Posted by News Express | 17 October 2020 | 229 times
By OKECHUKWU KESHI UKEGBU
The local government – which is referred to as the third-tier of government in Nigeria – may be defined as the lowest level of government in a country established by law to ensure the effective and efficient administration of the localities or rural areas. The United Nations Department of Public Administration defines the local government as the political sub-division of a country, which is designed by law and has substantial control of local affairs, including power to impose levies and exact labour for prescribed purposes.
The local government is an indispensable unit of the federation. It is the tier of government nearest to the people. Part II, section 7(1) of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) guarantees that the state shall ensure the existence of local government under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.
The local government is created to bring government nearer to the people; serve as the medium to articulate and promote local interest; act as the instrument for political education; and promotion of rural development. Others are to mobilise and harness local resources, and to serve as the link between the rural dwellers and other tiers of the government.
It will be recalled that there was a time when for more than five years of local government elections were not being held in Abia State. The local government system was operated under a caretaker arrangement. While it attracted a barrage of criticisms in the past, such anomaly seriously hampered progress and development of the local government areas in the state.
But, fortunately, the narrative has changed as Abia is about to conduct the second local government election under Gov Okezie Ikpeazu's administration. Abia State Independent Election Commission (ABSIEC) recently fixed local government elections for chairmanship and councillorship positions in all the 17 local government areas, and 292 ABSIEC wards in the state for December 18, 2020. This is cheering news for all Abians despite their political divide. The Commission has also issued a timetable for the elections.
Abians across the 17 local government areas are viewing the action beyond the exercise of the powers conferred on the commission by Part 11, Third Schedule, Section 4, sub-section (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and pursuant to the Fifth Schedule, Section 160 of Abia State Local Government Law No. 9 of 2002.
This singular action portrays the governor as a man whose words are his bond. It portrays him as a man who has departed from the previous ways of doing things and wants to do things differently.
The important roles the local government plays in a system cannot be over-emphasised. They are divided into mandatory, permissive and concurrent. The obligatory roles of the local government are those roles provided by schedule IV of the constitution. They are functions which the local government is bound to render to the people because of its knowledge of the local problems.
The obligatory roles include maintenance of rural roads, streets, and drainages; construction and maintenance of motor parks, public conveniences and cemeteries; provision of health facilities, such as clinics, dispensaries and maternities.
Others are the disposal of refuse; the building of primary schools; collection of rates; radio and television licences; licensing of bicycles, trucks, wheel-barrows; naming of streets, roads and numbering of houses, registration of births, deaths and marriages; establishment and maintenance of recreational facilities; and regulation of outdoor advertisements, movement of domestic animals, shops and kiosks, restaurants and food and liquor renders.
Indeed, it is not out of place to state here that these functions have suffered for lack of democratically elected executives in the local government areas in the state. Also, Ikpeazu’s developmental strides in urban centres cannot be complete if there are no complementary efforts in the rural centres because this is where the bulk of the residents dwell.
No wonder the administration, in its bid to close the gap of infrastructural development between rural areas and the cities, is opening rural roads such as Agalaba Ring Road, in Obingwa Local Government
The forthcoming local government elections provide Abians with another window to contribute meaningfully to the development of the state. There is a passionate appeal to shun our differences and embrace this golden opportunity. “There is no tomorrow better than today.”
•Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu, a public policy analyst, writes from Aba, via firstname.lastname@example.org
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