Relevance of local government budget to national growth
Good governance is the lifeline of any vibrant democracy especially, when it focuses one centralised planning for community driven development. This is a reality when it comprises the core of grass-root management, especially in the contest of economic growth, social justice and holistic development.
–Prof. P. Durgaprasad
I have examined the country’s budgets as presented to the National Assembly for approval and the ensuing final approval for the past five years for federal, state and local governments. Different levels of government are always in festive mood after the yearly exercise of budgetary approval.
I would like to devote my reaction to the legal provision that justified the relevance of local government as the direct link to the grass-root providing direct contact between the government and its citizens. The governmental linkage with the grass-roots absolutely germane for enhancing optimum development in the nation. The local government system is the solid pillar for sustainable democratic process that led to upsurge of autonomous institution of good governance in the nation.
In the writer’s opinion, yearly statutory allocations from the Federal Government to state and local governments are not political largesse, financial gifts or supportive contributions for the benefit of politicians. They are statutory provisions to galvanize economic development of concerned territorial areas that fall under the local government jurisdiction. Unfortunately, that regular statutory allocations appear to have been turned to national cake for sharing among elected politicians and their nominate dallies acting as public office holders during their tenures. In the past, allocated statutory funds meant for development of local government jurisdiction areas have been shared under diverse nomenclatures to defray personal emoluments such as sitting dues, car loan, constituency/ward allowance, etc.
In other words, Federal Government funding earmarked for the development of the grass-root has become the direct target of politicians hijack strategy and looting techniques through “monetary-sharing-diplomacy” to satisfy their collective lust for wealth accumulation and acquisition of other mundane things of life. This explains the reason for ‘dishonourable-honourable members’ of local, state assemblies and executives of local government constant drawing of daggers at the throats of one another during official/political meetings and more frequently, whenever local elections are taking place. The ultimate consequence of this systemic looting leaves little or no monetary provisions for the development of local governments in the country.
It is necessary to remind ourselves that for meaningful socio-economic growth to take place in Nigeria, the local government system was established. Unfortunately, the reality of contemporary administration has shown clearly that the wisdom for creating the local government system has become counter-productive. However, it is a well-known fact that the local government system had been the major key for achieving good governance. To reach Nigerian citizens directly, the local government system must come to play without sentiments. Therefore, it is the duty of the government to find a solution to the perennial looting which takes place in the system.
There is adequate hi-technological equipment in the global market that can assist the government in resolving the perennial problem of official looting so as to achieve institutional efficiency and accountability. It is most unfortunate in Nigeria that a group of people in power approves budget, the same group manipulates its implementation, awards/executes contracts, supervises the yearly audit, provides certification for payments and as well collects the money involved. It is unfortunate that the ‘big-man-in-power’ inspects projects, notices inherent abnormalities in their designs/execution and at the same time requests for changes that benefits the contractors without questioning. Ultimately, projects involved are either shoddily executed, completely abandoned or await the next budget for additional mark-up.
Thus, there is the need for total overhaul or administrative review of local government constitution and its functionalities in major operational areas. There must be tactical provision for power devolution and strategic administration guidelines that can guarantee reasonable accountability within the system. The local government must be virile enough to mobilise adequate internal resources that can sustain the bulk of its expenditure. The hitherto understanding that local government system is the credible gateway for national development ought to create the enabling environment for full employment generation, improved welfare for prosperity of people at the grass-root and thriving of local businesses.
Well-coordinated local government actions on community-based development will affect citizens’ lives and reduce corruption to the barest minimum so that the community can benefit tremendously in health service, education programme and uplifting poor people through good welfare programmes.
An Economist, Jack D. Schavagers once said that an improved local government will support the state and federal governments to achieve good governance and developmental goals of providing essential resources that can augur well for societal development.
Presently, there is a new wave of power decentralisation across the globe. With the hindsight experience of good governance, there is the need to achieve uniformity of operation among local governments for best practice. Indian government is a good leading example of this political strategy even though the government performance depends to a large extent on the political-will of the state government. This fact was obtained from State of Pynchayats. A middle teran review and appraisal, 22 Nov. 2006, Vol. 111, Ministry of Parachayatt Raj, Government of India, pp. 677-691).
In many countries such as Nigeria, it is obvious that the local government system has not made meaningful contribution to the national economic growth due to poor planning, funds diversion, non-convergence political ideas/background and lack of resources handling skill of the so-called elected politicians and their nominated representatives.
The World Bank also recognised problems associated with the local government system not peculiar to Nigeria alone. On this basis, the World Bank has invested over eighty-five billion Dollars ($85 billion) to find a solution to reduce the menace of corruption in the local government and poverty alleviation through capacity building for collective action on development projects.
Dr. Rao, a famous Economist also recommended that the local government system should improve its financial resources to strengthen administrative capacity to achieve community development, most especially in agriculture and industrial growths.
It was also noted that performance of some local governments depended on the political will of the state government. Good governance can also be considered as the advantage of contracting basic indigenous projects in order to reduce administrative logjams and corruption. A reference on issues and challenges of local government during the past two decades; an experimentation of democratic governance and decentralisation as a factor of success was executed in Banglaoh, Fiji, Indonesia, Sri-Lanka, Iran, Philippines, Pakistan and Malaysia. The effective functioning of local government in India should interest Nigeria as a case study. A review of the system in Nigeria may provide adequate solution that can lead to efficiency in operation and contribute effectively to the national growth.
Fortunately, Nigeria has a serious economic partner now and that is no other nation than China which is fast becoming the reference point of development in global technology, economic and good governance. Today, China’s holistic growth and governmental reform that occurred in a jiffy have become the reference point to other countries on the same developmental pedestal in the past. This is because China has not only created strong political institutions but also strengthened them from the grass-root level. The political reform includes but not limited to the following:
-Diverse economic interests.
-Local government for developing the state rather than remaining as the passive agent of federal government.
-Motivation of local governments to support the growth of local areas.
-Active participation of stakeholders in the local government, thus leading to better understanding and good governance.
-Building elements of trust and equity that can make the local governments and its citizens become more responsive.
-Improved agriculture and industrial programs at the local level.
It is unfortunate that understanding Chinese language has become a big problem for Nigerians as our PhD in Chinese language for the next ten years or so will probably just scratch it on the surface, even if we concentrate on Mandarin. However, there is the need for aggressive learning of the Chinese language and culture for exchanging of mere pleasantries/greetings with them. We must learn to live beyond mere meeting Chinese people with calculator and pocket English/Chinese dictionary for on-the-spot translation.