Survival of LGs: Memo to governors

It is the closest to the grassroots. Yet, local government in the country are the farthest. They are miles apart from ordinary citizens, who are supposed to feel their positive impacts, directly. Unlike the State Houses of Assembly, LGs in Nigeria cannot even pass off as apron strings or appendages of state governments. 

Their continued survival or possibility of going into extinction is at the whims and caprices of the imperial state governors. That is the discomforting truth about a tier of government that is supposed to fast-track accelerated development, especially for the people at the lower rung of the society. 

Who will rescue our local governments? How and when will they ever become financially autonomous? A fact that is indisputable is that the local government system, across the world, is fundamental to good governance. It greatly aids in the delivery of essential government services like health and education, to citizens. 

Sadly, in Nigeria, the LG system has been neglected, and rendered prostate. Only a few among the 774 LGs in the country have elected chairmen. It is unfortunate that the stock-in-trade of most Nigerian governors since 1999 is appointing caretaker committees to oversee local government affairs in their states. 

But what is highly disturbing is that in pocketing LGs, governors in Nigeria only put their loyalists, instead of competent hands on the saddle as council chairmen. That is why, since time immemorial, our local governments have been at the mercy of state executives whose main goal is political gain, rather than developing LGAs in the country. 

Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, the services that local governments provide to the people at the grassroots have been deteriorating. For instance, the collapse of the LG system in Nigeria has resulted in several negative consequences, including the failure to maintain schools in towns, communities and remote villages, as well as the failure of basic health services. 

In the wake of the  tragedy that has befallen our local governments, it is crucial that the federal government finds a way to improve the LG system in Nigeria, to provide essential services to the people. Absolutely, policy changes are needed to increase LG autonomy and fiscal independence. 

As a matter of urgency, state governments must abolish the contraption called joint accounts. They should, henceforth, be organizsng periodic council elections, that are only free and fair. LGs in the country, also must strive to improve their internal revenue generation, by diligently taxing businesses and ploughing back the taxes into their development. 

Now is the time for the government that is closest to the people to reinvent itself, and ruffle feathers with both the federal and state governments. This golden opportunity must not be frittered away. It should be grabbed with both hands.

Gift Moses is a 300-level student of Nasarawa State University, and an intern with PRNigeria, in Abuja.