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LG autonomy: Nigeria’s answer to poverty and insecurity

Nigeria is at a crossroads, faced with the daunting challenge of addressing the dual crises of escalating poverty and spiralling insecurity that have gripped the…

Nigeria is at a crossroads, faced with the daunting challenge of addressing the dual crises of escalating poverty and spiralling insecurity that have gripped the nation. The root cause of these challenges can be traced back to a single, crucial issue, the erosion of local government autonomy. The local government, as the tier of government closest to the people, should play an integral role in addressing the needs and challenges faced by their communities. Even so, in reality, local governments in Nigeria often find themselves sidelined, their potential hampered by dependence on state government. The urgency of restoring local government autonomy in Nigeria has never been more evident.

A look at the poverty statistics in Nigeria paints a grim picture. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the poverty rate in the country stands at an astounding 40 per cent, meaning that close to 83 million Nigerians live in poverty. This has created fertile ground for insecurity, with militant groups and criminal gangs exploiting the desperation of impoverished communities. The situation is particularly dire in rural areas, especially in the northern states, where the majority of the population lives in poverty, far removed from the centres of political power.

The lack of local government autonomy is at the heart of this problem. Local governments are best placed to understand the specific needs and challenges of their communities and to implement tailored solutions that can lift people out of poverty and create a more secure environment. However, without the necessary financial and administrative autonomy, local governments are left hamstrung in their ability to truly make a difference.

The current system of local government funding in Nigeria is a perfect example of the problem. Local governments are largely dependent on allocations from the federation account. These allocations are often delayed or diverted for other purposes by some state governments, leaving local governments with limited resources to invest in essential services such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure, all of which are critical to poverty alleviation. Moreover, the lack of financial autonomy undermines the ability of local governments to be accountable to their communities, as they are unable to make independent decisions on how best to allocate resources.

The disconnection between the federal, state and rural communities is another significant barrier to progress. Rural communities often find themselves marginalised and excluded from the decision-making process, with their needs and priorities often overlooked by those in power. This has created a sense of alienation and disillusionment among rural populations, further exacerbating the insecurity crisis.

The solution to this complex web of problems lies in the restoration of local government autonomy. By empowering local governments to make decisions that are in the best interest of their communities, we can begin to address the root causes of poverty and insecurity. This means providing local governments with the financial resources they need to invest in critical services and infrastructure, as well as the administrative autonomy to make decisions that are tailored to the needs of their communities, that bottom-up approach and top down. It also means ensuring that local governments are accountable to their communities, with transparent and inclusive decision-making processes that give people a say in the issues that affect their lives.

Moreover, transparency and accountability must be the bedrock of this renewed governance structure. Empowered local governments need to operate transparently, ensuring their actions and policies are in the best interests of the people they serve. This involves creating platforms for community participation, allowing people to have a stake in their future.

This vision is not just a theoretical ideal. It’s a pragmatic necessity for Nigeria’s socio-economic revival. With the country on the brink, there’s a historical opportunity, and a profound responsibility for national leaders, including President Bola Tinubu and members of the national and state assemblies. By championing the cause of local government autonomy, they can pave the way for a more inclusive and prosperous Nigeria. Not only has the autonomy of the local government been expunged, but even the council election, the largest democracy in Nigeria – has been abused, making it seem like a joke. The state’s ruling party wins all elective positions, putting democracy in danger with no opposition.

The best and simple way for Nigeria to address poverty and insecurity is by restoring local government autonomy. One of the phrases I liked from Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu is “we will punish poverty.” The easiest way to combat poverty in our lifetime in Nigeria is through the autonomous local government system. Nothing more or less! It is more than just a governance reshuffle. It’s a beacon of hope for millions of Nigerians ensnared in the clutches of poverty and fear. It’s the cornerstone for building a Nigeria where every citizen, irrespective of their location or socio-economic status, feels seen, heard, and valued. As we look to the future, let’s commit to a governance model that celebrates decentralisation, values grassroots development, and prioritises the well-being of every Nigerian.

The benefits of local government autonomy are numerous. For one, it would allow local governments to develop and implement policies and programmes that are specifically tailored to the needs of their communities. This would result in more effective and efficient delivery of services, as local governments would be able to prioritise the most pressing issues faced by their constituents. In addition, local government autonomy would foster a greater sense of accountability and transparency, as local governments would be directly responsible to their communities. This would result in a more responsive and responsible government, one that is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people.

The high levels of poverty and insecurity in Nigeria are a direct result of the erosion of local government autonomy. By restoring local government autonomy, we can empower local governments to be the drivers of positive change in their communities, addressing the root causes of poverty and insecurity. This is not just a constitutional or legal issue; it is a matter of survival for the millions of Nigerians currently living in poverty and fear. The time for action is now. Let us work together to build a more inclusive, secure, and prosperous Nigeria, where every citizen has the opportunity to live a life of dignity and fulfilment.

 

Hurso Adam, Ph.D

 

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