By Kudirat Alaba
It is critical that stakeholders in the Nigerian project take more than passing interest in the growing challenges confronting the local government system in Nigeria. And we are all stakeholders, one way or the other. Nevertheless, our status and desire for change must not include ludicrous claims and allegations, all in the name of proposing solution to this national dilemma. But that is what one Alabidun Abdulrahaman has done in his recent piece. While trying to draw attention to the problem of salary payment in local government areas of Kwara state, he cleverly weaved together a creative piece that appealed more to the emotions than reason.
Let me say this;I’m not a fan of government but I am also not a friend to anyone who manipulates words to mislead the reader, all in the name of criticism. Let me say two things here: in the scenario created by our dear writer, the only conclusion one can draw is actually to sympathise with him because he had been duped so neatly by a conman using the salary situation as bait. I have experience in this, I have had to part with money for some beggarly looking people who told one moving story or the other only to discover they were fake. They are many in town and these days you think twice before dipping your hands into your treasury to “assist” them. This is if the story in the piece was ever true. Mind you, I’m not denying the reality of poverty across Nigeria, it is a national issue and not peculiar to Kwara so the state must no be blamed. It is noteworthy that many States are now crying out over the plight of the local government system which is a creation of our constitution and the best we can do is look for pragmatic legal ways out of the challenge instead of heaping blames on innocent people. The leadership of the various unions affiliated to the local government system are enlightened sufficiently about this quagmire.
The second issue is even more germane to me than the above. The writer suggested some ways out of the challenges facing the local government system. Beautiful. We need to do biometric verification because staff numbers are over bloated. We need to ensure ghost workers are kicked out of the system because that is a major cause of the salary dilemma. The question is has Kwara state, like many others not embarked on these exercises? If so, why do we still have problem paying local government workers?
The bitter truth is in the revenue that comes to them, both from the federation account and their own internal generation. What has been coming to them from Abuja has continued to dwindle. Their own effort brings in very little and that is because of two factors, low economic activities at rural areas and corruption. We must not deny the corruption that surrounds revenue generation in this nation. How come, for instance that the Kwara state revenue agency has been able to substantially increase the state’s income where their predecessors couldn’? I don’t think it is detrimental to the system if KWIRS takes over tax collection for local government. Just as it has helped the state I’m positive it will help them too. There is no need for unnecessary sentiment on this.
The local government system is groaning, it is giving signals of stress across the country and the earlier some real proactive measures are taken to help them the better. Such measures must include the steps hilighted by Alabidun and many other commentators. But definitely not made-up stories that arouses the emotin and nothing more. The situation demands better intervention than some beer parlour pieces that are best suited for Nollywood script writing workshop.