…. As Group threatens Court action
By FUNSO OMODELEOLA
Mixed reactions have continued to trail the decision of Senator Ibikunle Amosun led Ogun State Government to create additional councils in the ‘Gateway State’.
It will be recalled that on March 10, 2016 Senator Amosun forwarded a formal request to the Ogun State House of Assembly for the approval of the creation of 37 Local Government Council Development Areas to coexist with the 20 local governments areas of the state.
With this request, Amosun added five additional LCDAs to the proposed 32 LCDAs by the administration of former governor of the state, Chief Olusegun Osoba.
National Daily findings further revealed that, Amosun’s administration jettisoned the issue of a referendum because the Osoba’s administration had conducted one, before he lost his second term bid for the Oke Mosan Government House hence the attempt to create additional councils in the state was stalled for 12 years.
While reading the governor’s letter at the Plenary, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Suraju Adekunbi said that the request was in furtherance of government’s attempt at meeting the yearnings of the people of the State through the delivery of democratic dividends.
Excerpts from the letter stated that, the creation of the Local Council Development Areas would further bring government nearer to the people and engender development.
Few days after, the Assembly held a-three -day Stakeholders’ Forum on creation of LCDAs where stakeholders from the three senatorial districts were allowed to make inputs into the proposal.
Making its input, the Ogun West Senatorial District advocated the creation of eight additional LCDAs to redress the alleged imbalance and lopsidedness in the move by the state government to establish new councils.
Marshalling the position of Ogun West zone before lawmakers, an elder statesman and educationist, Prof Biyi Afonja, who led concerned citizens from the senatorial district, faulted the sharing formula of the proposed LCDAs.
Afonja, who is one of the founding fathers of the state, wondered why both Ogun East and Ogun Central were allotted 22 and 20 LCDAs respectively while Ogun West got only 15 slots. He contended that the allocation of 15 LCDAs which, according to him, is just 26 percent of the proposed total number; amounted to short-changing Ogun West in the scheme of things.
Afonja called for the creation of additional LCDAs to include Ilara, Ketu South, Ibese/Igbogidi, Yewa South Central, Ipokia East, Imotu, Owode/Ilogbo and Ere. He, however, commended Amosun for re-enacting the law to create LCDAs after the repeal of same by the immediate past administration of ex-Governor Gbenga Daniel.
In his words “But on a second thought, we discovered that the creation, if carried out the way it was proposed would further marginalise the Ogun West Senatorial District in local government administration and other future purposes, hence our resolve to bring the observed lopsidedness in the proposed creation of the LCDAs to the attention of the honourable House for necessary actions.”
The renowned educationist noted that Ogun West zone, which is Nigeria’s border region in the state, deserves to be given special treatment.
He said, “Since creation of LCDA is essentially for development and border regions are faced with special development and security needs, it is our considered opinion that Ogun West should be given a special treatment by creating additional LCDAs to take care of border communities, promote government presence in these locations and therefore address the recurrent issues of boundary challenges from neighbouring countries”.
Standing eminently for Ogun East, a Chieftain of All Progressives Congress, Senator Biyi Durojaiye expressed his fear about the survival of the new proposed LCDAs.
Senator Durojaiye expressed his reservations and doubts about the survival of these new councils in the face of the dwindling allocation to states from the Federal government. He said he had written to the state government last year, advising it not to create new councils, but he ,however, noted that he would only change his position if the government could raise enough Internally Generated Revenue to fund the new LCDAs.
In his words “I sent my view to the state government, and I advised that we should not create new councils in Ogun State; my position is still the same. Creation of additional 37 LCDAs “I gave reasons for the position I took then. In the Constitution of Nigeria, the number of local governments is still 774. And to create anything above that, Lagos was the first to do it, when it created additional 37 LCDAs in addition to the 20 existing local councils.
“So from 20 local councils, the councils increased to 57, but the state government is still getting allocation for the 20 councils and not 57.
“Fifty seven of them are sharing what is meant for 20. “My fear on the proposed 37 LCDAs in Ogun State is how to finance to them. If the people can cooperate with the government and raise the state’s Internally Generated Revenue, may be the LCDAs may be viable, but I have my reservations and doubts.”
Senator Durojaiye also called equity in the proposed LCDAs, adding that if they must be created the “proportion between the Ijebu and Egba must not change from the ratio of 55 per cent to 45 per cent.”
For the representations of Governor’s home base of Ogun Central, Governor Amosun must be commended for the proposed creation of 37 Local Council Development Areas in the State.
Speaking on behalf of the People of Ogun Central Senatorial District, two former Members of the State House of Assembly, Banjamin Ogunmodede and Alhaji Morufu Ajisegiri, commended the Governor for splitting Obafemi-Owode and Abeokuta North Local Governments, saying it was long overdue because of the large population of the Local Government Councils.
