Local Government Autonomy and Other Issues in Kwara -By U. Qasim - 9japarrot


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Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Local Government Autonomy and Other Issues in Kwara -By U. Qasim

By U. Qasim

First term governors in Nigeria today are making names for themselves and their states. From Zulum and Matewalle; to Makinde and Abdurahman; and  the rest of them, governance is said to be 'business unsual'. Some have attributed this phenomenon to 'initial gragra' of Nigerian elected public office holders. But this 'gragra' 'no be for here'.  However, whether ordinary Nigerians are comfortable or not with the new drive of governance is not a matter of deep reflection. Basic needs are still not cheap to access.

Few days ago, I wanted to write about a commissioner who was appointed on papers but resigned on-air before I stumbled upon a piece titled: "A Governor and his love for probity". Don't worry about the capitalisation in the title; let's talk a little about the content. In his usual style, Rafiu Ajakaye, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Kwara State, rendered venerations on his boss, stating his achievements within months. What do you expect  him to do? The governor do not have paid-praise singers online like the one at the next door. Sorry, we have many next doors.

Ajakaye's submission seems to be a reflection of certain people's view - Kwara is no longer Kwara of yesterday. This opinion is birthed of little work, more noise and more work, more noise of past administrations and the inncubent. Notable perceived marks of Abdurahman Abdurazaak's led government are prudency in the management of the State's wealth, massive infrastructural development, historical human development through trainings and social investments, transparency in government, Local Government Autonomy, '...love for probity', and  responsiveness to emerging challenges. Of course, many committees and panels have been set up by the government in respect to the aforementioned. To our amazement, committees/panels were set up to  investigate procurements and sales of properties since the return of democracy till date; alleged diversion of Local Government funds; social audit of projects awarded/ executed; and many more. First of its kind!

But let's discuss Local Government funds for now. When public office holders resign we hear of that from their superior after interest to resigning has been received and accepted. But, for  former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, you could resign anywhere. Perhaps, anyhow. 'Oyinbo style' some would say. It was firstly rumoured immediately after the governor did a minor reshuffling of his cabinet and denials followed suit. Little did we know rumours have powers to make things happen. Eventually,  Aisha Ahman Patigi dropped the news herself. It took days before the government could react. May be they thought it was still a rumour, worse still, they didn't receive any document in that regard. More rumours emerged to suggest her reason for resignation. Prominently, it was alleged that local government funds were diverted to a secret account at a time funds were being borrowed to orggument the running cost of Local Governments in the State. As usual, the governor constituted another panel to look into the matter. To add more beauty, he invited the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to also probe the matter. You know how panel by government to investigate government works right? the outcome can only be for the government.

Justice Adewara led judicial panel submitted its report few days ago and said no evidence suggested LG funds were diverted. The report came less than sixty days after the panel was inaugurated. To reaffirm the panel's position, Arc. Aliyu Mohammed Saifuddeen, the new Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftaincy Affairs and Community Development, reiterated that Kwara LGs remain totally autonomous. This assertion didn't go well with his predecessor as she swiftly dared Kwara State to publish its financial account. May be another panel will be set to look into the possibility of publishing the State's financial account. This governor loves investigation.

But these dramatic moments come with many questions for a governor that is transparent. Such questions could be: what is local government autonomy in the real sense when the State do not have local government chairmen and the council members? Who are those controlling the local government funds when there are no elected officers? When will the local governments have their own elected officers? Are Directors of Pasonnel Management empowered to control funds? Answer to these questions and many more will convince the citizenry that probity can only be genuine if transparency is guaranteed and the government is committed to a transparent administration.

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