Former House of Representatives member, Hon. Ladi Adebutu has reiterated that For Nigeria to experience rapid development and progress, the Federal Government should ensure that local governments have the autonomy it deserved.
He revealed that all the past governments have killed the administration of local governments for various reasons and because of the revenues hijack, and never mind of the outcome of the third tiers of government.
Hon. Adebutu disclosed this in his address at the 2nd edition of Ladi Adebutu Good Governance Symposium held at Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta on Thursday.
The symposium with the theme: ‘Local Government Autonomy: A Panacea for National Development’ had in attendance foremost Constitution Lawyer and Human Rights activist, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) as Guest Speaker and many other dignitaries across the country.
The host, Hon. Adebutu enlightened that the theme of the symposium was cleared, and it was not by accident that he served as Chairman of Rural Development and Local Government, because all these were bases of growth.
Adebutu said the problem of the country was self inflicted due to deliberate actions to render the local governments useless, stressing that successive governments have continue to steal the local governments money by hijacking their revenues.
His words: “Nigeria’s problem is self inflicted. Governments have deliberately made all the local governments not to function by stealing their revenues.
“If we fail at grassroot, everything has failed. We need to go back to access the local things we have to development our nation. There must be a collective responsibility at the grassroot, with the inclusion of traditional rulers.
“Revenue coming from federal government are being hijacked by the state and making sure it does not get to the local level.”
Furthermore, he alleged that the state government and Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC) wanted to shut out his party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) out of the forthcoming local government elections.
“Because they and their party, All Progressives Congress (APC) want to cover up for their misconduct of council revenue. The major problem in this nation is self inflicted
“The only solution is to take election from state body and allow credible election to happen. The state should allow the people to exercise their franchise,” he concluded.
Moreover, Ozekhome in his lecture urged the federal government to restructure the country through referendum in order for the country to overcome its various challenges.
He revealed why Nigeria would not be able to divide, but remained the same, just as he highlighted indivisible and in-divide-able vision as major barriers facing the country. “If Nigerians continue to see these two barriers as major things, Nigeria will remain the same and things will continue to go wrong.
“But, if Nigeria must remain as one, we must renegotiate to continue to be called one nation. Local government system is just there, but not respected. Therefore, true fiscal federalism is what Nigeria needs.
“Constitution amendment is not the best and next solution is to remain as one, but to go back to Section 4 of the constitution. If we give it one million amendment, it will not solve Nigeria problem, Section 4 of the constitution should be used to make a law at the National Assembly.
“360 House of Reps members, 109 Senators are too much we don’t need them, they are just draining the nation’s purse. Sitting on part time should be encouraged for our national assemblies.”
The Co-Speaker, a Senior Lecturer, Researcher and Gender Expert with the Development of Local Government and Development Studies at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, Dr Olukemi Ajibola Aluko said there has never been a transparency in Nigeria local government and no one is holding them accountable.
“Our national leaders keep making us believe there is no enough fund that can take care of the local government, where some nations are striving hard to take care of their own.
“Some people believe local government autonomy is about holding a political post at the grassroot level. Local government is the only panacea for local autonomy, and any attempt to wave autonomy is an attempt to destroy Nigeria.
“Also our council is lacking initiative, therefore our leaders must go to the constitution and amend it, in other to get it right in Nigeria.
“Therefore, local government must realize that they can not fail because they are accountable to the people. Federal and state government needs to fund the local government properly because they are close to the people and they must account for their representation of the people,” she affirmed.
Earlier on, Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Ayo Olukotun in his opening remark called on all Nigerian political leaders to go back to tink-tank table. Noting that no leader can capture it all, therefore all development is local.
He said the real agency of development takes up position at the local level, people appear when there is allocation to distribute and after they disappear until there is time for another.
He noted that autonomy can only be partial, but not totally, while he advised that those struggling for autonomy should be ready for a long haul.