Former Minister Oby, Nweke Jr, others canvass decentralisation of power to LGs

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A former Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, has called for the decentralisation of power from the Federal to the Local Government Areas (LGAs) for speedy development of the country.

Ezekwesili made the call at a virtual democracy dialogue on LGA administration organised by Fix Politics Initiative as part of activities to mark the 2024 Democracy Day on Thursday in Abuja.

Ezekwesili, who is the founder of Fix Politics Initiative, a citizen-led movement operating in Nigeria and other African countries, called for an overhaul of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.

She said that the amendment alone could not birth the desired Nigeria, adding that other structural challenges affecting the nation’s democracy and governance should be done as well.

“We believe that foundationally, we have to correct these structural defects by making sure that the local government system is at the centre of the kind of constitutional changes that we are looking forward for.

“We are an organisation that has put our voice out there to say that, tinkering with the 1999 Constitution on the margins will not deliver the new Nigeria we all want; we all want a Nigeria that works for all of us.

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“A Nigeria that works for all of us has to be designed by the people and where do you often find the real people, it is at the local communities.

“And so placing them at the centre of the design of a Nigerian project that works is fundamental; the Nigerian project will only work to the extent that the people are at the heart of it,” she said.

On his part, a former Minister of Information, Mr Frank Nweke Jr, said that citizens must continue to be reminded of their collective responsibilities to ensure good governance.

Nweke, who is the Chairman, Fix Politic Initiative, said citizens should not only vote, but support compatriots in government and jointly hold government accountable.

He said that citizens must understand the various roles and responsibilities of all the tiers of governments in the country to effectively track their performance.

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Mr Oluwasesan Dayini, from Ebobobaiku Local Government Development Authority in Lagos, said that much attention should be paid to LGAs to make the people feel the impact of democracy.

He said that no state could function without LGAs in spite that current challenges of poor funding, limited administrative freedom among others being faced by the third tier of government in the country.

Dayini said that citizens should, however, call for accountability by tracking budgetary provisions, saying that it is more effective than waiting for anti-graft agencies.

A political activist, Ms Aisha Yesufu, said that there was the need for reorientation of the citizens to make the democracy work better.

She said the ordinary people including children should be allowed to be part of the decision-making process.

The activist said that in schools and religious gatherings, children should not be asked to shut up but make their contributions count based on their ability and understanding.

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“By getting the children involved early, when they grow up, they will be able to effectively engage government and will not be intimidated or be blackmailed to keep mute for fear of being regarded as disrespectful,’’ she said.

Yesufu said that asking government officials questions did not amount to antagonism, but should be regarded as efforts to ensure good governance.

Other discussants which include, Ms Ngozi Iwere, a social activist, Mr Saseme Akume, a public affairs speaker, Mr Sam Amadi, a policy strategist and Mr Seun Onigbinde all called for capacity building for citizens and government officials.

They called for an access to data for citizens to track performances and a Constitution that allows LGA to function effectively among others.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that discussants at the dialogue tasked citizens with inclusive participation in governance especially at the LGA level.

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