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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTONOMY VERSUS HUMAN CAPITAL CHALLENGE. By Sola Ogunsina

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTONOMY VERSUS HUMAN CAPITAL CHALLENGE.

Abeni Aso-Oke

Abeni Aso-Oke

Local government, in Nigeria, is viewed as the third tiers of government. It is a constitutional creation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with the intentions well spelt out in 1976 Local Government Reforms initiated by the Federal Government of Nigeria as well as subsequent constitutional reforms .

The major reason for the creation of local government is to bring government closer to the people at the grassroots so as to ensure timely and responsive impact of Government in terms of provisions of welfare amenities to citizens..The local Government is thus empowered to create various local Government basic amenities that will lead to improve welfare of Nigerians. Also the Local Government is empowered to levy certain levies and fines so as to raise revenue to complement the allocation from the Federation Accounts towards financing of its programmes.

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Overtime, there has been agitations for Local Government autonomy in terms of management of resources, especially financial resources which are disbursed to the local government from the federation account via the Joint Account Allocation Committee coordinated by the State Government. In recent past, the agitation for Local Government Administrative and Financial autonomy was renewed through a bill sponsored and passed at the National Assembly but failed to secured the endorsement of two third of various State Houses of Assembly in order for the bill to be sent to the President for his ascent to pass the law.

However, the law through which local government was created created a lacuna and engendered tussles which subsumed it as an appendage of the state government given the State Government power to control and manage the affairs of the Local Government as deemed fit knowing fully that who pays the piper dictates the tunes.

I have decided to bear my mind through above highlights to lend credence to the other leg of this piece; that is, assessment and evaluation of availability of human capital/ Resources at the Local Government manage its Administrative and Financial Autonomy should the autonomy become a reality.

The issues therefore is to balance the challenge of availability human capacity with agitation for the autonomy of local government and clamour for the local government to have full right over their finances allocated to them from the federation account with absolute control of running the local government; being dictated solely by the local government chairmen and their Management teams with the councilors performing their oversight functions as done in other tiers of Governments- State and Federal.

The capacity to manage most issues at the local levels which primarily concern all citizens can be well enabled through autonomy but the question is , do we have enough human capacity to manage such agitations? In some instances, the choice of choosing its administration is more of a political compensation. The positions of administration should be on merit, based on capability and experience.

I recall sometimes ago when some of those people who contested, won and occupied the exalted position of the local government chairmanship happened to be retired directors, retired permanent secretary, retired principal, retired bankers , seasoned Administrators etc. These were people who have had remarkable experiences in diverse ways of life. These people came and then even without a pronounced autonomy, without agitation.
It was evident that they had the capacity to run the administration. They had the human resources to run whatever accruable to local government which empowered them to embark on repairing and construction of village street roads, town street roads and even inter-town roads where possible. Many Local Government bosses established primary healthcare centres with erection of good structures, constructed post offices , paved township roads even built police stations to complement the efforts of the federal government to strengthen the security of Nigeria. But in today’s world, we can see that this is no longer visible.

The capacity of human capital at the local government is dwindling at alarming rate given the fact that there are gaps in moral commitment, certification and competency; a major considerations prior and during appointment as staff. Most of the people who are paid to run the affairs of local government actually have nothing to do than to come to gossip and leave without any achievement for the day to justify their pay. With apologies to some who could be exceptions to this, but to larger extent, some show gross ineptitude to work. While even on duty, it is almost difficult to do their bits; to carry a file. Some would always wish to know what is ‘in’ a file before treating it. They would ask, “what is in it ?” This is embarrassing and of course of the the major reason the local government ‘agitation for autonomy has not received a concerted sympathy by people who could have supported the course of such agitation . This is because people seem to challenge the management of the little responsibility at your disposal.
The question is now; do we have the human resources capable of managing an administrative and financial autonomy of the local Government?

Well , I dare say no at the moment. The numbers are there of course with huge directorship titles and accolades. Even then, there lots of financial commitment to training and retraining of staff with the later given a nonchalant approach to such training.

These days, we can hardly name the benefits of the local government in the development and advancement of our country, Nigeria.
The local government, even though it is called the third tier, apparently, should be the first tier because it is the first point of call in case of any emergency, in case of any need; in terms of war, insecurity, education, roads etc etc, given the fact that the administration sits right within the people; hence responsibilities and resources to manage the grassroots challenges should be domesticated. So, in order to grow Nigeria and to bring about a mass development, there is the need to empower the local government to make it fully autonomous and to ensure that it spells out clearly, the capacity that drives its works in terms of management.

The laws and constitutional provision for the establishment of local local government in Nigeria should be revisited to ensure competency so that whoever comes to occupy the post of Chairmanship and other elective/ appointed posts has power to resolve issues in the local government just like a governor in the State and the president in the country. This is because he is so closed to the people and On daily basis, as an incumbent local government Executive, I know how many issues I do attend everyday. Sometimes, as early as 5:00 a.m, people would knock at my door to make one personal demand or the other though most times, it is not about money but just an encouragement and counsel on best approach to make a comfortable life .

To achieve this, we need to empower those who manage the local government financially. We need to build capacity for those who run the organisation of the local government.

One thing that bothers me is about the management or personnel that oversees the local government. Most often than not, they are not even from that local government. What would be their commitment to the development of a local government when virtually all the heads of departments of that local government originated outside the local government of their duty posts. More surprising is that they do not even live within the local government. Ina particular local government, virtually all the Management team/ HODs (the heads of departments) live in the state capital because they believe the environment is not sociable/ developed to their standard. How do we ensure development at such situations, when the people that are supposed to be the engine room for the development do not even live within that environment? How could they feel the pain of the lack of basic utilities, absence of basic public provisions that citizens of the local government are deprived of when the overseers don’t live there? This is indeed one of the issues that we need to revisit while drafting an encompassing laws that would see to the transformation and development of local government areas.

I am not against the autonomy of the local government. Yet, I am of the opinion that competent human capital development is needed through a well coordinated efforts of local government Service Commission in its oversight functions. Also, proper measures must be taken to make the training of staff effective because many workers only go to training for the perquisites attached, thus a waste of resources as they couldn’t add desired values to justify the cost of the training.

Again, the Ministry of local government affairs its oversight functions should exert more controls on local government finances and properly regulate the the operations of the local government would dare not do anything without a reckon to them first. Yet the Ministry should also encourage the Management of the local government to freely operates within some limits of their mindsets so that the local government in its own pragmatic approach to things, is run as smooth as possible to the development of the community for which they are elected to manage.In Conclusion, much as local government autonomy is desirable, a robust human capacity is essential to engender an effective and efficient Local Government operations capable of delivering better dividends of democracy to the citizenry.

Dr. Sola Ogunsina, FCA, FCTI, CFA
Executive Chairman- Ido/Osi Local Government

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