As part of his efforts to stimulate rapid grassroots development in Ekiti State, Governor Kayode Fayemi has unfolded plans to recreate new councils. But, the initiative has been dogged with mixed reactions among stakeholders. Correspondent RASAQ IBRAHIM examines the arguments and the counter-arguments
THE proposal by the Governor Kayode Fayemi-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government to re-create local council development areas (LCDAs) in EKiti State is generating ripples. Fayemi had last week indicated that he is still determined to bring back to life the additional LCDAs he created in his first term, which his successor, Ayodele Fayose, reversed when he took over. The governor gave this indication when he raised a 13-man committee to look into the modalities to realize the idea.
The initiative, the governor said, is aimed at bringing the government closer to the people and ensuring that more rapid development takes place in the rural areas in line with his administration’s five-pillar development agenda.
The idea of creating additional councils is not new in Ekiti. The governor had in during his first term in office in 2014 established 19 LCDAs out of the existing 16 council areas, thereby increasing the number of local councils to 35. The state has been operating 16 local councils since its creation on October 1, 1996; this is made up of 12 local governments it inherited from the old Ondo State and four new ones created by the military administration which decreed the state into existence.
Governor Fayemi had created the new LCDAS to complement the existing 16 council areas, saying they are insufficient to meet the yearnings of the people because the population of the state has increased and the available facilities and amenities are overstretched. The LCDAs were product of community engagement and sheer reflection of the people’s demands. The idea was from the requests by various communities in Ekiti during Fayemi’s Town Hall meetings with the people for their inputs into the preparation of the budget in his first term.
The process for the exercise which commenced in January 2014 with the inauguration of a panel which received memoranda from various communities scaled through stages of referendum, consideration and passage by the House of Assembly, as well as the assent of the governor of the enabling bill.
With the signing of the bill creating the new councils into law by Fayemi on July 30, the dreams and aspiration of many rural dwellers were fulfilled as they were offered opportunities to feel the impact of the government more than ever before. The new councils were Ado West LCDA, with headquarters at Okesha; Ado North LCDA, Oke –Ila; Ado Central LCDA, Ijigbo; Ekiti Northeast LCDA, Kota-Ekiti; Ogotun/Igbaraodo LCDA, Oke- Agbe; Osi/Isokan LCDA, Ifaki; Eka Meta LCDA, Erijiyan-Ekiti.
Others included Okemesi/Ido Ile LCDA, Okemesi Ekiti; Gbonyin LCDA, Aisegba; Irewolede LCDA, Iloro-Ekiti; Irede LCDA, Ipoti-Ekiti; Ikere West LCDA, Anaye; Ajoni LCDA, Aiyedun; Ifelodun LCDA, Igbemo–Ekiti; Araromi LCDA, Iyin–Ekiti; Ero LCDA, Igogo; Ifesowapo LCDA, Bamisile Land; and Ifeloju LCDA, Ilupeju-Ekiti.
However, there are indications that the people of Efon council are also agitating for an additional LCDA comprising Igbo-eye, Ita-Odo, Alagbamesan, Iwaji, Itawure, Ita-Ido, Alagba and Oniyo. Efon council has the largest expanse of land in Ekiti State.
Unexpectedly, the people’s enthusiasm was dampened with the reversal of the policy by the Fayose administration, on the grounds that there were no funds to implement the idea.
As fate would have it, Governor Fayemi who staged a dramatic comeback to the Government House against all odds had set machinery in motion to recreate the LCDAS.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode quoted the governor as saying that the step was aimed at bringing government nearer to the grassroots to stimulate rapid rural development and make life more meaningful to the people.
The 13-member committee, which has been given three months to deliver on its mandate, has Mr Segun Oluwole as chairman. Other members of the committee are Mrs Shola Gbenga-Igotun (Secretary), Dr. Femi Akinola; Mr. Victor Akinola, Mrs. Sade Daramola, Mr. Joseph Olaito, Mrs. Emily Fagesi and Mr. Remi Obaparusi.
Other representatives were drawn from the Ministries of Justice, Local Government Affairs, Finance and Economic Development; Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Ekiti State, and the Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers.
The governor said the committee’s terms of reference is “to review the Local Government Development Council Law, Ekiti State 2014, and make recommendations on its relevance in view of current legal developments in the state; consult extensively with the communities where LCDAs secretariat was created by the Local Government Development Council Law, Ekiti State 2014, and make recommendations on their current economic viability and suitability with a view to ensuring uniformity, equity, fairness across the local government areas; and recommend to the state government practical steps for the creation of the LCDAs out of the existing 16 local governments.”
Speaking while inaugurating the panel, Governor Fayemi said the move was in response to the yearning of the people for increase and adequate representation at all levels of governance. He said: “You may recall that exactly one month today, while delivering the ‘State of the State’ address in commemoration of the Second Anniversary of my administration, I mentioned that after extensive consultations, my administration has decided to revisit the creation of the LCDAs.
