have what I called “an arranged appointment of cronies” in the name of local government elections. Otherwise, how does one come to terms with, how all the states that have purportedly conducted elections. The governor’s party, that is the party in power in the state always win all the seats in the chairmanship and councillorship elections, at best they lose a few chairmanship seats which is indeed a rarity. The average performance of the opposition party in most states is wining a few councillorship seats. Indeed, it is the peak performance of any opposition party in any part of the country. But have you ever striven to comprehend the perplexities of this “superman like performance” by a governor’s party in local government elections. The plain truth is that this is as hard as comprehending the most difficult puzzle or anything that is extremely difficult. In most of these states you have the opposition parties with members in the states assemblies, national assembly and in some instances even the presidential candidate of the opposition party winning in such states but still the opposition would end up losing all seats. Something is not obviously adding up. The truth is that it will never add up! There is no way a state that has a member of an opposition party in state assembly let alone a member of house of representatives or even a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria would not be able to win at a handful of councillorship seats and a few chairmanship seats. I can vividly comprehend this not happening in one or two instances. But when this happen repeatedly adcinfinitum, then something is obviously wrong with the process, system and the status quo in the local government administration in Nigeria. What then is wrong? Is it the lack of financial autonomy? Is it the non-existence of local government projects which our constitution in the fourth schedule stipulated as a result of lack of funds? Is it the endless caretaker committees in some states? Is it the sporadic payment of salaries in many states? Is it the arranged appointment of cronies in the name of elections? All these and many more! However, even if the local governments are to be given autonomy today which I sincerely crave to happen sooner than later, if we do not address some anomalies in the local government administration in Nigeria we would not get it right in this very essential tier of government. How would we get it right if we do not envisage a scenario where local governments would be given authority and the states would continue to do what they have been doing by using the caretaker committee they appoint to still siphon funds meant for local government through meticulous arrangement even though, I heard that caretaker committees have been abolished. What about the implementation when I broke this news to some of my friends on social media so many of them queried about the implementation. Unfortunately, we are very bad at implementation here in Nigeria. Most times we come up with good plans but horrible implementation. And I know for a fact that every plan is as good as its implementation. But let assume for the sake of arguments this is perfectly implemented. Don’t you think the states would still continue to extort and exploit the local governments through using their subordinates an election using the same type of election they have been conducting to still control the local governments, as if they own they. I therefore, humbly believe that the national assembly with the help of all other authorities must amend the constitution and take the right to conduct local government’s elections from the states government. That is not only the potentially breakthrough decision but it will surely go on well to solve grave anomalies in the local government administration in Nigeria. Nigeria needs the local government at his very best especially at this very difficult period of my nation’s life. Nigeria has to move forward and it can only do that with the right local government administration in place. And for that to happen local government elections have to be taken away from the states. It is on this note, that I wish to unequivocally assert that the responsibility of conducting local government elections be taken away from the state governments to federal government. That is the surest path to getting things right in this very essential tier of government. It is not as if INEC is perfect. No, it is not. But at least it is far better than any of the state’s electoral commissions across the length and breadth of this country. None of them has had better record of conducting elections than INEC even at its worst or darkest period, the opposition still managed to win elections even though, that owe much to the resistance of the people, to some extent INEC has done quite a better job than any of the state’s electoral commissions. Thus, it is on this that I wish to categorically plead with all the stakeholders involved to stand on the right path and make sure the right is done. Conclusively, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 vividly provides in the fourth schedule the essential functions of the local government in Nigeria and I want to humbly urge you to go and read the fourth schedule then compare and Contrast to see for yourself if what is currently obtainable has any semblance of the essence that this vital tier of government ought to have. It is on this note that I wish to unequivocally state that no matter what is being done or will be done in the coming weeks, days or even months, local government administration will continue to look as a sole proprietorship business where the owner calls shot and does whatever he wants. It is nauseating to know that most governors run the local government under their jurisdiction as sole proprietorship business or at best as their private estates. This must be brought to an end but for that to happen all relevant stakeholders have to work round the clock to amend the constitution and take local government election from the jurisdiction of states to federal. I know it won’t be easy but there is no harm in every patriotic Nigerian from all walk of life striving to change this country for the better and bring back life to once very vibrant tier of government. Yes together we can!
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