By Michael Peter
Abuja: The All Progressives Congress, APC has reiterated its commitment towards the restructuring of Nigeria in order to address the dearth of governance at all levels.
This is as it insists that the local government autonomy is in tandem with the party’s beliefs.
Speaking at a Multi Stakeholders Dialogue on Local Government Autonomy organised by the Center for Leadership and Strategy Development, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi however urged that to pursue local government autonomy as a principle, stakeholders must be mindful of some issues that might impede the adoption of the bill at the State Houses of Assembly.
He said, “The local government autonomy as a philosophy and a principle is what the APC believes in, as long as it can be conceptualized in our desire for restructuring. APC is a party that is built on restructuring. Our restructuring is built on the principles of the devolution of powers”.
Mallam Abdullahi further noted that the task is to get those at the States to buy into why local government autonomy is of vital importance to development of the country.
According to him; “It is easier to get people from Abuja to support this idea of local government autonomy than it is to get people from the States. I must say that it is not essentially because they don’t want it but I think its based on experience of what obtains at that level of government.
“For me, why I would support Local government autonomy is based on how we define that autonomy. My experience as a commissioner of education in Kwara State will make me to hesitate a little bit. I am not saying we cannot find a way around it. We need to take some responsibility from the local government and put them elsewhere, where we think they can be better handled.
“If I were sitting in the House of Assembly and you tell me you want to put the most important level of our education, which is basic education; in the hands of the weakest tier of government, I will scream.
“I am saying that as we pursue this as a principle we should also be mindful of some of these issues that are likely to stand in the way, to make people, based on their experience, say no! I think if we are able to clarify this further, then it will help to bring everybody along” he said.
Lamenting the failure of the present structure to deliver services to citizens, the Executive Director, Center LSD, Otive Igbuzor, who also spoke at the meeting, argued that although the call for the restructuring of the country is in order, there was also the need to focus the narrative on the restructuring of the leadership selection process, governance to include citizens participation, and restructuring of the orientation of the citizenry.
He said “from my experience with Nigeria, we are sure that the structure of Nigeria is not delivering the goods.
We also know that its not only about structure. So the restructuring debate in Nigeria must be expanded from just the structure of regions or States.
“Because if you look at some of the suggestions, if we create regions, it will create additional bureaucratic layers. You will agree with me that in the 80s, recurrent expenditure was just 30 percent but today through the creation of many bureaucratic structures, the recurrent expenditure is over 70 percent”.
He reiterated that the purpose of local government autonomy is to bring governance close to the people and for that governance to deliver services to the people.
On his part, the National Coordinator, United Action for Democracy (UAD), Jaye Gaskiya called for a campaign that goes beyond the issue of Local Government autonomy to that of local governance reform.
He said “as we deal with the question of local government autonomy, which is important, we need to also begin to look more seriously at the issue of local governance reforms. That is on how the Wards fit into the government, how the counselors who represent wards fit into it and actually become an arm of a functional government in their wards; is what we mean by governance at the local level”.
Comrade Gaskiya also insists that stakeholders including civil society groups must work to get all States in the country to adopt the local government autonomy bill.