At democracy dialogue, OOTC seeks LG autonomy

* Ezekwesili advocates structural solutions to Nigeria’s problems

The Office of the Citizen (OOTC) has made a case for local government autonomy in Nigeria to achieve the desired development plans for the citizenry.

The OOTC, which stated this at the maiden virtual Democracy Dialogue on June 12, themed ‘Promoting Sustainable Development Models for Effective Local Governance’, said the event was designed to compel key political and electoral reform actions for credible, transparent, free and fair elections by the executive, legislature, the Independent National Electoral Commission, and the security establishment.

Speaking during the event, the Founder, #FixPolitics, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, said, “Nigeria is faced with serious structural challenges in its democracy and governance, and nothing works until structural solutions are provided.”

According to the former Vice President of the World Bank, the country’s problems cannot be solved from the top cadre of governance, unless the grassroots are involved.

“That means we cannot start solving problems of the country from the rooftops. We believe that for functionality, we have to correct the structure, which is at the centre of constitutional change. A Nigeria that works has to be designed by the people. We need to place the grassroots at the heart of the Nigeria project,” she added.

Social activist, Aisha Yesufu, called for total citizen inclusion in the democratic process, even at home. Government, according to her, should involve the citizens in decision-making.

Yesufu advocated attitudinal change in governance and autonomy for local government administration.

“We need to understand that people have the right to make demands and ask for explanations. Asking questions is good, and that means they believe in government.

“There should be attitudinal change. Presently, the local government’s loyalty has been to the state government, and not the people who elected them. That has to change,” she said.

On his part, the Executive Chairman, Igbogbo-Baiyeku Local Council Development Area, Lagos State, Olusesan Daini, agreed with Yesufu on the call for local government autonomy.

According to him, the role of local governments is clear in the constitution. They are expected to look at the economic development of the state, because, for any state to thrive, there must be functional local governments.

“We are entrusted with the healthcare system, road maintenance, preservation of natural resources, primary education, healthcare system, the environment and road infrastructure,”  he said.

The Executive Director, Advocate for Good Governance, Sesugh Akume, said funds for local governments should get to them directly.

He stated, “There is too much centralisation in Nigeria, and now is the time to decentralise power and allow the local governments access funds directly from the Federal Government. There is too much restriction in the country, and that is affecting the local governments’ functionality.”

On her part, the founder, Community Life Project, Ngozi Iwere, called for integrity in the electoral process. She asked the citizens to take responsibility and demand electoral integrity, defend their votes and ensure that votes count.

Iwere urged skills deployment for both the supply and demand sides of governance, to ensure accountability and results.

The founder of BudgIT, Seun Onigbinde, called for tracking of government performance and social accountability. For him, what gets measured gets done, and people should come together to make the government accountable to the people.

Two-time minister, Frank Nweke Jnr, said he was pleased with the dialogue’s outcome. He called for citizen vigilance, urging the people to pay attention to how they’re being governed.

“I am pleased that the challenge of attributing the problems to the Federal Government will soon be over. We have to understand that there are local problems that should be attributable to local governments’ incompetence,” he said.

The OOTC, a product of FixPolitics, is a critical platform for Nigerians who believe in strengthening local government and promoting a more effective and accountable democracy.

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