…April 21 referendum favors exercise
By FUNSO OMODELEOLA
DURING last year’s general elections, the creation of councils was a campaign joker for Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who was seeking a second term in Office as the Ogun State Governor.
While on a tour of the state to assess the impact of his programmes and policies on the people, Amosun played the LCDA card, particularly in Sagamu, the headquarters of Sagamu Local Government Area, saying that some local governments would be broken into two or three.
He boasted that the proposed LCDAs, when created, would open up remote and far-flung parts of the Gateway State, bring government closer to the people and engender rapid socio-economic development.
The governor made good his promise when he sent a bill to the House of Assembly for the creation 37 LCDAs. The idea of LCDAs is not new in Ogun State.
A former Governor of the State Aremo Olusegun Osoba had created 32 LCDAs in 2002 and followed it up with a referendum. But, nothing came out it, because Osoba did not return in 2003 to implement it. His successor, Gbenga Daniel, ignored it, saying that the new LCDAs lacked the approval of the National Assembly.
What Amosun did, via the bill before the legislators, was to activate and retain the 32 LCDAs initially proposed by Osoba. He added five new ones to bring the number of the LCDAs to 37. If the controversial bill sails through, Ogun State will have a total of 57 local councils.
The five new LCDAs are: Afon, with headquarters in Oloka-Afon; Sango/Ijoko, with headquarters in Sango; Abeokuta Northeast, with headquarters in Ita-Iyalode; Ifesowapo, with headquarters in Imodi-Imosan; and Coker-Ibogun, with headquarters in Ibogun.
Expectedly, the news was received with enthusiasm in many quarters; but in others, it has been protests all the way.
According to the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Suraj Adekunbi, no fewer than 300 petitions have been received over the proposed LCDAs.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ogun State chapter, in its petition sent to the assembly said creating additional 37 LCDAs to the existing 20 local governments recognised by the constitution is a mere “naked dance and playing to the gallery.”
Its state Chairman, Akeem Ambali, said the organised labour is not in doubt that new local government would bring government and development nearer to the people, but argued that given the way it is being constituted, the aim of the exercise may be defeated in the end.
Ambali said the existing 20 LGAs do not have autonomy said, because they are under-funded and also because they operate joint accounts with the state government. He said the existing councils do not have the autonomy to carry out their rudimentary functions such as regular payment of workers’ salaries, road construction and maintenance, as well as waste collection and disposal.
A community leader, Alhaji Tayo Roberts, in his petition argued that the creation is not necessary, given the dwindling monthly revenue accruing to the state and the austerity it has engendered.
Roberts, a chartered accountant, said Amosun is merely copying Lagos State without checking to ascertain if more LCDAs are what the people need. Instead of creating new LCDAs, he suggested that city councils should be created in urban areas.
Excerpts of his petition read “We don’t need new LCDAs now. We are copying Lagos State without studying critically what Lagos State did. What we need is a state capital authority similar to the Federal Capital Authority in Abuja. The territory should include the urbanised contiguous areas from Ojere to Osiele, from Aro to Kemta, from Kobape to Akomoje. This territory should have as its political head, a commissioner. The state capital will be charged with all those functions that local governments have not been performing.
“Some of our major cities, including Sango-Ota, Ilaro, Sagamu, Ijebu-Ode, Ifo, Ibafo/Mowe, can be turned to city councils, to bring the services entrusted to the third-tier of government closer to the people in those cities. The clearly rural authorities such as Ogun Waterside, Imeko Afon, Ipokia and remote locations should remain, and perhaps, be designated Rural Councils or Authorities.”
Pockets of street protests have even been witnessed in Orile-Oko, where residents marched round the town before proceeding to the House of Assembly to register their displeasure with the attempt to merge them with Obafemi Owode.
The agrarian community is a mixed grill of residents and natives, including people outside Yoruba ethnic group. Some people in the area have historical and cultural links with the Remo in Ogun East Senatorial District, while others are Egbas who have affinity with their kith and kin in Ogun Central District.
