By Kizito Duru
The third tier government before now in Imo State was more or less an extension of a political structure of the past state governments. For the past eight years or more, there was no meaningful impact of the local government in the lives of the people. As a government that was configured to be the closest to the people, Imo people did not have a feel of what ideal local government system should be. It is trite to say that the local government system went completely moribund.
Fast-forward to May 29, 2019, when the seal of power as the governor of Imo state was given to His Excellency, Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha, the restoration of sanity in the administration of the local government is evident and commendable.
First, the governor acted on the findings of a carefully selected House of Assembly committee to investigate allegations of corrupt practices and misappropriation of local Government funds in the state in the last 8 years. This process was to ensure financial discipline in the administration of the local government system in Imo State. The committee had indicted the leadership of the Local Government Areas in the immediate past administration of corruption and gross misappropriation of funds and recommended for their immediate suspension.
To ensure the revival of the local government system and filling the vaccum created by the suspension of LGA heads, Gov Ihedioha appointed capable hands, with proven records of administrative prowess and leadership skills to run the local governments affairs. These appointees have within few weeks in office restored hope to the local government council by establishing healthy working relationship between the LGA and communities it habours, thus decentralizing government to the real owners, the people.
To enable the LGA function optimally and in line with the directive of the federal government, Gov Ihedioha has implemented full financial autonomy of the local government. This means the state government will no longer tamper with the funds of the LGA, as their allocations go into the LGA account and withdrawals only authorized and signed by the leadership of the local government. This has put to an end the incessant, illegal and obnoxious practice of past state governors coveting and converting to the their personal use, the monthly allocations of the LGAs and mapping paltry sums for the running of the LGAs. Among other benefits of full financial autonomy of the LGAs, it will enable the third tier government to excute some rural developmental projects on its own without having to rely endlessly and fruitlessly on the state government.
His Excellency has approved the request by the local government Chairmen to set up a one-stop sports shop for recreational activities in their respective local governments. The One Stop Shop for Youths (OSSY) centres as contained in the manifesto of Gov. Emeka Ihedioha will provide a good environment where skill acquisition programmes, sporting events and talent hunts at LGA levels will be held. The present government of Imo state is firm on its promise to revive the LGAs and the construction of these recreational centers is a pointer that the government is really determined to make the third tier government a mini-state government as it ought to be. If events that were hitherto held in the state capital are now taken to the LGAs, it is left to only the imagination the economic boom the LGAs will witness. The autonomy of the LGAs is not only restricted to its finance but also to make it an independent entity all in ramifications.
Furthermore, the state government reconstituted the leadership of Imo State Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC) with a mandate of conducting credible elections within the next six months. This is in fulfillment of the governor’s promise to have a duly elected local government chairman in all the 27 LGAs of the state. This move by the state government has laid to rest doubts over the sincerity of the governor to keep his promise of conducting a fair and credible LGA election, where all political parties will be given equal treatment.
With the rebirth of the local government system since the inauguration of the Interim Management Committees, the LGA headquarters now experience beehive of activities. Local government secretariats across the 27 local governments in the State have witnessed revitalization. With a visit to the secretariats, one can easily see that the years of little or no activity is over, as they wear the ambience of a working and effective system.
Governor Ihedioha also scored a point with the ban of creation of new autonomous communities. The move has been applauded by political commentators as it checkmates the dwindling integrity and dignity of the traditional institution, as the creation of more autonomous communities leads to the balkanization of prestigious ancient traditional stools.
The people of Imo State today have the government close to them. They are already feeling the dividends of democracy which this situation creates. Imo is indeed on the right track.