Weak participation at local government level a danger to democracy, transparency — Bamigbetan

Posted by News Express | 28 November 2018 | 739 times

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Popular participation at the local government level in Nigeria is very weak. This not only endangers democracy, but it also undermines transparency.

Lagos State Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, made the above observation in his call to action during his presentation at the News Express 6th Anniversary Lecture held recently at Ikeja Sheraton Hotel, Lagos.

Mr. Bamigbetan, who spoke on “Transparency: Bedrock of Sustainable Development”, further lamented that “patronage of the community press which can sustain the cause of transparency is also weak.”

He also noted that “community groups, societies and clubs have serious transparency issues”, adding: “The character of the capitalist mode dominant in Nigeria, commercial rather than industrial, puts a price on everything, including our morals. Transparency is a public good, a morality that seeks to function in a hostile environment.

“Yet for the development of our people, we can’t afford to look back. We have to KEEP MOVING.”

The Commissioner, a seasoned journalist, rights activist and administrator, cited his experiences, first as elected Public Relations Officer of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile-Ife Students Union in 1985 at age 20, and much later as Chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Lagos.

Drawing a connection between transparency and development, Bamigbetan made a strong case for stronger citizen participation in the governance process, saying: “Since it is in the collective interest of the commonwealth to develop, every citizen has an interest to know the specific measure of the resources, the rules for its deployment and the purposes of expenditure. This responsibility requires the citizen to demand transparency and obliges the government elected to deliver transparently.”

Highlighting measures he took to promote transparency during his days as local government chairman, Bamigbetan said: “From January 2009 to March 2013 the administration pursued a policy of rendering accounts at each of the six wards every month. These accounts were distributed free to citizens. Time was allocated to questions on the accounts.” He said that since the Ejigbo LCDA allocation comes from the federal allocation of Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Area, “the residents were invited to verify allocations from the Oshodi-Isolo LGA. Accounts were based on sectoral expenditures.”

Bamigbetan recalled that under his watch Ejigbo was the first local government in Nigeria to collaborate with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to introduce POS as payment option in Nigeria. This, he said, “made paying convenient, no need to leave the shop to go to the bank to pay. (It) gave instant electronic teller to replace receipts which took weeks to be obtained at the local government office. Tracked the revenue staff thus promoting punctuality. Real time online collection tracker which ensured transparency. Led to higher revenue. Increased visibility of the value process.”

Apart from Bamigbetan, four other eminent Nigerians also developed the News Express 6th Anniversary Lecture theme, “Transparency – Bedrock of Sustainable Development”, from various perspectives. They included the other keynote speakers – President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Emeka Rollas Ejezie; and Executive Director of Media Law Centre, Richard Akinnola.

The Guest Speaker, Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, represented by the AGM Servicom, Chief Patrick Ihekuna, developed the theme from the perspectives of NPA.

One of the highlights of the event was the unveiling of News Express Magazine, jointly performed by Commissioner Bamigbetan and international music icon and business tycoon, Dr Tee Mac Omatshola Iseli (MFR), supported by other dignitaries.

The event, chaired by eminent lawyer and President Emeritus of Aka Ikenga think tank, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, was streamed live via YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp.

The News Express Anniversary Lecture and Economic Stakeholders’ Forum is an annual programme that has an established trend of bringing together important business and political leaders from across the country, as well as multifarious professionals and influential media stakeholders.

News Express, which debuted on August 29, 2012, is one of Nigeria’s most popular and influential online dailies. It is read by hundreds of thousands of people around the world and records annual traffic of upwards of 100 million.

•Commissioner Bamigbetan making his presentation at the News Express 6th Anniversary Lecture

Source: News Express

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