A former Chief of Staff to the governor of Oyo State and Visiting Professor of Political Science at Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, Adeolu Akande, has advocated local government autonomy as the panacea to the problem of local government administration in the country.
Akande, who was a guest on a television programme monitored in Ibadan, Oyo State capital at the weekend, said local government in the country has failed to achieve the objective of grassroots development because of three factors.
He listed the factors as lack of autonomy, lack of direct financial allocation from the federation account and the failure to elect local government councils, explaining that the three factors boil down to the issue of local government autonomy.
“Local government councils will be accountable to their people if they are elected. Caretaker committees are only accountable to their appointing authorities,” he said, explaining that it is when a government is accountable to the people that it is motivated to perform to the expectation of the people.
He said the failure to make direct financial allocation to local government councils also inhibit local government performance.
“The Joint State-Local government account system denies local councils the opportunity to determine projects that are relevant to their people. The situation where state governments award uniform projects for all local government areas is a negation of the principle of grassroots development that undergirds the creation of local councils as the third tier of government,” he said.
He advised that the Joint State-Local Government account should be abolished while administrative guidelines are stipulated for the payment of teachers and other workers’ salaries as first line charge on local government accounts.
Akande said that the Constitution should also be amended to allow Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or a new national electoral body comprising representatives of states and political parties to conduct local government elections.
He said the present system where ruling parties at the state level win all local government elections that they conduct does not promote democracy, good governance and competent leadership at the local government level.
“It is indefensible that no ruling party in any of the 36 states has ever lost a local government election in their respective state. This clearly makes a mockery of our democracy and there is need for an urgent review of this electoral embarrassment”, he submitted.
Akande, who is also the Director of the Centre for Presidential Studies at Igbinedion University, said the conduct of local government election by state governments has denied the third tier of government the opportunity to recruit competent and accountable leadership at that level.
“The caretaker system has denied the people the opportunity of electing leaders of their choice at the local level. This is against the provisions and spirit of the 1999 Constitution”, he said.
The politician argued that the conception of local government as a training ground for leadership at higher levels of government is lost because democratic tenets of governance are not allowed to blossom at the local government level.