Prof. Emmanuel Ezeani of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, has urged the Federal Government to reposition the country’s local government councils to fast-track development at the grassroots level.
Ezeani made the call on Friday in Nsukka while delivering the 66th Inaugural Lecture of the university entitled “Delivering the Goods: Repositioning Local Governments in Nigeria to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”.
The professor of political science said that local government councils should have their allocations on the first-line charge instead of the present situation where they had joint accounts with some state governments.
``How do you expect the council chairman to embark on many capital projects when some state governors decide when to release funds and which project that ought to be executed, owing to existing joint accounts?
``The aim of establishing local governments is to ensure development at the grassroots but today it appears that aim has been defeated.
``There is urgent need to strengthen the capacity of the local governments in the country in order to improve their performance and fast-track development
``Lack of autonomy and interference by states that are the major problems of the local government system in the country,’’ he said.
Ezeani identified Anambra as a state that had not conducted local government elections since 1999.
``Caretaker committees are used by successive governors to run local government councils in Anambra since 1999.
``What actually exists in states like Anambra is local government administration run by caretaker committees that are composed of persons appointed by the governor.
``These people owe total allegiance to the governor and the chairman of the committee serves at the mercy of the governor who appointed him,’’ he noted.
Ezeani advocated a uniform tenure for local government chairmen throughout the country, noting that present situation where the chairmen had different tenures fixed by the state houses of assembly should be reviewed.
``There must be uniform years for elected local government chairmen and caretakers should not stay more than six months before an election is conducted.
``The uniform tenure will help to assess their performance nationwide,’ he said.
Ezeani, who is the Dean of the university’s Faculty of Social Sciences, noted that the current situation, in which most local government councils only managed to pay workers’ salaries without embarking on capital projects, was unacceptable.
``It is an undisputable fact that the local government system has become a conduit for siphoning public funds.``All the internal mechanisms of financial accountability in local government administration such as audit alarm, internal and external auditing must be enforced.
``It is unfortunate that most local governments in the country have not integrated the MDGs into their development plans.
``It will be impossible for the country to achieve the MDGs without the active participation of local government councils,’’ he said.
In his remark, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Bartho Okolo, who was represented by Prof Isaac Asuzu, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), pledged that the university authorities would continue to provide opportunities for professors to enable them to use their knowledge to promote national development. (NAN)