Those of Remo extraction in Orile-Oko want to remain in Remoland. Nevertheless, they are worried that the proposed LCDA would excise their land and people and merge it with the Egbas of Obafemi Owode in Ogun Central. The Remo traditional rulers under the leadership of the Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Adeniyi Sonariwo, have also petitioned the legislators on the issue.
The Atunluto of Remoland, Chief Pekun Awobona, appealed to the legislators not to accede to the request of Amosun to excise Orile-Oko from Remoland and cede it to Obafemi Owode Local Government Council in Egba.
While briefing Speaker Adekunbi Awobona said: “Remo and Egba people have been cohabiting peacefully in Orile-Oko for ages. Some people who live in Orile-Oko are Remos while others are Egba people, but the land belongs to Remo. Records attest to the fact that Orile-Oko is part of Remoland. So, we have come to seek the assistance of the lawmakers not to accede to the request of Governor Amosun, by merging Orile-Oko with Obafemi Owode. Orile-Oko is part of Remo; we are not ready to concede an inch or square of Orile-Oko.”
Similarly, indigenes and residents of Sango-Ijoko in Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Area staged a protest march to former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Abeokuta home, asking him to wade into the proposed creation of Sango-Ijoko LCDA by Amosun. The protesters, led by the duo of Chief Aderemi Quadri and Chief Idowu Olaniyi, appealed to Obasanjo to save them from what they described as “unjust” boundary adjustment contained in the proposed LCDA.
They claimed that the boundary adjustment would cut them off their root and force them to become part of Ota in Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government. According to the protesters, the boundary adjustment, if allowed to stay, would rob them of their facilities, including Sango garage, market, primary and secondary schools and the only health centre.
A community leader, Hon. Mufutau Balogun, also complained that their oppressors in the existing Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government Council are desirous of annexing the healthcare centre, market, motor parks and three primary schools located in Sango communities.
They argued that, if that is allowed to happen, the proposed LCDA would be crippled politically, economically and socially.
Balogun said: “We don’t want to be enslaved any further by the Ota people; we don’t want Sango to be broken into parts. We are Egbas and our ancestors were the first to settle in Sango Ijoko as at 1839 and were later joined by other tribes.
“Our first traditional ruler Baale Ajenifuja was installed in 1916 and the Olota of Ota, Oba Timothy Fadina, was banished to Sango in 1948/49 when he was dethroned in Ota. It is a known tradition in Yorubaland that, when a community banishes an Oba, he is driven to a land that is not theirs. So, we want all our Egba communities in Sango Ijoko LCDA and none should be ceded to the Ota people.”
However, the Deputy Speaker, Kunle Oluomo, while interfacing with National Daily said the petitions received by the House had been communicated to Amosun, who is working to correct anomalies in the proposed councils
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On the issue of agitations for more LCDAs by some indigenes, particularly people from the Ogun West (Yewa), Oluomo said the legislators are aware of it, based on the petitions, pleas and files before the House.
He said that creation of more LCDAs is a continuous exercise. He said the state is being guided by the rationale to create manageable number, instead to creating too many LCDAs that would later become problematic.
Oluomo, however, assured that the process of completing the creation of the LCDAs is in progress, with the successful conduct of the referendum on Thursday April 21 by the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC).
The legislators are awaiting the outcome of the referendum from OGSIEC while resolutions from the chairmen of the affected local governments approving the creation of the proposed LCDAs are also being expected to enable the House to tidy its own end and pass the bill.
He said when the proposed LCDAs, it would open a new vista of opportunity to tap from the abundant natural and human resources inherent in various localities.
According to the Chairman, OGSIEC, Alhaja Risikat Ogunfemi, indications are that the people are actually desirous of having additional LCDAs. She said after the collation of the results of the referendum, the electoral body would send a comprehensive report to the House of Assembly.