On Dec. 16, 2013, Gov. Rauf Aregbesola of Osun presented a bill to the State House of Assembly, seeking the creation of 27 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) from the state’s 30 local government areas.
The bill’s presentation was sequel to the submission of the report of the Local Government Creation Committee, constituted by the state government and chaired by Prof. Mojeed Alabi, a former Speaker of the state Assembly.
Aregbesola explained that the bill, captioned “Local Government Areas (Creation and Administration) Bill 2013’’, would increase the number of administration units and ensure rapid development across the state.
According to him, the new local council development areas will co-exist with the existing local government areas which are specified in the 1999 Constitution.
While urging the lawmakers to pass the bill, the governor assured them that “the new councils would operate a parliamentary system of government to avoid financial constraints.
“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.
“This bill has some unique features that are meant to make local government administration cost-effective, people-oriented and development-based.
“It is our firm conviction that this will inevitably reduce cost of governance; enhance quality of representation at the grassroots level and ensure smooth running of the local government administration,’’ he added.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Najeem Salaam, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, stressed that the creation of the LCDAs would not constitute a burden to the existing local government areas.
“From what we heard from the governor, the new councils will not constitute a burden on the existing ones, rather they will serve as platform for effective, efficient and all-inclusive governance at the grassroots,’’ he said.
Salaam pledged that the legislature would examine the contents of the bill and pass it into law at the appropriate time.
Nevertheless, the presentation of the bill has continued to generate varied comments among the residents of the state.
Mr Kazeem Alao, a public analyst in Osogbo, insisted the creation of the 27 council areas would affect the state’s economy because of the dwindling resources allocated to the state from the Federation Account every month.
“My question is why the creation of local councils is considered more important than creating wealth for the impoverished people of Osun State,’’ he said.
All the same, Mr Kolawole Amusan, a civil servant in the state, said that that the creation of the LCDAs was long overdue in the state.
He said that the proposed council areas would foster an all-inclusive government at the grassroots and bring government closer to the people.
Amusan noted that the parliamentary structure of the proposed councils would ensure prudent spending, reduce cost of governance, enhance quality of representation at the grassroots and ensure efficiency.
He noted that the creation of the councils would also provide job opportunities for the youth, while bringing development to the proposed headquarters of the councils.
Apart from these observations, some concerned citizens, nonetheless, express worry over the series of petitions and protests by different communities on the proposed councils.
They note that some communities petitioned the governor, protesting against the exclusion of their communities from the proposed councils, while other communities protested against the location of the councils’ headquarters.
For instance, Mr Rasaq Afolabi, the National President of Ofatedo Descendants Union, said that the people of Ofatedo were happy about the way the creation of the councils was handled.
Afolabi alleged that Ido Osun, the proposed headquarters of the proposed council in the area, had refused to involve other communities in matters relating to the council’s creation.
The community forwarded a letter of protest to the governor and copied the Speaker of the state Assembly.
Besides, some traditional rulers and stakeholders in Ife North Local Government Area have petitioned the state Assembly, alleging the omission of their area in the proposed councils.
They appealed to the legislature to review the exercise by creating a council from Ife North Local Government Area so as to bring development to the area.
The petition, which was written by the Unity Club of Ife North Local Government, was signed by six traditional rulers from Ife North local government.
Moreover, the residents of Oke-Irun in Boluwaduro Local Government protested against their inclusion in a proposed council which would put them under the authority of a neighbouring town.
They said that they preferred to remain within the domain of Bolorunduro Local Government Area, instead of being in a council where Igbajo, a major town in the area, would likely be the headquarters.
In view of these protests, analysts urge the executive and the legislative arms of government to look into the petitions so as to avoid friction among the communities in the future.
In an apparent response to this call, Salaam on Feb. 8 directed the state Independent Electoral Commission (SEIC) to conduct a referendum on the proposed council development areas.
The speaker also directed the House Committee on Local Government to visit the proposed headquarters of the council areas.
Salaam said that the report of the House Committee and the outcome of the referendum would be considered in the final passage of the bill.
Responding to the directive, the committee, between Feb. 26 and March 10, visited all the local government areas where the proposed councils are to be located.
During the visit, Assemblyman Wasiu Adebayo, the committee’s Chairman, appealed to the communities not to allow issues relating to the location of headquarters of the proposed councils to cause mayhem.
He said that since the creation of the new councils was awaiting the lawmakers’ approval, the people must eschew violence and strive to promote the socio-economic development of their areas.
All in all, observers are querying the rationale behind the parliamentary system of government put in place for the proposed LCDAs, saying that it may not be acceptable to opposition parties in the state.
They, nonetheless, urge relevant stakeholders to ensure that necessary mechanisms are put in place for the running of the proposed councils if the bill is finally passed into law.
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