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My Anambra councillorship (mis)adventure, by Hon Aloy Uzoekwe

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This piece is not intended as self-glorification venture, it is aimed at revealing the brunts the LGs bear at the hands of the State Govts in the country.

This piece is not intended to be a self-glorification venture; rather, it is aimed at revealing the brunts the Local Governments bear at the hands of the State Governments in the country.

It serves as an expose on the servant/master relationship between the State Governments and the Local Governments, and to correct the erroneous perceptions that the Local Governments are irredeemably corrupt, inconsequential in the body politic as far as democracy dividends deliverables are concerned and that they are mostly manned by misfits.

It also serves as a public service effort to present a firsthand account of the factors negating effective Local Government administration in the country using Anambra State as the mirror.

Why Anambra?

It is doubtful if any other State in the Federation operates the type of Local Government system as it obtains in Anambra State. 

The State has the worst Local Government system of administration in the country.

It practices total abrogation of the powers and functions of the Local Government as spelt out in the Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended). The Local Government system operating in Anambra State is retrogressive, anti-people and above all unconstitutional.

The State is not alone in this anomaly but it tops the chart. However the reader is at liberty to draw his conclusion at the end.

I was one of the three hundred and sixteen men and women who won election into the various Councillorship positions in twenty out of the twenty one Local Government Areas in Anambra State in January, 2014 (there was no election in Nnewi North Local Government Area).

We were subsequently sworn in the same month of January, 2014. And our tenure elapsed in January, 2016 – a term of two years. 

Maybe it is necessary to highlight that the aspiration and actualisation of the ambition took majority of us (Councillors) twelve years – 2002 to 2014. 

The long interval was because election was not conducted into the third tier of government in the State throughout the twelve years period.

The interregnum covered the last one year of the Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju administration, the Dr Chris Ngige rule, the Dame Virgy Etiaba stand in era, and seven years ten months of the Mr Peter Obi government.

At a time we were lampooned as the longest political office aspirants in history. Nonetheless, when the dream eventually materialised and “the Word became Flesh”, I was overjoyed. 

I looked forward to duty with great expectations and promises. But alas! The reality did not match the expectations. 

What obtained was in utter contrast of what should be. The system is in tethers in Anambra State.

The Local Governments exist only in name in the State, the physical structures known as the Local Governments headquarters are mere edifices. All the functions of the Local Governments including the Finances are usurped by the State Government using the Ministry of Local Government

Affairs and the State Joint Account Committee, a.k.a. JAC. The first shock one had was the revelation that our tenure was two years and not three.

The Anambra State House of Assembly had in its wisdom passed a law – “Anambra State Local Government Administration Law 2011” curtailing the tenure of Local Government political office holders in the State to two years from the date of swearing in. 

As if that was not retrogressive enough, we realised that the monthly Federal Allocations to the Local Government will end up in Awka, the State Capital, from where they can dole out any amount according to their whims to the Local Government Chairman for up keep allowances.

Also sources of revenue generation for the Local Governments like Motor Parks and Markets were seized by the State Government, though they were benevolent enough to release the Abattoirs to the Local Government.

The Local Government cannot procure any material or undertake any work without the approval of the State Government through the Ministry for Local Government.

To test the no procurement or work directive, we noted that our Legislative Chambers had no window blinds. 

We made formal requisition to the Executive Chairman of the Local Government, but he was unable to do anything and till we left office the curtains were not provided. Even the desks we used were the ones we met when we came in.

Perhaps the one incident which revealed the dept of the subversion of democratic ethos in the running of the Local Governments in Anambra State was the budget passage exercise for the year 2014 budget of the Local Government. 

After our inauguration and during the assigning of various committees in the House, the Leader of the Legislative Council had made me the Chairman House Committee on Finance/Appropriation and Public Accounts. 

I was eager to prove my mettle with my first real duty.

Little did I know there was no Finance to appropriate as the budget passage exercise ended up mere window dressing. How? I will explain.

The 2014 Appropriation Bill passage of the Local Government enjoyed the full trappings of the legislative tradition befitting such enterprise. 

Continues…

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