I am often mistaken for a politician. Someone once asked if I was looking for an appointment because of my article on the Minister for Interior and Internal Security. He reminded me of President Tinubu’s appointment of close to 30 Media Aides and if with my prolificity and style of writing, I wouldn’t make Tinubu’s list, then I should let his administration be! This administration cannot be; in the face of my nation building resolve and advocacy. In as much as the characters we have in government failed to let the people be, we would not let their administration be.
On government’s appointment, Firstly, as modest as my integrity is, I have no intention of falsifying my certificates to condescend to becoming a media errand to deceive the people. What God made Joseph by cheer display of Godly wisdom could be attained now without lies and deception. How glorious it would have been for a man to attain destiny without helping God? The desperation to be what God can’t make me just does not exist. Secondly I have no interest in political appointments. I am a nation builder and I would like to remain so without any apology.
If politics runs in the blood, I surely have it flowing in my veins. My maternal grand uncle, late Kehinde Ogunremi was the first Chairman of Lagelu Local Government, the largest Local Government Area in Nigeria during the First Republic. The gruesome murder of my grandfather, Taiwo Ogunremi in a mistaken identity for his twin brother during the political crisis of 1962 termed “Operation Wetie”! This incident made politics a ‘no go’ area for me! My aunt, Mrs Olubunmi Oyegbami whom I grew up with wouldn’t just want me near two things; politics and driving. Political assassination claimed her father and her grandfather same day while my maternal uncle, Mr Oluyinka Ogunremi was lost to a car accident in early 1980. I narrated this political history to let you know that I am not adverse to politics.
Our trouble as a nation escalated when series of political instabilities culminated into the sacking of democracy and the constitution in 1966, and a unitary system of government foisted nation. In its hurry to leave the government in 1979, a Constitution Drafting Committee was constituted by the military government led by Olusegun Obasanjo, to draft the 1979 hybrid constitution without a definite direction towards nationhood. The 1979 failed to deliver a sustainable democracy.
Like it’s predecessor, the 1999 Constitution was hurriedly put together by the Abdulsalam Abubakar led Military junta, without wide consultation and input of relevant stakeholders. The 1999 Constitution failed to take cognisance of the deficiencies of the 1979 Constitution. The lazy and unpatriotic copy and paste job has been the bane of the fourth republic since inception. The 1999 Constitution has been rejected by almost all section of the country but still being forced on Nigerians by the cabal and their cronies. The 1999 Constitution promotes sectionalism, nepotism, corruption, abuse of power and other vices that are undermining our development and progress as a nation upon all the numerous natural and human resources we are blessed with as a nation.
Our State governors are exploiting the loopholes in the 1999 Constitution to torment the people they either fooled to vote for them or those they stole their votes. Their dastardly acts has become chokehold on our development most especially at the grassroot levels. They are just stifling breath off our local government administration preventing them from delivering the dividend of democracy they individually campaign and promised.
The goal of establishing a three tier government is to get governance and development closer to the people who are supposed to be the sole beneficiaries of a democratic system of government. The people, the electorate are the employers and the elected are simply employees of the people. The State governors had not only turned things around, they have turned their employers to their slaves. What a travesty of fate!
True leadership is known by its stewardship spirit. Leadership is a position to serve and not a position to be served. Our State governors swore to uphold and defend the 1999 Constitution, not distort or undermine it. They got their legitimacy and powers from the constitution. Any action that is in variance with the letters of the constitution is an abuse and an illegality and an impeachable crime in a sane environment.
The constitution spelt out unequivocally the functions of each tier of government. It allocates different percentage of fund accruable to each tier which are not alterable by any tier except through the act of the national assembly.
According to the Fourth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, the functions of the Local Government are as follows:
(a). Establishment, maintenance and regulations of slaughter houses, slaughter slabs, markets, motor parks and public conveniences;
(b). Construction and maintenance of roads, street lightings, drains and other public highways, parks, gardens, open spaces, or such public facilities as may be prescribed from time to time by the House of Assembly of a State;
(c). Provision and maintenance of public conveniences, sewage and refuse disposal;
(d). Collection of rates, radio and television licences;
(e). Assessment of privately owned houses or tenements for the purpose of levying such rates as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of a State;
(f). Control and regulation of outdoor advertising, restaurants, bakeries and other places of sale of food to the public, and sale of liquor, and
(g). In collaboration with the Government of a State, provides and maintains primary, adult and vocational education, and health services.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo seems to forsee the underhand plan to totally emasculate and incapacitate the Local Government administration when he decided to withhold the Lagos State Local Government council fund due to the creation of additional Local Governments. He knew that it was a ploy to bastardise and defraud the Local Government system. Obasanjo has been vidicates today as the Local governments has been downgraded to meer parastatal under the State governments who superintend over their activities. The people of Lagos State should be humble enough to apologize to Obasanjo.
