The need to leverage on the ongoing constitution amendment in Nigeria to enhance good governance and service delivery at the subnational level was the focus of a roundtable meeting organised by the Partnership to Engage Reform & Learn (PERL) in collaboration with Democracy Vanguard in Lagos on Thursday.
The roundtable meeting attended by top media practitioners and other stakeholders provided opportunity for them to reflect on contemporary governance challenges and reform initiatives in the country especially at the subnational level.
The PERL Engaged Citizens’ Deputy National Team Leader, John Mutu in his presentation said for governance to work, each tier of government had to be effective and complementing each other.
Mutu identified corruption, weak budgetary, poor planning and poor policy frameworks, weak accountabilly frameworks, weak oversight mechanisms, poor and uncoordinated service delivery amongst others, as challenges militating against good governance in Nigeria.
The Keynote speaker at the meeting, Mr Soni Irabor, in his paper on the role of media in enhancing governance and service delivery at subnational level, said the Federal and State Governments had taken over the responsibility of local government councils and rendered the tier of government impotent.
Irabor urged the media to raise awareness among citizens on the ongoing constitution amendment and educate them on the benefits of good governance at local government level.
The National Assembly on March 1st passed the constitution amendment bills granting autonomy to local government councils across the country.
These bills grants financial and administrative independence to local governments so that each local council can run its affairs independently and effectively.
The bills were transmitted to the State Houses of Assembly in the first week of April for ratification.
The bills require the concurrence of at least 24 State Houses of Assembly to become law.
The National Team Leader, Partnership to Engage Reform and Learn, Engaged Citizens, Dr Adiya Ode, harped on the need for improvement in subnational governance and charged the media and all stakeholders to support and work towards enhancing the effectiveness and functionality of local governments in the country for the benefit of Nigerians.
The Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian newspaper, Mr Martins Oloja, noted that local government in Nigeria was the most important tier of government.
He urged journalists in the country to play the watchdog role effectively to save the local government system and enthrone good governance at the grassroots level.
Also speaking at the meeting, Ambassador Jerry Ugokwe of Democracy Vanguard, said devolution of power to local government level would aid good governance at the grassroots.
The Chief of Staff to the Deputy Senate President, Dr Otive Igbuzor, said that real governance should happen at local government level.
Human Rights Lawyer, Barrister Rommy Mom, said if local government councils function well, there would be meaningful development at the local level, saying that it would reduce influx of rural dwellers to the already densely populated urban areas.
Mom who is the President of Lawyers Alert, said crime rate would go down if governance at the local government level was effective because families would benefit and peace would reign in the communities.
Ace Broadcaster, Funmi Iyanda also charged youths across the country to lend their voices to the agitation for full autonomy for local government.
The Head of Governance and Social Development at the British High Commission, Sam Waldock said UK was very proud to support democracy in Nigeria and happy with the progress made on constitution reforms.