By Barr Dauda Ajadosu
As a precursor, I will posit to give succinct definition of what local government is. In the words of Keith L Miller, the term ‘Local Government’ refers to “the institution, or structures, which exercises authority or carry out governmental functions at the local level”. It is significantly fundamental that we underscore the imperativeness of local government administration in any developmental state or country.
This is the government at the grass root. It is the government that is closest to the people; thus knows where the shoe pinches the locals, the most downtrodden and the most vulnerable in the society.
It is on this pedestal that the importance, significance and relevance of the local government administration cannot be over emphasized in a democracy especially ours where governance is still perceived by many as elitists’ game. Indeed, the fonts origo, the almighty law, the Kabiyesi of our law in this country, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as altered provides under section 7 that “the system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed”; and the government “shall subject to section 8 ensure their existence under a Law which provides for its establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions”.
Let me solemnly add that one of the fundamental rationale for having the local government administration guaranteed by the Constitution is given statutory imprimatur vide subsection 3 of section 7 of the Constitution thusly:
“that it shall the duty of a local government within the state to participate in the economic planning and development of its areas”.
Further to this, the functions of the local government are as set out under the fourth schedule of the Constitution, 1999 as altered.
Let me take us aback to 2016 when the law of the local government administration was amended. It was in December, 2016. The then revered Osun State House of Assembly passed the State Local Government Administration Amendment Bill (now Law after assent by the Governor) No. 6. It was through this Law that there was reduction in the number of the Caretaker Management Committee from 10 to 5. The law makers cited economic recession of the time as the main reason for the reduction. It was the time every concerned citizen was yearning for cut in the cost of governance across the country.
Recently, just last week, in a more commendable move, the current Osun State House of Assembly, in its witty bid to advance the course of governance and encourage more participatory democracy at local level as usually advocated by the purveyour of advanced democracy, the United Nations, among other international agencies, has amended the Law. The Assembly passed the State of Osun Local Government Administration Amendment Bill No. 7, 2021. The Bill amended the Local Government Administration Amendment Law No. 6 of 2016 and other connected purposes and same empowers the Executive Governor of the State to fill vacant positions in the local governments.
Specifically, section 2 (a) of the new Bill provides as follows:
“Where a Local Government Council, Local Council Development Areas or Area Council is dissolved and no election has been conducted to reconstitute the council or it has become impracticable to immediately conduct election to fill the vacancies thereby created, the Governor shall appoint a Caretaker Management Committee to run the affairs of the council for a period not exceeding six months”.
It provides further that “The Local Government Caretaker Management Committee shall comprise the Chairman, Vice Chairman, Scribe to the Local Government and a member from each of the wards in the local Government Area or Local Council Development Area. In case of an Area Council, an Administrator shall be appointed”.
In the writer’s lens, the action of the legislatures deserves commendation. This is because the new Bill is a lubricant to the wheel of our democracy at grass root level. In a nut shell, the Bill has expanded the greater popular participation in governance at the grass root level amidst other multifarious advantages and merits. It would promote all inclusive government at the local level, provide a breeding/training ground for future leaders and policy makers. The new paradigm of participatory local governance is critical for improving the quality of governance, it will facilitate and stimulate sustainable development throughout all nooks and crannies of the state, increase efficiency in determining service provision, facilitate the tailoring of solutions for local problems to local conditions, facilitate a better division of labour in the management of public affairs, foster greater social cohesion and stability, and encourage reconciliation between local interest groups and a convergence around common interests. It will further provide opportunity for a wider diversity of innovations, and increase flexibility of government in the context of changing circumstances, broaden the potential for human and societal capacity building, foster accountability, transparency & openness, and create pressure for the adoption of high ethical standards in the conduct of public affairs, to mention but a few.
Indisputably and for whatever reason(s), effective and efficient grass root administration cannot be traded for cost of governance. The advantages the new Bill will birth over the past ones are plethora- Be it economic, political or social development as highlighted above. In view of this, it is my firm hope and passionate submission that His Excellency, Governor Gboyega Oyetola (Ileri Oluwa) will do the needful by giving his coveted assent to the Bill without much ado.
God bless the State of Omoluabi, God bless Nigeria.