A forum of academic experts concerned about the slow pace of growth in the country has suggested a complete autonomy for local administrations to enhance development as well as effective management of resources in the nation’s 774 local governments and proper devolution of powers within the three tiers of government for better accountability.
The round table forum which was largely composed of academicians, members of the political class, students of politics and civil society organizations, also suggested the complete abrogation of section seven of the Nigerian constitution to check the strangulating grip and negative influence of state governors over local government chairmen.
Dr. Hussani Abdu, Country Director, Plan Nigeria, who was the lead paper presenter at the one-day forum organised by the Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Abuja, remarked that local administrations have been rendered ineffective by state governors who have formed the habit of hijacking local government revenue every month and making it impossible for chairmen to initiate meaningful projects for their communities.
Abdu further suggested that local government Joint Account Committees should be scrapped while local administrations should henceforth directly receive their revenues from the federation account. He also called for the creation of local government Accountant General’s Office to effectively monitor the use of local administration revenues.
The speaker said to help enhance the performance of local governments in the country, the suspended local government service commission should be resuscitated while the status of local administrations and their roles in furthering development processes should be redefined.
The group discussions was conducted by erudite scholars and civil society activists including the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Professor Yusufu A. Zoaka, Newton Otsemeye, Project Manager SCRAP-C Action Aid Nigeria, Dr. Jacho David Sunday, Senior Lecturer, Nasarawa State University and Ms. Mma Odi, Secretary General of the Alliance for Credible Elections.
The panel agreed with the lead paper presenter on the need for thorough reforms of the local administration system to enable the third tier of government effectively drive development in the country since the majority of Nigerians live in the rural areas. The Head of Department of Political Science and International Relations, Professor James Nda Jacob, in a brief interview, described the discussions at the roundtable as “very articulate, deep and rich in content” promising that University of Abuja would forward the recommendations from the forum to relevant government authorities for implementation.
He also promised to sustain the discussion platform which was the second in the series to enable the academic community interface and rub minds with government officials, policy makers, political economic thinkers and other professionals that may help to move the nation forward with their wealth of experience.
Professor James Nda Jacob called on the federal government to critically look into the low quality of governance in local governments in the country, the erosion of authority and the gross under-development in rural communities despite the huge amounts of money disbursed monthly to local administrations.