A functioning local government system is the key to democratic dividends

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From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila said the local government system must be efficient and functional for Nigerians to enjoy the expected “dividends of democracy”.

The president expressed disappointment that many Nigerians, especially his constituents in Lagos State, do not understand the concept of democracy and this leads them to impose demands on lawmakers that should normally be addressed by local governments.

President Gbajabiamila, who spoke at the opening ceremony of the General Assembly of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in Abuja, said on Wednesday that the concept of democracy focuses on the separation of powers as well as checks and balances between the three levels of government.

He challenged local government presidents to develop new strategies that would enable stakeholders in government and civil society to collaborate effectively and achieve the needed and long overdue reforms of local government administration in Nigeria.

He noted that local governments are closest to the people and that until the system is structurally and fundamentally fixed, the benefits of democracy will continue to elude Nigerians.

“I found in every electoral cycle, when I returned home for re-election campaigns, that my constituents kept asking me what local governments constitutionally should do. Things like repairing roads, evacuating the drainage system and many more. These things are exclusively the responsibility of the local government, ”said Gbajabiamila.

“It is an indication that my constituents do not understand the fact that in a democratic society there is a separation of powers. Each level of government has its own responsibilities. I often travel from Abuja sometimes to clean up the rubble and gutters in my constituency, which is usually not my responsibility.

“This is to emphasize the importance of the LG administration. I realized that the reason the local government system does not work in Nigeria is that the administrators are structurally hampered.

“However, we will continue to go around in circles if we fail to resolve the problems of the local government. For too long, we have avoided difficult conversions about the future of our nation. But we can no longer afford to do this.

“A lot of their responsibilities have been made difficult and I’m sure you know why, and we all suffer for it. I suggest that you make historic resolutions to the general assembly and we will support you with a legislative framework. There has been a political consensus lately in favor of constitutional reforms to address LG’s structural and fundamental problems. ‘

ALGON President David Kolawole in his remarks assured that the general assembly would draw up a realistic plan that would herald the transformation of the local government system.

“However, our biggest challenge is the arbitrary suspension or dismissal of the LG Democratic presidents and councilors elected by the governors.

“We demand and will continue to push for LGA autonomy. In addition to this, we will push for the revision of the 1999 constitution with regard to LG administration. We also pray for a uniform four-year term for the administration of LGs, which will encourage stability and service.

“We also demand an end to the unconstitutional reduction of the local government account and the decentralization of the Nigerian police force which will make community policing effective.”

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