Only Supreme Court, NASS can rescue LG from governors —Sandy
Senator Sandy Onor,a Professor of History representing Cross River Central in the Senate on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), believes the local government system offers Nigeria a reliable platform for accelerated development, in this interview by OSARETIN OSADEBAMWEN.
HOW will you rate the contribution of local government as the tier of government to national development?
I will say it is topsy-turvy. The lack of consistency on policy initiatives with the systemic implementation of the very policy structure of the local government in Nigeria has been the very root of our problems.There is this dubious debate on what federalism actually means, and a lot of Nigerians are alluding to the fact that there is something called true federalism as opposed to false federalism. There is no such thing.So,when I hear Nigerians speak of true federalism in relation between the state and the national government, I just laugh. Once there is no super ordination on the part of one and there is no subordination on the part of the other; once what you have is basically complementary mutual respect between one government and another, functioning in a system with shared duty and responsibilities, federalism is at work, especially when the component units have liberty to grow on their own as much as possible, federalism is at work. But the intimate component of that federal structure is determined by the uniqueness of the historical experiences of the various countries. Therefore, in one country, the federalism could be two tier: states and national or federal, as the case maybe.
In other climes, it maybe national state and local. So, if you are arguing that if local governments are part of a federation, it is no longer federalism; that argument is completely escapist, unfortunate and untrue.Therefore, if you ask me based on my experience, local government should function effectively and efficiently as an independent tier of government, with the independence defined in such a way that it does not rupture the functionality of any state.They must have a level of civilised control over the local government. For instance the Local Government Service Commission is a state structure. The auditor general for the local government exists as a state component for local government administration.Even the law guarantees the establishment of the local government council. It is the administrators of most of this law that have distorted them with bad consequences for the localgovernment. So, the Supreme Court can help us. We in the legislature can also rejig it in such a way that the kernel of independence that allows uniqueness of Independence of every local government, which is the major source through local government are fed, is allowed to stand. What Ogbomoso local government wants will be different from what Modakeke local government wants.Each local government administers to the peculiarity of the local people. While you are building your airport in Lagos, a local man in my village, for instance, doesn’t care about your airport but cares about the town hall, the village market or the health center. The local government attends to these peculiarities from one local government to another and makes government functional.
Many people do not care about what happens in the state or at the federal level. Their world is their community at the local government level. Service them and they will be okay
To what extent can a functional local council system aid security in the community?
I was a local government chairman, and we too were called the chief security officers of our local councils.The localgovernment chairman relates intimately with his Divisional Police Officer (DPO), the traditional rulers and chiefs. Between them, a beautiful, proactive network, including town council chairmen, women groups and so on are established. And there is no portion of this country that is not a local government. So, if the local government is completely empowered, and are economically and legally viable legally in proper forms and allowed to operate before insurgencies get to the level of recognition by the country, they are nipped in bud. This is because these guys (insurgents) are known to the local people . They are known to their homes and there will be no hiding place for them.
A colleagues of in the close session of the Senate raised it that there is a lot of ungoverned space in the country. It is a new concept, but it is not true. There are many portions of this country that are not being governed because the local government has been killed in many places and this occurred, especially in terrains that are very vast.
So far,there is no governance. Maybe in a localgovernment, you have one police station; you cannot cater for the security need of everybody; there will be chiefs; there will be women groups; there will be youth groups. Between all of them, there will be vigilante and so on.
With such an intertwined network, whoever comes in that is new will be trapped. Even all of them pass through territories; these inhabitants know the territories and who is a stranger and know who is not a resident of the place. They will track them down and report. A network of vigilance will be created that is absent currently, because government is too far away from the people.With the distance, the people feel isolated;they become despondent and vulnerable to criminal activities. That is what is happening in the country now.So to answer your question, a proper and functional local government system, in my opinion, will be by 50 per cent a recipe for solving the security situation in our country.
What do you feel the political class needs to in order to tackle the challenge of general insecurity, in view of your experience as a former chairman of a local government area, senator and your interactions with state governors?
The trouble with we have in the country is that we personalise governance. We institutionalise selfishness. When former governors were in office, they said local governments are organically tied to the state government. Immediately they left office and now saw that their successors are towing the line they treaded, they came up with the argument that local government ought to be independent. Governors do not like the independence of local government because they think that they will not be in full control of the state. The reason is because there are local government chairmen who become so strong with their people that you cannot go to their local government area and behave anyhow.
Governors do not like that; they do not want to share what they see as their power of control over the state council inclusive with anyone. So, what do we do? The Supreme Court says whereas you have supervisory powers, these local governments have some independence, the same way the Federal Government has supervisory power over state but are independent because it is a federation.Recognise local governments as federating units on their own and allow them the liberty to function.
We are practising federalism. Let us begin to learn in the localgovernment system. We have councillors who are learning as legislators at that level; you have chairmen who are serving as the executive at that level. Democracy is like an organism, it grows. Democracy is a process.