June 12: NBA boss urges on honesty and democratic ethos

The Vice Chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Ibadan branch, Mr. Ibrahim Lawal on Wednesday said the only antidote to the crisis of national development facing the country is for both the leaders and followers to learn the art and discipline of democracy, cultivate the habit and virtue of honesty and imbibe democratic ethos.

Lawal made the calls while delivering a lecture on the theme “Grassroot Democracy As Fulcrum for National Development and Good Governance”, at an event organised by the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Oyo State chapter to commemorate June 12 Democracy day at the NUJ Press Centre, Iyaganku, Ibadan.

He also used the occasion to call for an increase in the statutory allocation to local government from the federation account from its current 20 to 30 percent or more.

The event was attended by some recently ‘dissolved’ council chairmen from all the local governments and local council development authorities in the state, media practitioners, sociocultural groups, residents from all over the state, community leaders among other stakeholders.

Lawal, who traced the political history and democratic sojourn of the country since its inception disclosed that the absence of democratic ethics and norms had really affected national development in the country to a great extent.

According to him” Absence of democratic ethics and norms has really affected national development in Nigeria.

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“The country principally has remained a third world and dependent country in a crisis of various kinds which is not making any progress forward or development.

“The furour over resource control, power shift, revenue allocation, sharia issue, rotational presidency, creation of more states, terrorism, insecurity, etc are pieces of evidence of lack of democratic ethics and Norma in Nigerian society.

“It is therefore the contention of this paper that for development to thrive in Nigeria, the attitude and orientation of its political elites must be changed.

“Both the leaders and followers must learn the art and discipline of democracy, cultivate the habit and virtue of honesty and imbibe democratic ethos as these remain the only antidote to the crises of national development.”

While making a case for repositioning the local governments for enhanced performance and development, the lawyer identified, “lack of constitutional provision that will guarantee local government autonomy, incessant interference in local government affairs by state governments, joint account syndrome, frequent dissolution of the local council by the state governments and lack of free and fair elections at the grassroots,” as some of the challenges facing the third tier of government.

He noted that the challenges have undermined the ability of the local government council to deliver on their mandates especially in the provision of social services to the rural communities.

“I recommend constitutional reforms to ensure: that the local governments have direct and unfettered access to the statutory allocations from the federation account and their share of the internally generated revenue.

“That elections at specific intervals is conducted into the local government council and with the outright prohibition of any other alternative arrangement to administer the local government.

“That the statutory allocation from the federation account is increased from the present 20 to 30 percent or more.”

He, however, concluded that to fight corruption at the council level, the judiciary and anti-corruption agencies must intensify efforts with the introduction of more effective anti-corruption clauses and fraud detecting mechanism while also ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections through which people could get into power on the basis of perceived honesty and ability to deliver democracy dividends to the rural and grassroots people.

The chairman of ALGON, Abass Alesinloye said for democracy to thrive in Nigeria, the local government which is the closest to the people must be operated on the tenets of the rule of law devoid of party politics.

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