A former Chairman of Abeokuta South Local Government, Alhaji Tajudeen Lemboye said LCDAs would make people to participate in the affairs of their Council Areas. He particularly called for LCDAs to be created in line with the existing Federal Constituencies, noting that at least 5 LCDAs should have been created from Abeokuta South because of its large population.
Similarly, a Community Leader from Abeokuta North, Engineer Abiodun Adenekan observed that the creation of Abeokuta North-West LCDA showed that the Governor is a good administrator who carries the people along in his decision making process. This assertion was also buttressed by the former Chairman of Abeokuta North, Agba-Akin Taofeek Olabode.
Royal fathers were at the forum to lend their counsel, the Olofin of Isheri, Oba Nurudeen Adekanbi and Alagbado of Agbado, Oba Adebayo Shyllon called for the renaming of both Ifo South LCDA and Ifo Central LCDA as Isheri Olofin and Agbado LCDAs respectively.
A People’s Democratic Party (PDP) group in Ogun State, Action Movement kicked against the decision of the state government to create 37 Local Council Development Areas in addition to the existing 20 local governments in the state.
The group in a statement signed by its Spokesperson, Alhaji Lukmon Adunmo, described the venture as “self-serving and needless”.
PAM while extolling the need for government to get closer to the governed, said “Whereas, there is nothing essentially wrong in having government getting closer to the people as it hastens development and integration, but, as desirable as they may be, their creation must meet certain fundamentals; which to all intents and purposes have not been met in this instance”.
The group also said “since the advent of the current government in 2011, the existing 20 local government structure have been bastardised and rendered comatose”. “Their statutory responsibilities have been usurped and grossly underfunded by the state government. This has led to non-payment of different emoluments to workers in the LG and the traditional rulers as well. Even when they get paid, it is usually delayed.
Virtually all the local councils under this administration have not been able to carry out any significant project. Grinding poverty pervades the nooks and crannies of the council areas”, the statement reads.
In rejecting the proposed LCDAs, the group wondered what the real rationale behind their creation, PAM asked “was there a referendum where the people of Ogun state expressed their desires to have these new units at this time?” “With the creation of LCDA’s, there will be increment in the recurrent expenditure in each of the local governments without concomitant increment in the source(s) of revenue that is accruable to each of the local government going by the system that the LG’s and LCDA’s operates with.
“How will the numbers of political functionaries and work force in each of the local governments and new LCDA’s get paid as the volume of the local government funds that will go into payment of salaries and entitlements of staffs will become higher thereby reducing the fund that ought to go into capital projects and development?”
“As at today, the entire workforce of the state has downed tools owing to the inability of the government to meet up several months of unpaid deductions which has brought untold hardship.
Without mincing words, it is glaring that the government of Senator Ibikunle Amosun is only playing to the gallery with this proposed creation of LCDAs that are not viable and unnecessary at the moment at least. “To reinforce our opinion, we wish to ask again: How effective are the existing local governments being administered within the last 5 years? How many Local Government projects has his Excellency commissioned throughout the state since his assumption of office?.
“Here is a government that has become incapable of paying the allowances of political office holders and other government functionaries in the local governments across the state; A government that is alarmingly deficient in running the public primary schools in the state and local levels; A government that is unable to run state and local healthcare centers efficiently and also provide portable water for the masses at the grassroots. The group likened the LCDA creation to a case of “a man who failed woefully to manage and feed his 20 children but is desirous of having more kids by impregnating 37 women.
“Will this addition be a blessing or curse to such an individual?” Governor Amosun was also warned to desist from following luxurious antecedents of Lagos in council creation.
“Lagos state could afford the luxury of additional councils because of its huge revenue base.
Must the developmental template for Lagos State that generates over N20b a month be adopted for Ogun State that generates under N2b a month? We advise the governor to undertake a course on cost-benefit analysis as he seems to be lagging behind on this important aspect of his accounting profession.
“To say this is a misplaced priority is an understatement. There is no doubt that this is a deliberate and calculated avenue to selfishly position his docile and idle loyalists in the nooks and crannies of the state at the expense of the existing but now moribund local governments. The group implored the Ogun State House of Assembly to throw the bill into the bin.
“We now remind the members of the OGHA that the confidence reposed on them by the people’s mandate will be put to test by how they dispense with this selfish, counterproductive and repugnant bill. Should it scale through, the future of Ogun State Local governments will be totally mortgaged. Posterity will judge anyone who throws his or her weight behind this asinine move”.
“Finally, PAM demands that the Ogun state House of Assembly throw the bill into the bin. It is unnecessary, self-seeking, ludicrous and not the immediate need of the people of Ogun state that have been economically assaulted and socially brutalized by the regime. “The creation of the LCDA’s has started causing uproar in the state because of its lopsidedness and rewriting of history in the state by this administration and we will not shy away from approaching Courts of competent jurisdiction to correct this anomaly.
Examples of this; is the removal of Orile Oko from being part of Remo Federal constituency and the alleged continued marginalization of Yewa/Awori axis of the state”.