Former President Olusegun Obasanjo (GCFR) has reiterated the need for local governments to have an autonomous status in the country.
He spoke at the International Conference on Politics, Security and Development organised by the Department of Political Science and Administration, Babcock University, Ogun State.
He expressed dissatisfaction with what he called the negligence of the local government system in the country over the years.
In his keynote address drawn from the theme of the conference and entitled: Forty years of local government reforms and democratic development in Nigeria: Critical perspective, the former president said until local government system was democratised and made more responsive to development needs, the expected growth and development in the local government areas in the country would remain elusive.
He noted that state governments constituted the major obstacles to local government development by stealing their funds at source, while the tenure of local government chairmen depended on the whims and caprices of the state governors.
He added that only a few states had held local government elections, while others have carried on as if it was legal to run local government without the constitution that created them.
Worse still, he said, most governors floated the idea of appointing transition committees comprising their surrogates to oversee the affairs. This, he said, was a fraud.
He said: “Good leadership at the state and local government levels with integrity, dedication and lack of corruption are what can make local governments work to achieve their purpose for the people.
“ But to be able to do these, local governments have to be led by men and women of integrity who will understand the enormous challenges in the system and focus on primarily on issues that would enhance the living standard of the masses.
“Therefore, the local government as a third tier of government should not be scrapped or changed to local administration.
“Rather, it should be strengthened and democratised. Officials of the local governments should always be elected and not appointed.
“While all Nigerians should come together to pray for the possibility of reviewing the constitution, local governments should engage in agricultural production. The development would go a long way to boost production in the country.”