Imo Local Government System: Transiting To Value Creation
By Collins Opurozor
Essentially, the Local Government System is a mechanism put in place to expand and sustain the democratic space in Nigeria. It is fundamental to the democratization process, as it remains the most potent instrument to mobilize people for local participation and to spread democratic values. The development crisis that defined and defiled the immediate past administration in Imo State was the logical outcome of its deleterious inability to localize governance and enhance inclusiveness especially by repositioning the local government system which is closest to the people.
All over the world, planning for service delivery has been strategically shifted from a centralized to a more localized sphere of government. Planning is no longer seen as top-to-down but rather regarded as an inclusive process where individuals and communities are viewed as key stakeholders. The local government in this context offers a greater control to the people over their own situation and ensures their full involvement in determining their own developmental needs.
Bequeathed to the new government of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha was a legacy of rot, malfeasance and inertia in the Imo Local Government System. The past administration had not seen the relevance of the local government system beyond its usefulness in creating slush funds for money laundering. The new administration, therefore, was inescapably confronted with a necessity of rebuilding the relationship between the local government and the local people in order to address the issues of alienation and apathy and to promote a regime of inclusive and transparent governance in order to accelerate socio-economic development in the state.
A masterstroke by the new administration, it seems clear to me, was the appointment of Hon. Mayor Eze as Special Assistant to the Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. A gentleman who is dedicated to refined values and represents a confluence of passion, intelligence and experience, Mayor Eze through words and deeds has left no one in doubt that the Imo Local Government system has begun to receive a fresh breath of life.
Today in Imo State, all the local government areas get their full monthly allocations. The 5% of these now statutorily go to the communities through the traditional rulers. What this means is that after payment of salaries and other overhead costs, each local government area in Imo must still have at least forty-four million Naira (N44,000,000) monthly to address the developmental challenges of its people. In addition to this, there is further a performance metrics before the current local government operators in Imo and an incentive for excellence, to the end that failure is almost inconceivable. Still, there are programmes and workshops for upskilling and capacity building to train and retrain the operators on the ultimate goal which the system must deliver.
In the light of the foregoing, the development potentials of every part of Imo State will be unleashed. For instance, the summary of the economic setback of the people of Ideato North LGA hinges on non-existence of critical infrastructure. There are no accessible roads linking the various communities. But when you consider the fact that Ideato North is linked to Anambra State through Aguata Local Government Area and it is a short distance to from Isuochi in Abia State and a thoroughfare to Enugu State through Okigwe-Port Harcourt express route, you see a great opportunity for development of industries whose products could be marketed in these neighbouring states given good road networks. A functional local government system in Ideato North will certainly ensure the establishment of functional and sustainable road network as well as other critical infrastructures that will rev up industrialization in the area and make the people live their dreams right in their homeland.
Also, in Ngor Okpala, we see a potential food basket of Imo State, with large expanse of agricultural land. The people are mainly farmers and have rich fertile land at the basin of the Otamiri River at Umuekwunne. Although the potentials exist for large scale agricultural production, the government in the past did nothing to support them. The farmers complained that the cost of inputs including the terms for borrowing was too high. With a rebuilt and reinvigorated local government system in Ngor Opkala, agricultural production will receive a boost which will engender food security for Imo State and unleash opportunities for job and wealth creation through the entire agricultural value chain.
Government is better when it is closer to home, and the ongoing transformation in the Imo Local Government system is giving Imo people the better life which they had so sorely yearned for.