July 18, 2024

June 12: Stakeholders canvas strengthening of LGs, citizen participation

As Nigeria marks Democracy Day on Wednesday, stakeholders have called for the strengthening of local government administration to promote good governance and ensure effective and accountable democracy.

The call was made during a virtual event with the theme “June 12 Democracy Dialogue,” organized by The Office of the Citizen (OOTC), an initiative stemming from Pillar One of the #FixPolitics Initiative.

Speakers at the event included Obiageli Ezekwesili, former minister Frank Nweke II, Convener of Chess in Slums Africa Tunde Onakoya, founder of BudgIT Seun Onigbinde and founder of Community Life Project, Ngozi Iwere.

Other participants were Nigerian spoken word and performance poetry artist and author, Dike Chukwumerije, Sam Amadi of the Centre for Public Policy and Research, Sesugh Akume of Advocate for Good Governance, Anthony Ubani, the founder of Talkademy Joyce Daniels, and the Executive Chairman of Igbogbo-Baiyeku Local Council Development Area, Lagos, Olusesan Daini.

In his speech, the Chairman of the #FixPolitics Initiative, Mr Frank Nweke Junior, said Nigerians have the collective responsibility to understand how they are governed and to help those who don’t understand the system.

Nweke emphasized the need to increase funding to local governments and hold the system accountable.

Speaking at the event, former Minister of Education Obiageli Ezekwesili noted that Nigeria is facing structural challenges in its democracy and governance.

According to her, Nigeria’s democracy will not bring development unless structural solutions are found for its dysfunctional system.

“We have to correct the structure. We have to make sure that the local government is at the center of the structural reform in Nigeria,” she said.

One of the panelists, Aisha Yesufu, suggested that it is important for people to understand that the office of the citizen is the highest office in the land, calling for citizenship enlightenment and empowerment.

Yesufu maintained that people, especially at the grassroots, have the right to make demands and ask questions about governance in their local areas.

She also stressed the need to grant financial autonomy to local governments.

“There should be full autonomy. Funds should be sent directly to the Local Governments, and not tampered with.”

Answering questions during one of the sessions, Olusesan Daini highlighted some of the functions and responsibilities of local governments, including the preservation of natural resources, provisions of primary health care, education, infrastructure, and roads.

Daini highlighted the problems of local governments, including poor funding and limited administrative capacity, among others.

He noted that citizenship participation at the grassroots is key, lamenting that people at the local government level were not engaging but rather patronizing their leaders.

Also speaking in one of the sessions, Ngozi Iwere suggested that local governments should be allowed to conduct their own elections.

She, however, stressed that elections for local governments must still be transparent, even if managed by a centralized body.

“It is not much about if it’s a centralized body. It still has to be transparent and have integrity,” Iwere said.

She also noted that citizens should demand that their votes count in every situation.

Oluseun Onigbinde also spoke, highlighting the need for data at the grassroots, while Sesugh Akume discussed best practices for local governments.

Akume emphasised the rule of law, decentralization, and autonomy for local governments.

He noted that local governments weren’t allowed to function effectively due to too much control.

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