By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
The local government, which is referred to as the third tier of government in Nigeria, may be defined as the lowest level of government in a country established by law to ensure the effective and efficient administration of the localities or rural areas.
The United Nations Department of Public Administration defines the local government as the political sub-division of a country which is designed by law and has substantial control of local affairs including the power to impose levies and exact labour for prescribed purposes.
The local government is an indispensable unit of the federation. It is the tier of government nearest to the people. Part II, section 7 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended 2011) guarantees that the government state shall ensure the existence of local government under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.
The local government is created to bring government nearer to the people; serve as the medium to articulate and promote local interest; act as the instrument for political education; and promotion of rural development. Others are to mobilise and harness local resources, and to serve as a link between the rural dwellers and other tiers of the government.
It will be recalled that there a time for more than half of a decade in Abia State, the local government elections were not been held in Abia State. The local government system was operated under a caretaker arrangement.
While this attracted barrage of criticisms in the past, it seriously hampered the progress and development of the local government areas in the state.
But fortunately, the narrative has changed as Abia is about to conduct the second local government election under Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration.
The Abia State Independent Election Commission (ABSIEC) recently fixed elections for chairmanship and councillorship positions in all the 17 local government councils and 292 ABSIEC wards in the state for December 18, 2020.
This is cheering news for all Abians despite their political divide. The commission has also issued a timetable for the poll.
Abians across the 17 local government areas are viewing the action beyond the exercise of the powers conferred on the commission by Part 11, Third Schedule, Section 4, sub-section (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and pursuant to the Fifth Schedule, Section 160 of Abia State Local Government Law No. 9 of 2002.
This singular action portrays Governor Ikpeazu as a man whose words are his bond. It portrays him as a man who has departed from the previous ways of doing things and wants to do things differently.
The important roles the local government plays in a system cannot be overemphasised. They are divided into Mandatory, permissive and concurrent. The obligatory roles of the local government are those roles provided by Schedule IV of t Constitution. They are functions which the local government is bound to render to the people because of its knowledge of the local problems.
The obligatory roles include maintenance of rural roads, streets, and drainages; construction and maintenance of motor parks, public conveniences and cemeteries; provision of health facilities such as clinics, dispensaries and maternities.
Others are the disposal of refuse; the building of primary schools; the collection of rates; radio and television licenses; licensing of bicycles, trucks, wheelbarrows; naming of streets, roads and numbering of houses, registration of births, deaths and marriages; establishment and maintenance of recreational facilities; and regulation of outdoor advertisements, movement of domestic animals, shops and kiosks, restaurants and food and liquor renders.
Indeed, it is not out of place to state here that these functions have suffered for lack of democratically elected executives in the local government areas in the state.
Also, Governor Ikpeazu’s developmental strides in urban centres cannot be complete if there are no complementary efforts in rural centres because this is where the bulk of the residents dwell.
No wonder the Mr Ikpeazu’s administration in its bid to close the gap of infrastructural development between rural areas and the cities, is opening rural roads such as Agalaba Ring Road.
The forthcoming local government elections have provided Abians with another window to contribute meaningfully to the development of the state. There is a passionate appeal to shun our differences and embrace this golden opportunity. “There is no tomorrow better than today”!
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