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OPINION: DEMOCRACY AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION IN NIGERIA

Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje

The title of this piece was taken from a book authored by the incumbent governor of Kano state, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and first published in 2006 by Spectrum Books Limited. In the book, Ganduje espoused the challenges facing local government administration in Nigeria.

However, it is no longer news that since the return of democracy in 1999, local government administration across the federation has been shrouded by unforeseen circumstances as a result of the interference of state chief executives in the smooth running of the operations of local government councils in almost all the local government authorities in the country.

Although the Nigerian Constitution is explicit regarding the powers, limitations and autonomy of the third tier of government, the same Constitution also provides ample leeway which state chief executives have deployed to strangle the financial autonomy of local government officials under the guise of a joint account where local government allocations are remitted through the coordination of state governors for onward transmission to the various local government councils.

This has created the leeway for most state chief executives to plunder the resources of local authorities under the guise of pre-determined flimsy deductions and misappropriation of local government funds. Unfortunately, allocations sent to local government councils in the end cannot fund any critical social amenity at the grassroot level, apart from payment of workers wages.

In Ganduje’s book, the author enumerated the good intentions of those who initiated and spearheaded local government reforms in Nigeria. Beginning from the 1976 reforms enacted by the Obasanjo administration based on the recommendations of the late Ibrahim Dasuki (former Sultan of Sokoto)-led commission, down to General Ibrahim Babangida’s local government reforms as Nigeria’s military president.

However, it is evidently clear that from the Dasuki recommendation to Babangida’s local government reforms, financial autonomy is well articulated and defined, irrespective of the contradictions in the 1979 Constitution, in respect to the pronouncement of a joint account between the state and the local authorities.

In almost all the states of the federation, there exist ministries of chieftaincy and local government affairs. Of course, it is not a bad idea if these ministries exist for the purpose of transparent coordination and supervision for the good of the citizens. However, the reverse is the case in virtually all the ministries dealing with the local government authorities. Independent investigations and research have shown that almost all local government chairmen complain of monthly deductions by state chief executives.

Regrettably,  the local government administration in most states have become synonymous to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of state governments operating under the dictates of state chief executives. They do not operate as an independent arm of government that benefits the great majority through people-oriented projects, programmes and policies to better their lives; local authorities have become glorified state-owned agencies.

In the prevailing circumstances, permit me to make a clarion call to the National Assembly as an institution and more importantly to President Muhammadu Buhari to, as a matter of necessity and urgency, ensure the strict adherence to local government fiscal autonomy in all the states of the federation. This is because it is the surest means to spread significant socio-economic development across the country. At this point, it will not be out of place to highlight some of the exemplary leadership qualities of Governor Ganduje of Kano state in this regard.

Since becoming the state governor, Ganduje has never dictated or given orders for any deduction to be effected, or misappropriated the resources of any of the 44 LGAs in Kano state. Little wonder various developmental projects continue to spring up across all the LGAs, while workers receive their salaries constantly on the 25th of every month.

Ganduje’s passion for the welfare of the downtrodden is never in doubt, going by the numerous projects, programmes and policies he has initiated in the last six years. There is no need to enumerate all the people-oriented programmes, projects and policies executed by the Ganduje administration, but an abridged version would suffice.

Kano state is the only state in the federation where the citizens enjoy free and compulsory basic and secondary education, including free lunch for over 1.5 million students, free medical treatment to all indigent families; construction of over 10,000 housing units across the state for the benefit of the poor and vulnerable, ensuring the empowerment of 1.3 million youths who are actively engaged in one trade or vocation earning decent living. This has also discouraged criminality amongst the youths; making Kano state the most peaceful and bandit-free zone in northern Nigeria.

Also, Kano state is at present the only state with a functional and effective Almajiri Integrated School System, which has obviously reduced the number of out-of-school children and street begging by children of school age. Similarly, due to the diligent and frugal application of available resources, Kano state is one of, if not the only, the economically viable states in northern Nigeria today.

In addition, Kano state remains the only northern state with functional and quality Ruga settlements and forest reserves to  mitigate the frequent cases of farmers-headers conflicts in the state. I rest my case.

*** Mohammed Isa Bilal wrote in from Jos, Plateau State. +2348167989085.