MAKING GOVERNMENT COUNT AT THE GRASSROOTS
We are here today to be part of history that will forever impact on the life of our people. The courageous step we are taking today is in fulfilment of our avowed belief that the purpose of government is to deliver the greatest happiness to the greater number of the people. There is no gainsaying that the only way a government can deliver the greatest happiness to its citizenry is its level of closeness to the people. It is beyond contention that the closest government to the people should be the Local Government. Can we truly say that the existing Local Government system we have in the State of Osun is a true reflection of the desire of the citizens of the state? Are the councils in all honesty close enough to the people at the grassroots to enable them deliver the required services expected of a local government? The answer of course is no. If they are, why do we have agitations for more local governments?
The reality, as we have found out since our assumption of office in the last three years, is that many Local Governments as presently constituted are too large in size as regards the area they cover; the size of its workforce as well as the quality of representation needed at the grassroots level. These have hindered the smooth running of our Local Governments to the extent that they merely survive to pay salaries and nothing more. The statutory duties of the local governments have been neglected so much that people had actually forgotten their existence within their locality.
In view of the popular agitation of our people for new local governments and with a view to repositioning existing ones for the optimum benefit of our people, I inaugurated a 10-man Osun Local Government Creation Committee headed by Professor Mojeed Alabi as the Chairman and Mr. Adeyeye Francis Olatoye, former Permanent Secretary in the Osun State Civil Service as secretary. In doing this, we are committed to complying with the clear provision of Sections 7 and 8 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.
At the inauguration of the committee, we gave it the mandate to undertake a comprehensive review of Local Government Councils in the state and recommend new council areas as demanded by the people with the objective of laying the foundation for governance that is democratically elected and sovereign. The committee was charged with the task of subsequently preparing and presenting a report for a Bill for a law to the Osun House of Assembly for the purpose of creating new Local Government Areas in conformity with Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
After the committee submitted its report and in further desire to ensure full compliance with letters and spirits of the Constitution, Law and Procedure, our government constituted a Six member Review Committee headed by the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, to look into the report of the Osun Local Government Areas Creation Committee.
The Review Committee was saddled with the responsibility to review the reports of the Local Government Creation Committee; advise on the recommendations of the Committee to the Local Governments to be created; come up with programmes and advise on further steps to be taken to actualize the creation of additional Local Governments and to ensure the actualization of Local Government creation.
The Review Committee took time to critically study the main report of the Local Government Areas Creation Committee and was unanimous in appreciating the Committee for thoroughly discharging its duties as encapsulated in its terms of reference. However, the review committee true to its name picked the proposal and the recommendation one after the other and made justification for recommending a particular local government or citing headquarters of such local government in a particular place.
The Review Committee, in so many instances, agreed with the creation of some local governments as recommended and in very few cases made outright rejection for reasons ranging from unviability of some and in other instances the need to maintain peaceful coexistence. All those justifications are contained in the main report submitted by the Review Committee.
The outcome of the review Committee was its recommendation of the creation of additional 27 Local Governments.
THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREAS (CREATION AND ADMINISTRATION) BILL, 2013
I am here before this august and esteemed Assembly to present the Local Government (Creation and Administration) Bill 2013. This Bill is the culmination of all the aforementioned efforts.
This historic Bill, when passed into law, will provide for the establishment of additional 27 Local Governments in the state. The Bill expressly states that the 27 Local Government Areas are created in addition to the 30 Local Government Areas specified in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
One significant aspect of this Bill is that the existing 30 Local Governments co-exist with the newly created local governments. As a matter of fact, section 3 of the Bill clearly provides that pending the passage of an Act of the National Assembly to list them in the constitution as Local Government Areas, the 27 new Local Government Areas shall be 27 Local Council Development Areas (Local Counties) in the State with the names specified in schedule II of the Bill. This provision clearly takes care of confusion that might have arisen should there be a controversy as to the status of the Local Government if the existing and the newly created Local Council Development Areas are lumped together as 57 Local Government Areas in the state. We have done our best to act within the existing law in this regard.
This Bill has some unique features that are meant to make Local Government administration cost-effective, people-oriented and development-based. To this end, the Bill proposes to establish a parliamentary system of government at the local government level. The implication of this is that the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Council would be an elected councillor from the party having majority seats in the Council with other relevant qualifications. It is our firm conviction that this will inevitably reduce cost of governance; enhance quality of representation at the grass-roots level and ensure smooth running of the local government administration.
It is clear that despite the acute paucity of funds available to local governments, the amount spent on over-head and personnel already gulps all the Council allocation. This proposed system would ensure transparency, probity and a more productive local government administration system in the State of Osun. In furtherance of the foregoing, it is important to state that political functionaries at the Local Government level must be prepared to make a sacrifice by getting reduced emoluments in the short-term for the benefit of the system.
Section 17 of the Bill further creates the office of the Council Manager who shall be the Administrative Head of the Local Government Council. He or she shall be designated as “Council Manager” who shall be a civil servant not above grade level 14. The Council Manager shall be the highest level of officer in the Local Government Council. In making this Bill, we are not oblivious of the career progression concern of officers above grade level 14 in the Local Government Council. Affected officers in the employment of the Local Government, upon advancement beyond Grade Level 14, shall be deployed by the Local Government Service Commission in conjunction with the Civil Service Commission to any Ministry, Department or Agency of government as they may so deem fit.
This provision is to remove some obvious constraints to local government administration, particularly the challenge of funding top-heavy bureaucracy and to invigorate the administration by deploying officers who still have their career dependent on their performance at the Council.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC PLANNING BOARD
Another area we are also working on in re-engineering our local governments is on a Bill for the creation of Local Government Economic Planning Board. This is in pursuant to Section 7 1999 Constitution. The Board will act in advisory capacity and shall perform the following functions:
To develop economic Blueprint for the Local Government Council taking into consideration the peculiarity of each Council;
To develop a framework for infrastructural and sustainable Development of the Council Area;
To advice the local government council on the enhancement of commercial and trading activities in the local Government;
To develop the parameters for agricultural development in the Local Government;
To advise on any other ancillary or relevant matter passed to it by the Council.
The Local Government Economic Planning Board is not, and shall not be an implementation Body; its report shall be submitted to the Local Government Council for implementation; and it shall not be involved or take part in the day-to-day running of the Local Government.
Honourable members of this distinguished Assembly, I present to you a bill for a law to re-engineer our Local Government system.
This Bill when passed into law, shall not only ensure a virile local government, it would place this House in the hall of fame of progressive and innovative Legislatures of all time in our dear state in particular and nation at large.
I thank you all for your kind attention.