Discussions with many leaders of Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) revealed that the third tier of government is in a state of coma. They also lamented that their members are unmotivated, redundant and inconsequential in the running of the councils. They confirmed the threats and intimidations of politicians who has taken over their duties and roles in parks, markets, roads, and other government utilities.
The “Eleyi” of Ogun State has proven beyond all doubts that Governors are today’s Kabiyesi (the unquestionable) before whom elected “Executive Chairmen” of Local Government Areas must prostrate to have their constitutional rights administered to them!
Governors’ flagrant disregard for the constitution has started since 1999. When a mortal became the immortal Lord of our politics; a demi-god at whose altars “the Eleyis are enthroned even to the Councilorship levels in Lagos.
Lagos State under the incumbent President of Nigeria, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu started the groundbreaking and passed it on to successive government after him. Today, with the connivance of the State House of Assembly, the Local Government is a department under the Lagos State government.
And like other projects and anomalies, all other States in the country have turn their Local Government administration to parastatals. This illegality had stifled the local government administration in Nigeria.
The most worrying situation is the culpability of some State Assemblies of which Lagos State House of Assembly is notoriously one. The State Assemblies are the enablers of the fraud and attacks on the Local government administration. Various moves by the National Assembly to grant autonomy to the councils during Constitutional amendments exercises were frustrated by some State Assemblies who are suppose to champion the principle of checks and balances. The truth is that the State legislators and their paymasters knew that autonomy of the local governments will expose and nullify many unconstitutional and draconian laws they have enacted to pocket the local councils.
I remembered with nostalgia even during the year of the locust, the military, our States are not flooded at the drop of ten hours rainfall. A hour-long rain today floods the roads, takes lives and destroys properties. Drainages are blocked with refuse which would have been promptly cleared if left with the Local council who are the constitutional responsibility . The state of the roads are terrible causing high automobile maintenance cost. The people cannot hold their elected ‘unexecutive chairman’ accountable since they have been stripped off of their powers and functions.
The official sharing formula of the statutory allocation from the federation account to the local Government is spelt out accordingly: the Federal Government collects 52.68 per cent, the States collects 26.72 per cent while the Local Government receives 20.60 per cent. In reality, today, the States are fraudulently cornering 48 per cent since the local government has been illegally annexed by them. These governors are misusing and misapplying the State Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) provision in Section 162 of the 1999 constitution. In efforts to stop the illegality and fraud, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit issued an advisory prohibiting the tampering with local government allocations under any guise. These governors has ignored all entreaties and instead continue their diversion and stealing of the Local government allocations.
According to data from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, a total of N14.7 trillion Naira (equivalent of 38 billion US Dollars) was allocated to the 774 Local governments between 2008 and 2018, but that governors diverted a significant percentage of this allocation into state accounts.
With judicious use of 14.7 trillion, no local government road should have potholes, no primary school should lack chairs, tables and learning materials, every local government should have fund to train our youths in different vocations and provide soft startup loan, each local government should boast of a well equiped general hospital, many indigenous students should have scholarship to study locally and abroad, ten thousand naira monthly stipend 1000 senior citizens in each local government and many other developmental programs. Does the level of development in our local councils across the country in the period mentioned above come anywhere near 5 trillion naira?. If not, the remaining whopping sum of 9.7 trillion naira needed be accounted for by these governors. Or should we assume that it has gone into their pockets. What a wicked lots!
The EFCC and other relevant agencies should concentrate on leprosy and not ringworm. They should rise up and investigate the local government fund application over the years if it commiserate with the developments on the ground. It is not a science rocket operation. The local governments’ fund infraction is far more an economic crime and damaging than the Yahoo boys’ malefactions.
To President Bola Tinubu, the chicken has now come home to roost. The monster created when you were a governor has now surely stands to undermine the success of your administration. If you are not quick enough to correct this constitutional anomaly and flagrant fraud, you definitely will rue it come 2027.
State Governors, let our local government administration breath.
Long live Local Government Administration in Nigeria
Dr Bolaji O. Akinyemi is an Apostle and Nation Builder, President; Voice of His and the Convener of the Ministry’s Project ART; Apostolic Round Table. The BoT Chairman, Project Victory Call Initiative, AKA PVC Naija. He is also the C.E.O Masterbuilder Communications.