Communities decry hijack of LGs’ functions, demand greater engagement with public officials
Community leaders in Ekiti and Osun have decried the near hijack of the statutory functions of local governments by the states. This they say is seriously hampering concrete development efforts at the local level.
They want public officials to regularly interface with them on projects and matters of public policy to ensure that only those that uplift the rural communities are embarked upon. This will also check mismanagement and channeling of public funds for private purposes, impunity by LG officials and promote accountability.
At a four-day training and capacity building programme for grassroots community leaders on participatory governance and civic engagement recently organised in Ado Ekiti, by Community Life Project (CLP) with support from the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), they contend that this will foist harmony and trust on development issues at the local level.
“Local Governments are the closest to the people, but we have virtually rendered them spineless financially. They’ve been pocketed by the state governors who can’t even allow them to supervise the collection of TV and radio licences”, notes Pade Aderibigbe, 81, community leader, Ayedire LGA Osun state. Aderibigbe, who is a retired professor of Forensic Accounting says the LGS need to be financially independent to meet the yearnings of the people at the grassroots.
Segun Olusola, director, community development, Ekiti state says, “It is important that the voices of the people in the communities are heard each time government wants to carry out any projects. We cannot continue to treat the people as if they do not matter.
“Anyone resisting the participation in governance by the people is deluding himself. Participatory governance is the right of the people. Government must be consensus oriented.. When government and citizens come together to seek for solution over knotty issues, things are done better”, says Francis Onahor, one of the facilitators. “We can’t afford to do siddon look on matters that concerns us”, he says, charging the participants to always ask questions and grill public officials.
But Akole Olatunbosun Busuyi, 40, a youth leader from Ikere-Ekiti says the public officials have the habit of always isolating them as “saboteurs” each time they tried to engage them on matters of development. “They’ll single you out for a backlash thereafter”, says Busuyi, also a Phd student in Information Science at the University of Ibadan.
This view is corroborated by Adeleke Jacob Ajayi, chairman, community development association, Ilasa-Ekiti who says “If we try to ask questions about what they do, they’ll threaten you and you can even get killed if you are not careful”. “How can we ensure that we’ll be safe when we ask questions? When we ask questions, they’ll threaten us”, says Olaniyan Ishaq Babatunde, community development association youth leader in Atakumosa West Central, Ifewara, Osun state
However, Lanre Arinola, programme officer, community level partnership CLP, says, the “community leaders must be tactful in their strategy of engagement”.
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