“Ekiti State has a long history of well-articulated demands for the creation of LCDAs. You may recall that in 2014, a Committee on the Creation of LCDAs, chaired by Justice Akinjide Ajakaiye was inaugurated to look into the viability and desirability of the idea. The committee adopted a consultative and inclusive approach to its mandate and presented to the government a report that led to the creation of additional 19 LCDAs.
“Regrettably, the successor government placed politics above the far-reaching interest of Ekiti people. The process was abandoned just like many of the developmental policies, programmes and projects of my first term. I must emphasise that the creation of the LCDAs is in response to the agitation of our people for enhanced representation at all levels of government.
“As a responsible and responsive government, it is our duty to make decisions that will be of ultimate benefit of the people who elected us to pilot the affairs of the State. I am, satisfied that the creation of LCDAs in Ekiti State will further deepen the existing relationship between government and our people as well as enhance our commitment to the rapid development of all our communities in line with this administration’s five-pillar developmental agenda.”
Fayemi charged members of the panel to approach their assignment with courage, impartiality and equanimity and counsel the government on necessary administrative arrangements as well as proposals for an equitable revenue allocation to ensure the sustainability of the LCDAs.
The committee has three months to deliver on its mandate is expected to review the Local Government Development Council Law, Ekiti State 2014 and make recommendations on its relevance in view of current legal developments in the state.
However, the idea has generated mixed feelings among the populace. While some kicked against it, describing it as needless because it is laced with political intents, others threw their weight behind the plan, saying the creation of additional LCDAs was long overdue.
The Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) condemned the proposal. Its Publicity Secretary, Raphael Adeyanju said the plan was ill-conceived and ill-timed. He said it was not in doubt that the creation of new LCDAs would bring government closer to the people. But, nevertheless, he argued that the initiative was laced with political intents. He said Fayemi’s plan to create new councils was borne out his desperation to lubricate his alleged parochial political interest ahead of the 2022 governorship election.
The party said local governments under the current administration has not only lost their financial autonomy but also operational independence, thereby making them redundant. Adeyanju alleged that the APC-led government has rendered the existing councils “mere appendages” of the Ministry of Local Government and that they are merely appropriated as private estates of Fayemi.
The PDP said the governor arbitrarily withdraws council funds from the state-joint account without any form of restriction. It noted that the governor only doles out handouts to the local government as he pleases. The situation, PDP added, has not only retarded development at the grassroots but has also contributed to poor governance, infrastructural decay and ‘elevated poverty’ among the rural dwellers.
The statement reads: “The truth of the matter is that I see the plan to create additional councils as a sort of mischief on the part of Governor Fayemi. The APC-led government is a government that no one can trust. The rationale behind the proposed plan is not to bring government closer to the people but serve as a conduit plan for Governor Fayemi to siphon the loot council funds. Besides, what the APC government is trying to do is to create banana peels for the next government, knowing fully well that the PDP is going to take over from it.
“What have they been doing with the existing 16 councils? Visit all the local governments, you will see that nothing has been done. The places are being underdeveloped and exploited to the detriment of the people. So, creating any additional councils would not make any difference.”
But, the APC in its response said the creation of additional councils will be of mutual benefit to the people and government. It said creating new LCDAs would create room for even development in the state.
The APC spokesman, Ade Ajayi lampooned the PDP over what it called ‘unguided criticism’, urging the opposition party to wake up to the new Ekiti were the government works for the generality of the citizens , not a few interests.
He urged Ekiti people not to listen to the retrogressive submissions from the opposition, saying the party was ignorant and lacks the requisite knowledge on how to deliver dividends of democracy to the people at the grassroots. The APC also asked the opposition party to stop playing politics with the wellbeing of the people and development of Ekiti.
Ajayi alleged the PDP’s politics of bitterness and parochialism accounted for the infamous decision of Ayodele Fayose to abandon the LCDAs created in 2014 to drive even socio-economic development in Ekiti.
He said: “They are not ashamed at all. They have forgotten that it was Governor Fayemi that created the LCDAs in his first coming. But the PDP-led administration because of their sheer irresponsibility decided to politicise the creation by scrapping them, whereas it was the people that demanded it. The argument that Ekiti does not need additional council areas is an eloquent testimony that PDP is averse to the development of the state.”
The Chairman of the Ekiti Traditional Council of Obas and Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Alabi described the development as a bold decision. He said the new LCDAs, when created, would not only fast-track the development of the communities, but also give the people a sense of belonging.
Oba Alabi urged Governor Fayemi to work with the template he used during his first term for the creation of the councils so that it would not cause another communal crisis in form of agitation, protest and demonstration. He added: “It is a welcome development. We, the traditional rulers in Ekiti are in support of the reactivation of the LCDAs. It will give our people a sense of belonging and enable them to continue to identify with the government.”