Today, I was in my maternal village, Udung Uwe to grace a football match organized by the Forum of Village Youth Presidents between Village Youth Presidents from Urue-offong Development Area and their colleagues from Oruko Development Area.
On entering the classrooms of St Jude’s Primary School, venue of the match, I saw a few old desks with the inscriptions; “Donated by O.L.G 1988″ and ” Donated by O.L.G 1990″. For those who don’t know, O.L.G is an acronym for Oron Local Government. Those desks were provided by the Oron Local Government Council in the pre Joint Accounts and pre SUBEB era when the present Urueoffong/Oruko Local Government Area was part of Oron Local Government Area.
Although I don’t agree that the desks were donated since it was the responsibility of the Local Government to provide such, a few issues agitated my mind as I looked at the old but strong desks:
1. The desks have lasted for between 27 and 29 years.
2. The desks were provided by a Local Government Council.
I’m compelled to conclude that whoever mooted the idea of a State/Local Governments Joint Accounts Allocation Committee might have meant well, but the idea has turned out to be one of the most counter-productive decisions ever taken in this country.
In the past, these desks and similar important facilities were provided by Local Government Councils through local contractors. Most of the contractors provided excellent services as shown by these desks. And they largely spent the proceeds of the contracts at home.
Unfortunately, local governments have been annexed by the state governments through the monstrous Joint Accounts. The state government makes deductions from the statutory allocations of Local Government Councils, pockets part of the money and engages contractors to renovate or provide desks for primary schools using either the Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Committee or State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
Whichever agency or department it chooses to use doesn’t change the fact that the money belongs to the Local Government which is stripped of the right to make input into how it is dispensed, disbursed or administered. The state government would use such funds to settle its friends and still demand worship from the owners of the funds.
Before I forget, how many desks provided by the state government can last for ten years? Because the Governor is too far away from the grassroots and he mostly uses the local government funds for political patronage, he is rarely in a position to ensure that quality jobs/services are provided by contractors. His first concern is whether or not the “contractors” are satisfied.
So, part of the outcome of this anti development system is the substitution of professional local contractors with unprofessional party loyalists and political associates.
I think by introducing the State/Local Governments Joint Accounts, we ended up creating bigger problems in an attempt to solve a smaller one.
We should be courageous and wise enough to either restore financial autonomy to the Local Government Councils or scrap it outright. To retain them as cashcows for the Governors while the grassroots suffer shows that we don’t reason properly as a people.
Our villages are deteriorating at an alarming rate while metropolitan politicians feed fat on the monies which would have injected life and stimulated growth there.
It’s either we restructure or we continue in retrogression.