GRANT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS POLITICAL AND FINANCIAL AUTONOMY; ACTIVISTS URGE NASS

GRANT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS POLITICAL AND FINANCIAL AUTONOMY; ACTIVISTS URGE NASS

Social and development activists in Nigeria have called on the Federal Government and National Assembly of Nigeria (NASS) to grant local governments in the country financial, political and administrative autonomy as a matter of urgency. This call was made on Monday during a one day virtual Town hall meeting on, “Addressing Obstacles to Local Government Independence in Nigeria” organized by Social Development Integrated Centre, Social Action with support from the United Nations Democracy Funds.

Speaking at the event, Comrade Akeem Ambali, National President of NULGE said the major obstacle to Local government autonomy in Nigeria is the lacuna in Section 162(6) of the 1999 constitution as amended; “Each State shall maintain a special account to be called “State Joint Local Government Account” into which shall be paid all allocations to the Local Government Councils of the State from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State”.

Operating a joint account with the state, according to the Comrade does not favour the local government as the state political actors cash into this opportunity for private enrichment. “The heavy corruption, greed and insatiable appetite for immense wealth by state political actors are major obstacles to achieving LG independence in Nigeria”, he said. To address this bottleneck situation, local governments should be funded directly from the federal allocation.

Comrade Ambali suggested a bottom-up approach to governance in Nigeria.  Along with financial autonomy, the local government should be given political and administrative autonomy. Rather than the state electoral commissions, Independent National Election Commission (INEC) should be allowed to conduct unbiased and transparent elections for local governments.

He further stressed the need for community policing and the entrenchment of Local Government Service Commission to ensure quality assurance and a proper audit system in LG operations. These strategies would not only break LGs from the shackles of the state governments but also strengthen democracy tenets in Nigeria and create employment opportunities at the grassroots, Comrade Ambali asserted.

In her summation, Comrade Hauwa Mustapha, a development activist, said it is sad to note that the local governments are seen as appendages to the states, rather than as a tier of government. This dis-functionality has led to a breakdown of governance and facilities, reduction in human capital and extreme poverty at the grassroots. She, therefore, called for a proper definition in the constitution on the roles and power of local governments as a tier of government. She also called for a collective movement for local government autonomy in Nigeria. This movement she stressed will advocate for citizens’ rights at the grassroots, gender empowerment, fiscal and resource control and an accountable Local government system.

Other members of the panel, Barrister Che Oyinatumba of Kubwa Express and Dr Udy Akpan of Youth for Change Initiative also called for behavioural and structural changes in Nigerian local governments. According to them, a lack of accountability in the local government will continue until its structure is unattached to the State.

Participants also suggested that pressure be put on the state Houses of Assembly to assent to bills regarding local government autonomy.

Responding to this, Prince Edegbuo of Social Action said the campaign for local government autonomy continues and hinted that a massive campaign will be launched on Twitter. Edegbuo, therefore, encouraged all to join Social Action and partners in this “storm” as well as other social and traditional media campaigns for local government autonomy. This he believes will give room for accountability of the local government system and improved service delivery.

While the moderator of the event, Comrade Jaye Gaskia thanked panellists and participants for their contributions to the program, he reminded all that local government autonomy is a must and so is inclusive governance. He, therefore, urged all to rise up and defend the local government.

 

 

 

2022 BUDGET: SOCIAL ACTION URGES FG TO PRIORITIZE FISCAL RECTITUDE

On Thursday, 7th October, 2021, President, Muhammadu Buhari, presented N16.39 trillion as the 2022 budget proposal before a joint session of the National Assembly. The proposed 2022 budget is titled, “Budget of Economic Growth and Sustainability”. Some of the 2022 budget key figures are: capital expenditure of N4.89 trillion, non-debt recurrent expenditure of N6.83trillion, oil benchmark price of $57 per barrel, with projected oil production target of 1.88m bpd and the exchange rate is projected at N410.15/US$.

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Needs Assessment for Community Development and Service Delivery

Isaac Botti on Participatory Budget System

As part of the series of activities to strengthen community voices for Local government service delivery and autonomy, Social Action on the 23rd and 24th of June, 2021 organized a capacity-building workshop in Ado- Ekiti, Ekiti state. The workshop tagged, “Needs Assessment for Community Development and Service Delivery” was organised to address key issues that have hindered the effectiveness of the local government. The workshop provided a platform for CSOs, NGOs, Community Chiefs and People Living with Disabilities (PLWD) to deliberate on the topic and create a strategic work plan to hold Local government accountable to its people.
Speaking at the event, Senior Programs Officer of Social Action, Prince Edegbuo emphasized the need for an autonomous and independent Local government. According to him, no development can occur in the communities until the Local Government breaks free from the shackles of the state. The local government must have its financial freedom to reduce redundancy and make it easier for the communities to probe into their activities.

Isaac Botti on Participatory Budget System

A discussion on the significance of the local government further enlightened the participants on the duties of the third tier of government towards them. Resource person, Frankling Olaniju who gave the discourse urged the participants to collectively advocate for their rights. He stressed the importance of collective legal actions of common interest as opposed to individual actions. Bringing to limelight the provisions of Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution as amended, Frankling noted that the law has caged the local government. The provision confers too much power on the state assemblies over the local government councils to the extent of financing its activities. He, therefore, urged the participants to join in the clamour of a financially independent Local government. In doing this, they would be rendering their service to governance. According to him, “It is the duty of the masses to ensure governance work for all”.

Interactive Session at the workshop

Programs Coordinator, Social Action, Botti Isaac further engaged attendees on the need for a participatory budgeting system. Botti argued that citizens must be aware before any project is allocated to the community. Having noted that the budget process is flawed, he posited a bottom-top approach. The citizens must first identify their needs before a project is awarded and such project must be tailored to meet their needs. He reinvigorated the zeal of the participants by assuring them of Social Actions support toward the good of citizens at the grassroots level. As an organization, Social Action would provide needed assistance to ensure proper monitoring and tracking of Local government offices.
Participants expressed their willingness to engage the local government and ensure their needs are met. During the group workshop coordinated by Bukola Adedeji, work plans and agenda were set. Attendees discussed and agreed on ways they intend to mainstream gender and ensure there is social inclusion of all groups in their organization. Participants expressed their resolve to collaborate with Social Action and ensure the program meets its objectives.

Abandoned Projects

Abandoned Projects: Citizens’ Report on Budgets of Selected States in Nigeria, 2017 is the documentation of analyses and findings from the monitoring of the implementation of the 2017 annual budgets of six selected states of Nigeria, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Kano and Nasarawa.

The report shows a continuing pattern of underwhelming spending on the social sector in 2017, even as budgeting in the states remained poor. Projects executed in previous years continued to appear in budgets as new projects while several projects that gulped large budgetary funds over the years were either roundly abandoned or never got off the ground. Budget lines continued to be vague, ill-described or ambiguously defined in budget documents hindering accountability and good governance much to the detriment of the people whose lives the projects would have impacted positively.

As an output from Social Action’s anti-corruption efforts at the sub-national level of government in Nigeria during the year 2017, the findings of budget analyses and monitoring is a tool for further public advocacy by citizens and civil society organisations at the grassroots level.

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