If the House of Assembly of Anambra State goes ahead to confirm Chairmen and Members of Local Government Transition Committee anytime this week or in the coming week, most of the Transition Committee Chairmen and members (councilors) would have spent not less than five years in their local governments, with zero accountability or responsibility for the hundreds of millions of local government funds supposed to have been disbursed to them. In fact, many of these transition chairmen and members have spent about six to eight years in their local governments, with completely nothing to show for it. Indeed, one or two might have stayed beyond eight years because they started as elected local government chairmen in 2013.
The culture of transition committee in Anambra state local government system is one that was reinforced by former governors Dr. Chris Ngige and Mr. Peter Obi. Just a few months to his exit, Obi conducted local government election and this was in 2013. Borrowing the same script, the incumbent governor Willie Obiano decided to take it a bit to the next level and therefore has not conducted local government election and not going to conduct till his exit in two months time. For the better part of his eight years, Governor Obiano has relied on the transition system to run the local government across Anambra State even to the disapproval of many party members.
To perfect this, Anambra State House of Assembly has been a reliable partner in this business of imposing and recycling of transition members in the local governments. Eventually, the failure of the government of Willie Obiano to conduct local government election in Anambra state throughout the life span of his administration, a record failure, may become his greatest political error, not only because the transition system is a disempowerment for the people in a democracy, whose first contact with government and involvement with government process should start with their local government. But also because the transition system is a cesspool of all forms of financial corruption and misappropriation in which local government funds are disbursed without responsibility and without due process.
The transition committee members are just there, waking up to a renewed term every three months.
Clearly, the transition committee members in Anambra state are representing themselves and the people that got them appointed; absolutely no one else. Such an extremely predatory system that absolves people in positions of authority of any responsibility can only thrive in a place like Nigeria and that is how it has been. The transition committee members are just there, waking up to a renewed term every three months. Where do Anambra people stand with this dangerous system? The most incredible provocateur in all these is the taught that this same system, most awful, the same transition committee members will be stylishly handed over to the incoming government. If the House of Assembly collaborates to approve a new tenure for the transition chairmen and members of the transition, the new tenure will extend into the life of the new government that will be sworn in on March 17, 2022. Is there any kind of justification for this?
Let us even assume that the government is simply taking advantage of the gap in the local government administration system and therefore the transition committee is not exactly illegal. The question is, why must the system be abused? For years, every three months the governor submits names of transition committee chairmen and members to the House for approval and the House approves. This has happened for no fewer than six to seven years under the current governor. Worst still, for at least five to seven years, the governor has appointed almost the same people, only making few changes in some local governments like two or three years ago. In all the local governments with transition committee that have stayed for so many years, are there no other APGA party faithful or qualified people in APGA to take up the job? Little wonder many of these transition committee members see their local government as their private property.
So if we are comfortable with corrupt, self-enriching system, why can’t the enrichment scheme just go round?
The House of Assembly must put an end to this abuse. If we justify the transition system, what justifications have we for the repeated reappointment of the same people, most of who have stayed for over half a decade in office? Is there any place in which people have no responsibility and yet are allowed to remain in office for years even when they have nothing to show? How many of these transition chairmen have done anything for their people worth one million Naira, even if what they get monthly is a subvention of five to ten million Naira? So if we are comfortable with corrupt, self-enriching system, why can’t the enrichment scheme just go round?
With the drug abuse and despondency ravaging communities across Anambra state, allocations meant for local government are shared under shrouded circumstances and the local government that should stand up to local issues such as this, has been emasculated. The transition committee simply takes their subvention home safely and still goes out to mount collection of some government revenue which they also disburse at will. No responsibility to the people and no accountability. These are different times and the people are getting increasingly agitated and aggressive and intolerable. These are danger signs that can only result to known consequences. Public office holders might wish to be more circumspect and attuned towards public good more than ever. It is however shocking that this is not yet the case.
Anambra State House of Assembly should not bequeath this legacy to the incoming government. The new government must be allowed in the interest of utmost public good, to settle down and take a responsible position in the manner Anambra state local governments are administered. For now, instead of reconfirmation of the transition committee, the House of Assembly should turn it down and use their powers to ask Local Government Heads of Service to assume office in the twenty-one local governments in Anambra state for the next two months, to create a conducive environment for the new government.
If the incoming government decides to set records straight and start by auditing local government accounts, before appointing a transition committee, so be it. And if the incoming government decides to appoint a transition committee briefly before conducting a proper local government election possibly next year, so be it. But the Anambra State House of Assembly must not bequeath a template of failure, corruption, and impunity in the local government, to an incoming administration.
♦ Ebuka Onyekwelu, strategic governance exponent, is a columnist with the WAP