DSM Rejects Creation of New Local Councils and Area Offices in Osun State
DSM Rejects Creation of New Local Councils and Area Offices in Osun State
- We call for elections into existing 30 local councils in the state
- We demand probe of finances of local governments under Aregbesola government
- The council creation is an attempt to enforce austerity and new tax regime on the working and poor people
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Osun State Chapter, hereby condemns the creation of new 31 local development councils, 3 area councils and 2 administrative offices in Osun State by the Rauf Aregbesola-led Osun State government. This is in addition to the existing 30 local government councils, making a total of an unwieldy 66 local government administration structures in the state. We maintain that this action is in bad faith and gross misplacement of priority. In a state where most public health institutions are in skeletal conditions, no thanks to poor funding and non-remuneration of doctors since September 2015, it is ridiculous that the next major project of a government will be creation of new local councils. In a state where, as a result of parlous state of majority of public schools, just 8,800 students, out of over 48,000 who sat for West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Osun State, passed, it is ludicrous that a state government will see creation of new local council as its magic wand. Besides, this is a state that does not only owe a backlog of salaries and pensions but also littered with abandoned projects.
The creation of new local council is unconstitutional because it fails to meet the basic conditions for creation of local councils, while also artificially changing the character and nature of the existing local councils already listed in Nigerian constitution. This means that the so-called new local government councils will not attract allocation from the federation accounts. So, they will be run from revenue generated from the super exploitation of the masses. It will also give the government the excuse to further tamper with funds meant for constitutionally recognized local governments.
Moreover, there was no democratic and genuine referendum for the formation of the local councils. The so-called referendum conducted by the government was nothing sort of a sham. There was mass apathy and low turnout, with only few members of the APC participating in the so-called referendum. Meanwhile, the constitution stipulates that two third of people in the area the local councils are to be created must vote for this.
More than this, we find it ironic that the same Aregbesola government that has practically, politically and financially castrated the local government system in the state is now championing a so-called ‘grassroots’ democracy. In the last five years, the local governments in the state have been run by appointed and serially reappointed Caretaker Committees. There has not been elections into local councils. This has meant that the funds that should accrue to local councils have been appropriated by the state government. Moreover, there is no accountability on how the funds are used leading to parlous state of communities that should have been served by functional local councils. Most local council secretariats are desolate and redundant.
Thus, we in the DSM see this creation of new local councils as an attempt to consolidate on the rot created by the Aregbesola government in the local government system. If this latest action is allowed, the already meagre resources of the local councils will now be wasted on burgeoning political class created under the current arrangement, while there will be attempt to impose outrageous tax regime against the poor. This will means more money going to the pockets of the political class, while the working people will be further squeezed. The government spent nothing less than N2.4 billion annually as emoluments for just 300 caretaker committee members. Therefore, one can imagine how much will be going to the new councils. All the functions such as market management and sanitation, being used as excuse for the creation of new councils can easily be carried out by existing local councils. In fact, it was the Aregbesola government, with its mismanagement and dislocation of local council system, that has made these functions difficult to undertake for existing local councils.
We in the DSM refuse to be cajoled with the new-found parliamentary democracy being propounded by the Aregbesola government. The so-called parliamentary system for local government that will see new chairman of local government being appointed among councilors, aside being illegal and unconstitutional is also undemocratic. This is tantamount to short-circuiting the democratic process that guarantees election of executive officers, under the guise of saving cost of election. If the Aregbesola government is serious about saving cost of governance, it should not have created the unconstitutional local councils, and should have ensure elections into the existing 30 local councils, as guaranteed by the constitution.
An attempt to use Lagos State as example will fail on its face value. Aside the unconstitutionality of creation of 37 local development councils by the Bola Tinubu administration, it is a fact that the new local councils have not engendered any serious development in Lagos. Most communities that should have been served by these new councils are still in deplorable conditions. More than this, the state government has been using the existence of the new councils, which are not recognized by the constitution as a means to take over the resources and finances of local governments in Lagos State. On the other hand, new political jobbers were added to the already burgeoning political class. This has led to further depletion of resources of the state to fewer hands of politicians. In addition, the new councils, under the guise of raising funds, have become parasitic entities on the people through the enforcement of ridiculous levies, charges and taxes on the people. These are what Aregbesola is bringing to Osun State.
This new local council creation also has the tendency to engender inter-communal and social crises. As various interest groups, including the new councils, try to carve new boundaries of control, especially in this period of general dwindling of resources and revenue, confusion and consequent conflicts may arise over who controls what, which can translate into social conflicts.
Consequently, we in the DSM reject this new local council creation and call on working people to also reject it. We also call for elections into legally and constitutionally recognized thirty local councils in the state. We call for administration and finance of the local government councils to be subject to democratic control of residents and workers. We also call for immediate probe by anti-graft agencies of the finances of local councils in the state under Aregbesola government. We reject all austerity policies including tax burden on the poor, enforcement of tax clearance as condition to attend public schools, non-payment of doctors’ salaries, purported retrenchment of staff of tertiary institutions and payment of half salaries and pensions to workers and pensioners in the state.