lAGOS State under former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu was the first to create what it had to call Local Community Development Areas (LCDAs) when it attempted to bring governance closer to the grass- roots by expanding the number of its local government areas.
The choice of nomenclature was borne out of the recognition that, unlike other federations across the globe, Nigeria has its own local government areas and their names etched in the Constitution, with the councils also enjoying direct allocation from the Federation Account, such that the creation of new local governments would require changing the Constitution for the process to be completed, which change is not a simple matter in a complex country like Nigeria. The Lagos State government must have thought it better to have the LCDAs until the time that the National Assembly, which is in charge of amending the Constitution, would consider it worthwhile to include these new creations in the Constitution and perhaps change them to local government areas.
Even at that, the creation of the LCDAs degenerated into a legal tango between the state and the Federal Government under the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, culminating in a landmark decision of the Supreme Court to the effect that the state governments have the right to create new local governments, but that these would remain inchoate until the National Assembly completed the process by amending the Constitution to reflect the new local governments.
Other states, noticeably Osun and Ogun, have of late been following in the footsteps of Lagos State with the plan to create additional LCDAs. What is important to note however is that as things stand under the Constitution, these LCDAs are not recognised for the purpose of allocation from the Federation Account, leaving states with LCDAs with the unenviable position of funding them through the allocation meant for the recognised local governments.
The implication of this position is that whereas the governments are right to want to take governance closer to the people through the LCDAs, they are doing this at enormous cost to the resources of the people as bureaucracies are being created, replicated and expanded even without additional funding. The funds meant for the sustenance of the bureaucracy in a local government is now stretched and used for the bureaucracies of two or more LCDAs. This way, the people are more likely to get the political benefit of the creation of the LCDAs than the economic benefit. Indeed, because the resources available are expended on bureaucracies, nothing significant can be achieved by the LCDAs in terms of concrete development for the people.
We are, of course, aware that many of the states creating the LCDAs take the additional initiative of reducing the bureaucratic offices necessary for their running, but this would not ultimately detract from the fact that scarce resources are being deployed to such ends. And yet the purpose of bringing government and governance nearer to the people should not be just for the existence of bureaucracies and the filling of such posts by a handful of people. The full realisation of the potentials of these LCDAs are therefore more likely to be on display and realizable when they become full local government areas recognised by the Constitution or when the country comes to the realisation that local governments should be left entirely to the province of the state governments and should not be part of the Constitution, nor be directly funded from the Federation Account.
This is why we believe that the governors who have correctly identified the need for more spread in the presence of government through the instrumentality of the LCDAs should go beyond their creation to also canvass the process of turning them into local governments. We are of the opinion that this desire to bring government closer to the people should be a national one deserving of a national response, such that it should not be impossible or difficult to get a national framework or consensus on how to achieve this. Whereas the whole process of constitution amendment could be cumbersome and tiresome because it normally incorporates so many issues and items, the governors could utilize the platforms of the National Governors Forum (NGF) and the National Economic Council (NEC) for a discussion on this particular issue.
With all the governors desirous of taking government closer to the people, there should be enough incentive for them to work out the modalities for achieving this in such a way that resources would match the attendant creation. Nigerians deserve to have functional government structures nearer to them for inclusive and participatory democracy and there is no better way to achieve this than a comprehensive agreement and consensus on how the current local government system should be expanded across the whole country. This way, the LCDAs would be spread throughout the country and the real benefits of the creation would accrue to the people.