Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has accused state governors of being the major encumbrance to the effectiveness of local council administration in the country.
He said that as against the recommendation of the 2003 Local Government Reform, which necessitated their contribution to the allocation from the Federal Government, they have through their dubious tendencies been responsible for diversion of the councils’ share, leaving them to manage whatever remains.
Obasanjo, who stated this yesterday as the keynote speaker at the first international conference with theme, “Forty Years of Local Government Reforms and Democratic Development in Nigeria: Critical Perspectives,” organised by Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Babcock University, Ilishan, Ogun State, said the third tier had been the most constitutionally-abused since the constitution came into use.
He spoke: “Only a handful of the states have conducted council elections. Most state governors have been using the idea of appointing transition committee members, comprising their surrogates, in some states till now. The tenure of elected local council officials now depends on the whims and caprices of state governors.
“Justice Alfa Belgore panel under former President Goodluck Jonathan also raised hope of reforming local councils to its constitutional position but little was achieved.”
He, however, expressed optimism that the problems facing grassroots government was surmountable, noting that the councils have considerable capacity more than any other tier of government to enter good partnership with private and public organisations to positively impart the lives of people.
The former president emphasised that local councils should be led by men and women who understand the challenges people are facing and who will face issues that will lift the standard of living of the masses.”
He added: “To reposition the third tier, we need confident, creative and courageous leaders to achieve the desired result. Such leaders must have character, command respect, strong without being ruthless, generous without extravagance, with high morals and level of responsibilities and willingness to work.
“Unfortunately, leadership of local councils has become serious concern to all, as chairmen shelve their responsibilities. Local councils require selfless and sacrificing leadership to lead it out of cycle of poverty.”
In his opening remark, vice chancellor of the institution, Prof.Ademola Tayo, who said the intention of government during the creation of the councils was to make them autonomous financially, noted that there is serious concern that local council system has failed.