THE Nigeria nation comprise of federation tiers of government, Federal, States and Local Governments as enshrine in the 1999 constitution. This third tier mostly referred to as Local Government is basically a government structure that provides administration at the local or grassroot level. Indeed, the founding fathers of our nation thought it wise to decentralize and cede powers to actors at the lower level to promote inclusive and broad based growth, optimal use of local and natural resources for economic development that impacts the citizens directly at the grassroots level.
Local governments worldwide are considered as strategic institutions for the provision of basic socio-economic, environmental and social services. Their strategic advantage and proximity to people at the grassroots make them valuable and viable in providing effective and efficient services required by the communities under them. They can and should be engines of growth and drivers of development. They are vested with providing cultural, educational, management, commerce and political services in addition to offering employment, health facilities and boosting the local economy of their areas of jurisdiction and by extension, the national economy.
With the recent local government elections in most states of the federation which has ushered in democratically elected representatives of the people at that level and also with recent autonomy granted this tier of government, all that Nigerians are expecting from these crop of leaders are the dividends of democracy. The granting of this autonomy has also come with a lot of challenges which the local authorities must endevour to surmont towards transforming the political landscape of the councils they represent. This autonomy has further confirmed that the local government actors derive their legitimacy from the people and not from the state governors and this legitimacy granted by the people comes with a lot of demands and responsibilities
Our local government chief executives should, therefore, note that the era of total dependence on the national cake in the form of monthly allocation from the Federation account is no longer tenable, especially now that the people are becoming daily aware of their rights and are always asking questions. Local authorities must guard jealously their internal sources of income in addition to exploring new ones. The current dwindling economic situation in the country calls for deliberate harnessing of all the revenue yielding avenues and the judicious use of same. The people must not only be taken along, but deliberate efforts must be put in place to improve their internally generated revenue that will support development. As a deliberate policy, they should endevour to establish local representative government institutions through which appropriate services and developmental activities can be made more responsive to local communities and among other things, provide a two way channel of communication between the local communities and the central local authorities.
We live in an era where the attention of the local authorities should be tailored towards the provision of the dividends of democracy that are in the interest of the common good of their people and no longer the empowerment of their ‘god fathers.’ The task of nation building is not only an enormous one but must be people oriented, affecting the lives of the people it is meant for and which must begin at the grassroots level.
Nigerians are likely to resist any selective developmental efforts in certain communities at the expense of others for political reasons. It is equally pertinent to take every community along in prioritizing the kind of developmental effort or infrastructure meant for them. The era of bogus developmental programmes with little or no impact on the people should be discarded. Indeed, developmental programmes should be people centred. While the autonomy granted the local governments is a welcome development, the stakeholders at that level must carry the people along in the scheme of things and there must be an inbuilt mechanism to check corrupt tendencies in the councils to make the system viable. Indeed, the executive and legislative arms of these local authorities must strive daily to work in close harmony to promote the needed progress.