By; SHUAIBU S.A. GARU
Local government system remains the closest government to the people regardless of whether one resides in the urban or rural area. In this vain, the performance or otherwise of this tier of government has a direct impact on the livelihood and security of the people. Unfortunately, this has been the most abused and neglected tier leading to citizens apathy and distrust for local government administration.
The function of local government as captured in the Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal government of Nigeria (as amended) has over the years been observed in bridge. This has become a source of concern to critical stakeholders who are working hard to reposition the local government system; for efficient and effective service delivery to the common man at the grassroots.
Some of the most prominent challenges that have been fingered to be responsible for the crippling of the local government system are: replacement of elected executive officials with care-taker committees, lack of administrative and financial autonomy, low level of transparency and accountability, weak revenue generation capacity and diversion, and near absence of citizens participation in the governance process.
However, with the coming of the administration of our amiable and indefatigable governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmed Elrufai, in 2015; a number of both low and high level local government reforms have been initiated and are at different stages of implementation. This is in order to reposition the local government system to serve the people better and make the entire state great again.
Among many of the reforms a few include: improving the transparency of the local government elections, with the introduction of the first of its kind electronic voting machine in our climes; the reintroduction of Local Government Development Plan and adoption of Community Development Charter to aggregate the prioritized needs of citizens through an inclusive and participatory process; and creating the enabling environment through incentives for local governments that are able to effectively implement the Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Program (best performing local government gets 20million naira).
Other commendable initiatives are: the introduction of the presidential system at the local government level, with a legislative body that can provide checks and balance; to curb the ravaging menace of staff redundancy and ghost workers, the government has retrenched staff that are not adding value and are surplus to requirement.
It is this enabling environment that serves as an impetus to Hon. Abubakar Buba, the duly and popularly elected Chairman of Lere local government, to deliver on good governance to the good people of the local government area. Upon resumption of office, he also made the commitment to build on and sustain the progress made by his predecessor in the key sectors in line with the manifesto of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Driven by passion and a clear vision of a greater and better Lere local government, even without waiting to receive the monthly allocation, he swept into action; as he recognized that in governance time is a scare commodity and should not be wasted. Upon receiving preliminary reports from the transition committee he constituted, he immediately outlined his short, medium and long term priorities.
On the short term, he understood that even though the local government area is largely agrarian, electricity plays a critical role in boosting commercial activities and enhances the livelihood of residents of the area. Due to heavy rainstorm that brought down electric poles which connects the local government with the source in Plateau state, he immediately ensured that the poles were replaced and electricity reconnected.
Another challenge that brought out the best in the Honorable Chairman are the recent tensions with ethno-religious dimension in Yarkasuwa and Garu wards. He displayed uncommon skills in conflict prevention and resolution by ensuring that affected belligerent groups and the aggrieved dialogue and resolve their issues amicably without posing security threat to the local government.
In addressing the security challenges in the local government, he has reinvigorated the activities of vigilante groups and other security agencies to ensure regular and widespread patrol and quick response to distress calls. In the health sector, there was a recent Cholera outbreak in Dan’Jaba community, Ramin-Kura ward. In quick response he met with the department of health and RUWASA, and provided funds for the distilling of drainages in the whole of the local government.
In the area of infrastructure, he has already intervened in the area of uncompleted projects such as renovation of a primary school in Abadawa, bridge in Kayarda and Abadawa, electricity supply from Ramin-Kura to Gure, and he is presently in talks with FERMA to repair the road from Saminaka Resort in Ungwan Bawa to Saminaka town. In the main time, he has directed that some parts of the road be patched as a palliative for road users, most of who contribute to the economy of the local government. This and many more he is presently doing without yet receiving monthly allocations since assuming office.
Presently, in Kaduna state he is being referred to as a pacesetter because of his reform-mindedness, as he seems to be learning fast from his political mentor the Governor of the state. Key to that accolade is his openness and total embrace of the governance reforms presently being instituted by the state government and his belief that citizens should be the drivers of that process.
That is why so far he has displayed his passionate commitment to creating the enabling environment for civic participation and public accountability through proactive dissemination of information, creating spaces and platforms for dialogue, and the embracing of the co-creation principles of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in decision making.
In view of the foregoing and in the medium to long term, he has been meeting with various key civil society groups to provide a sustainable system for continuous engagement. He is presently partnering with the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Lere local government to adopt the Kaduna state Open Government Partnership commitment one – ensuring citizens participation in the entire budget circle. The result is that a technical working group (TWG) made of equal government and CSOs representatives, with both having a Co-chair, is presently being constituted to deliver on the commitment.
It is expected that the TWG will immediately swing into action by holding two budget town-hall meetings, in Lere west and east, before the passage of the 2019 local government budget. To promote proactive disclosure of information and channels of generating feedback, he will soon officially launch of social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). When revenue improves or through a public-private partnership, he will ensure the local government website is launched.
He has also mandated the civil society organizations in Lere local government to come up with a budget tracking, monitoring and reporting template to provide independent feedback on implementation performance. In his drive to build partnership both within and outside the local government; he recently paid a partnership visit to the Kaduna state team of the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL-DFID) to seek technical support in deepening the governance reforms in the local government.
Just of recent, he also met with another important group to ensure the smooth running of his local government administration. As a former student unionist who understands and appreciates the struggle, he convened a solidarity meeting with the National Union of Local Government Employee (NULGE). This is in order to institute modalities and create the enabling environment for a cordial working relationship in delivering quality pro-people public services in the local government.
Hon. Abubakar Buba is not only a man that has clear vision, solid passion, sharp intelligence and untiring energy; but one who is totally committed to working his talk in justifying the mandate given to him by the good people of Lere local government. When revenue increases, he presently has programs designed already to drive investment and transformation in revenue generation, agriculture, health, education and infrastructure, with support from the state government.
Indeed, when allocations begin to stream-in, as the state government has shown enough commitment for that to happen soonest, Lere local government has better years ahead.
Shuiabu S.A Garu, was Campaign Director General for Hon. Abubakar Buba Movement.
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