Mr Ibrahim Kabir, the national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), while describing the purpose of the local government administration as “to bring development to the people at their doorsteps,” argued that the joint account devised by the states was to restrict local government administrators who in some cases abused their offices by misappropriating funds meant for the improvement of the living conditions of their people.
However, he said, with the deepening democracy, the people should be able to elect who would work for them and the funds meant for such should not be unnecessarily controlled by state governments which do not have the same controversy with the Federal Government, saying, “I welcome this development with all my heart.”
Professor Lateef Sanni, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), while pitching his camp with the AFAN boss, said financial autonomy to the local authorities would afford rural communities the opportunity to upgrade and maintain rural roads. That, he added, would pave way for distribution of farm produce to appropriate places.
“This is very crucial to reduce youth restiveness, and stabilise the economy. It will create jobs mostly at the grassroots and reduce influx of people to the urban environments. Though, regular monitoring is needed to reduce misappropriation of such funds,” Sanni said.
Likewise, a former Coordinator of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programmes (WAAPP) Nigeria, Professor Damian Chikwendu, who is the current Team Lead, Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), told The Guardian that because the local government councils are the closest to the farmers, they should be empowered to do their work to improve on the living conditions of their people.
Professor Olawale Mashood Aliyu, Provost, College of Agriculture, Kwara State University, Malete, Ilorin, said: “I am in full support of financial autonomy of local government councils because they are closer to the people, especially in rural and agrarian communities.”
He added that that would facilitate timely provision and delivery of farm inputs to farmers. Peculiarities of each community would also be better met by local authorities than state governments, he insisted.
In the same vein, Professor Kolawole Adebayo, a former Regional Coordinator of Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA), said: “Yes. I support financial autonomy for them. Until local government areas become financially and functionally autonomous, our political system will remain in infancy.”
Adebayo added that good governance, responsive and responsible leadership as well as meaningful political influence could only become part of the social fabrics “when that level of government becomes the breeding ground of such virtues. What we have at the moment is a rent-seeking political system where incompetence is veiled under ethnic and religious dubiousness.”
Chairman of the Agriculture and Agro-allied Group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce, Africanfarmer Mogaji, said he strongly believed that the local government would really not do anything meaningful with the about N100 million monthly allocations to them despite any autonomy, just like their state counterparts.
However, he added, “I feel that with this administration, when people know that they have about N100 million monthly coming to their local government purses, they will lay claim on it.”
Sitting on the local government money deprives development, he admitted, “and so, it is a welcome development because we will see direct development, separation of power and monitoring and evaluation, which I think is key for the diversification of the economy.”
Adebisi Moruf, a professor of seed Science and Technology and Head of Department, Plant Breeding and Seed Technology, FUNAAB, expressed the optimism that financial autonomy for them would bring development.
“It is very essential and long overdue. State governors should allow them to use the financial resources allocated to them for the immediate benefits of their communities. Financial autonomy of local governments will enable them to carry out their responsibilities in the areas of health, education, rural infrastructure, agricultural development and social services to the people that brought them to power.”
Financial autonomy, he said, is a panacea for agricultural development and services towards sustainable food security. It would enhance them in the provision of agro inputs such as fertiliser, seeds, herbicides and insecticides to resource-poor farmers at subsidised prices.
Above all, he added, it would help in the empowerment of local farmers and youths, especially in the areas of agro-processing of farm produce, packaging, value addition to farm produce, post-harvest management and storage facilities.
“This will enhance better life for the local farmers, and improvement in standard of living of the farmers will greatly be enhanced. Finally, federal allocations to them should not be at the prerogative of governors. Local governments should be allowed to utilise their funds for the development of their communities,” he submitted.