Over the weekend, stakeholders from various sectors of the economy and academia charged government at all levels with the need to invest heavily in leadership development training to achieve a effective growth and national development.
Stakeholders including the Executive Director of GOTNI Leadership Training Center; former House of Representatives member Chris Asoluka gave the charge while addressing members of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Course 44 led by Professor Sunday Ochoche, during a study visit to GOTNI headquarters in Abuja.
Speaking on the commitment of the Course 44 team, the Executive Director of GOTNI, Mr. Linus Okorie revealed that the center has trained more than 300,000 people across the country over the past 27 years.
He said, “The interesting thing is that when the group 5 members of the NIPSS Course 44 participants came to call the center, their topic was on local governance. We therefore discussed the role of leadership in entrenching great local governance in Nigeria.
“When we talk about local governance, we are talking about the quality of governance that can effectively impact people at the grassroots and people in all sectors of the economy.
“My position is very clear, that if we don’t invest in the leadership capital of those who are going to take over governance at whatever level, there is no way to make progress.
“Thus, the leadership skills of those who lead institutions are essential for growth to occur over time. Sustainable growth can only happen when leaders are nurtured and prepared and leadership impacts governance in ways unimaginable,” he noted.
For his part, a former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Chris Asoluka, has instructed the National Assembly to enact legislation that will unify a unified four-year term system for local government presidents as well as to enact legislation that would encourage the participation of non-state actors such as civil society organizations (CSOs) to improve and bring about effective local governance.
“I just traced the history and pointed out that the current trend is what we call the territorial approach to local development. It promotes local governance because it includes local government councils, CSOs, media, these people take responsibility for solving problems in their localities and whoever wears shoes knows where it pinches.
“You can’t define a problem any better than someone from this region. And it’s no longer a problem to help them. There has to be ownership of the solution and when you have ownership of the solution, you have accountability, you have accountability and oversight, and then the quality of governance will improve. If governance and local governance were up to snuff, some of these problems could have been avoided as unemployment rises from local government, up to state and then federal.
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“Very serious security breaches happen in a local government, every Nigerian border belongs to a local government. So local governance would tend to make them owners of their territory if there are issues they solve their problem.
“And as I have called it, local governance has to play a huge role as a catalyst; CSOs must play a role. And I can tell you that given the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the focus in terms of support would be on that arrangement and not giving money upstairs anymore and it wouldn’t trickle down to where find the problem.
Regarding the constitutional loophole on local government self-government, he said: “If there is a constitutional amendment, where local government councils are sufficiently empowered to legislate for their areas, but you see that state assemblies develop laws that govern local communities.
“And most of the time they remove the presidents, when the constitution should have been such that the councils can vote or impeach their presidents, and this tenure insecurity leads to certain abuses.
“You won’t want to play rough because you could be fired the next day, but if there is a constitutional attempt to strengthen local government, I would argue that Sections 7(1) and 7(4) as well as Section 162 paragraph 5, they (National Assembly) must be modified.
“I’ll give you an example, the Federation account is shared by three organizations. No other bodies are known to the federation account – federal, state and local governments. But the local government’s share is donated by the state and paid into the so-called joint state account and indirectly controlled by the state government, so you can’t give someone with the right and take over with the left.
On the State Assemblies’ appeal to reject the proposed financial autonomy for the State Assemblies, he said, “In my experience, because I’ve worked with some State Assemblies, the State Assemblies State are manipulable. Why is that? The president wants to take advantage of his tenure, if he is playing tough, how much would it take for a governor to impeach the president? Why is it so simple?
“When you have some semblance of governance as checks and balances at the federal level, because you have 360 members in the House of Representatives and 109 in the Senate, which is 469, to get a piece, whereas in some states there is has 24 members” and if a governor pulls out 30 million naira he doesn’t need to buy everyone he dangles it and makes you who was a floor member and says come and do this I make you president.
“No matter how righteous the President is, he is impeached. So when there is a change that affects their relationship with the Governor, who do you think they will support? Want them removed? Haven’t you seen that state assemblies even vote against a National Assembly bill that allows them access to their money, because if the governor gives you an allowance, you can’t challenge that governor. So who plays the bagpiper dictates the melody.
He argued that the National Assembly should have prioritized a unified term system for local government administration in the pending constitutional amendment, adding that: ‘If it’s three years, three years, but I would have suggested four years for each person elected to be four years. But with the current Constitution, under sections 7(4), 7(5), 7(6), the State House of Assembly makes laws for the government local,” he objected.
While sharing his experience, a private sector participant by the presidency, Mr. Cosmos Odoh, who applauded the organizers, observed that the NIPSS 44 course team took time to deliberate on the various ways in which Nigeria can improve local governance.
According to him, we looked at non-state actors who contribute seriously to the development of society. So we implore the private sector on how they can inculcate them into leadership within society.