Structure & Governance

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On the Issue of the Review of the Structure of Governance in Nigeria

 

National Broadcast by President Obasanjo

Abuja, June 18, 2003

 

Fellow Nigerians,

 

In my address at the inauguration of the National Assembly on June 5, 2003, I drew attention to several aspects of our national life which must be addressed in order to move the nation forward. One area of immediate attention is the structure of government at the third tier of government, which requires urgent review to incorporate an efficient and participatory framework that should maximize the utilization of scarce resources available to Governments.

 

The need for review of the present structure of governance at local government level is informed by three disturbing trends, among others, which had been identified with the recent inception of democratic dispensation in the country:

(i)    The non-performance or gross under-performance of the Local Governments;

(ii)    The high cost of governments and near prohibitive costs of electioneering campaigns to individual political contestants in Nigeria; and

(iii)   Fragmentisation and continual fragmentisation of Local Government Councils including impractical division of towns and cities into unworkable mini-Local Governments.

 

Experience, in other democracies, has shown beyond doubt that these trends are inimical to national development. The Council of State earlier today deliberated extensively on these issues and agreed on the need for a Technical Committee to examine the various problems associated with the structure of Government at the local government level in the country and make proposals which may involve the amendment of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. I wish in that regard to share with you some of the thoughts that informed that decision.

I.      Non-Performance/Gross Under-Performance by

        the Local Governments:

 

Based on the Local Government Reform of 1976, the Local Governments became the third tier of Government under our current democratic dispensation. The expectation was that the third tier of government would act as a catalyst and aid rapid and sustained development at the grass-roots level.

 

However, what we have witnessed is the abysmal failure of the Local Government system. It is on record that at no time in the history of the country has there been the current level of funding accruing to the Local Governments from the Federation Account, yet the hope for rapid and sustained development has been a mirage as successive Councils have grossly under-performed in almost all the areas of their mandate.

 

The number of Local Government Areas (LGAs) had also risen steadily from 301 in 1976 to 774 currently listed in the First Schedule, Part I of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, yet the clamour for the creation of more LGAs has not abated. Indeed, as of date, a total of over 500 new LGAs are in the process of being created by various State Governments. At the same time, the number of States has tripled from twelve to thirty-six since January 1976 without addition of land area to Nigeria.

 

Apart from the palpable mismanagement and misapplication of funds currently witnessed in most Local Governments in the country, all the proposed new LGAs, when created, will share from the same revenue base available to the existing LGAs in each State. The resources available which otherwise should be used for development programmes at the grassroots are being used to service bloated elected officials and unproductive bureaucracies.

 

II.     High Cost of Electioneering Campaign:

The cost of electioneering campaigns has attained disturbing proportions, judging from our recent experiences during the last general elections. Available reports indicate that public office holders and those canvassing for elective offices became victims of predatory financial pressures from the electorate and various interest groups. Financial inducement to secure votes is against the anti-corruption stance of this Administration, especially in view of its corrupting influence on public office holders and/or elected officers who would invariably use their appointment or election to recoup their outlays during elections. There is need to look for alternative system of funding electioneering campaigns such as an arrangement where the political parties, rather than the individuals, canvass for votes in elections. Apart from insulating the individual from predatory pressures of the electorate and pressure groups, within and between the political parties, such a system would make the administration of the guidelines for the control and monitoring of campaign funds easier.

 

The fundamental nature of these issues and other critical considerations, which hamper best practices and efficient utilisation of available resources in governance, have convinced me of the need for the institution of a Technical Committee that would review the structure of governance in Nigeria and make appropriate recommendations for the review of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The Council of State is also in agreement that there is need for us as a country to take our destiny in our hands and move the nation forward and they advised accordingly.

 

The Technical Committee will consist of experts on local government affairs drawn from all the geo-political zones of the country.

 

The Terms of Reference will be as follows:

i.      Examine the problem of inefficiency and high cost of governance with a view to reducing costs and wastages at the three tiers of Government;

ii.     Review the performance of Local Governments within the last four years and consider the desirability or otherwise of retaining the Local Government as the third tier of Government. In that regard consider, among other options, the adoption of a modified version of the pre-1976 Local Government system of government;

iii.    Examine the high cost of electioneering campaign in the country and consider, among other options, the desirability of whether political parties, rather than individual office seekers, should canvass for votes in elections; and

iv.    Consider any other matter, which in the opinion of the Technical Committee, is germane to the goal of efficient structure of governance in Nigeria.

 

The Council of State agreed, during its deliberations today, that these issues are weighty and must be pursued vigorously as they touch on the very important aspects of our national life.

 

I have also set up a Committee under the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to work out a programme of implementation for all the issues raised in my inaugural address and my address to the National Assembly. For now, at the Federal level, we have embarked on negotiation of graduated wage increase for the Federal employees. The negotiated agreement will be reflected in the supplementary budget. Monetization of benefits will commence next month for all Federal public officers at the rates prescribed by law and regulations. Contributory Pension Scheme to share the burden of pension between the worker and the employer throughout his working life will also commence next month. Without generating additional resources, we cannot meet our financial obligations on these necessary requirements. We must reduce waste, stop subsidising where it is inappropriate and seek other sources of revenue while improving the revenue collection systems and measures throughout the Federal Government services.

 

These are moments of tough and uneasy decisions. They are moments of fundamental reforms and changes necessary to facilitate our march to greatness and we must have the courage and firmness to initiate them and follow through. In the next four years and starting from now, I will constantly call on Nigerians periodically to join me in our crusade for the march of progress. With God on our side and with your understanding and support, our journey together will surely make this country great and make it a model for others to emulate. We will continue to be sensitive to the needs of the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our society. We cannot achieve greatness without individual and collective sacrifice for our nation. With hard work and prayer, our sacrifice will not be in vain.

 

May God bless Nigeria and Nigerians.



 

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