A don, based in the United States of America, Prof Chris Nwokeji, has counseled state governors on the propriety of having elected officials preside over the affairs of the local government councils in Nigeria, noting that the use of transition committees run counter to the provisions of the constitution.
He insisted that transition committees serve as tools to fleece local government funds by the governors, thereby strangulating economic activities at the grassroots. Such practices he said, lead to urban-rural migration and social vices more than any other factor.
According to him, the revenue accruing to the local government and meant for the social and economic well-being of the local people are diverted to fictitious sundry uses thereby drying up economic activities and funds meant to circulate within their localities are siphoned away leaving the local communities impoverished and without social amenities.
Nwokeji, who spoke at Owerri, on the heels of the worries expressed by the National Assembly over the states that still run their councils with transition committees, canvassed the view that the Federal Legislative Houses should review the subsisting laws and strengthen the 3rd tier of government to really fulfill its purpose especially in the area of funding and control, stating that instead of making available to the councils their own contributions to complement the federal allocations, the governors withhold funds accruing to them and give them whatever they feel.
The fiery educationist said, the target of development should focus on the people and the sole reason should be to improve their standard of living by making sure that they are involved in setting goals for development programmes in their respective communities.
He further elucidated that the citizens must be involved in setting goals of any development programme for any place, at any particular time in each of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria. How can the people be involved since the system is being run with officials other than councilors and chairmen chosen by the people themselves to represent their interests?
The real dilemma, he said, is that some governors, including that of Imo, his state have refused to conduct local government council elections, saying that the development of Nigeria would be difficult if council elections are not held every three years in all 774 local governments as indicated in the constitution.
Good council planning according to him, would help us develop all the local government areas when individuals elected on the basis of their election promises are allowed to preside over the councils and work hard to fulfill them.
He explained that the success of each local government would depend on the overall performance of each council in the delivery of services and programmes, ensuring that everyone participates through their elected councilor and chairmen in the development of each local government. While an election may introduce new council, the system must ensure continuity in policies and programmes of the previous administration for the development of the local communities thereby reducing the incidents of poverty and poor infrastructure, he explained.
In his words, “nearly four out of every five Nigerian citizens live in abject poverty, hunger, and hardship. There is currently a growing concern among parents in all the communities across the country as the future looks bleak given that policies and programmes of some state governments, including Imo, seem self-serving.
“It is high time our state governors steered clear of allocations and revenues occurring to the local governments. The national assembly should prescribe by legislation sanctions against governors who fail to conduct local government elections. Such sanctions should include withholding funds accruing to the local governments in those states until they hold elections into the councils. Indeed, development of Nigeria would only be possible when all the state governors ensure that only elected people run the affairs of the local governments areas in Nigeria”, he concluded.