BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
SHORTLY after organizing a three-day national conference of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) at Nike Lake Resort, Enugu, last December, ALGON President, Ozo Nwabueze Okafor told Vanguard why plots to scuttle constitutional provision for local council autonomy would hit the brick wall. He also spoke on efforts to democratize the councils and why the Board of Trustees of ALGON was enlarged to 12 among others. Excerpts:
MANY local councils across the country are at a standstill with caretaker committees, what are you doing address this problem?
We have worked very hard to bring the issue of the local governments to the front burner. We believe that the very foundation for having a virile and strong local government system is in the conduct of regular elections. We believe that the people of Nigeria, in our different communities, both rural and urban should be given the opportunity to decide who runs their affairs. Our democracy should start at the local level because that is where we have greater and wider participation in governance.
What do you make of the controversy and disparity in tenure of local councils, some are two years others are three years?
That is what we are trying to do and it is one of the reasons we are here. We want uniformity of tenures for local governments in Nigeria. We are saying that the issues of local government tenure should be made clear. We are asking for four years since local governments are important to the people I believe they should be given sufficient time to articulate and implement their programmes for the welfare of their people.
What are you doing to strengthen local council autonomy given the plans of the governors to stop councils from being a tier of government?
The governors will have their opinion. Funnily, our opinions as political leaders in this country are like shifting the goal posts. Their opinion as governors will be different from the position they will hold when they become National Assembly members or when they become president. We are not talking as sectional leaders, we are talking about what is good for Nigeria and Nigerians have expressed in various public hearings that they want a strong and independent local government s in Nigeria
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