Corruption at the Grassroots; Bwari Area Council Citizens demands better governance delivery - #OpenLGAs Townhall Meeting
In taking the business of accountability and transparency in governance to the grassroots, especially the Local Government Areas (the supposed closest government to the people), the #OpenLGAs Townhall of the activecitizen.com.ng held in Bwari Area Council of the FCT Nigeria on the 25th Nov. 2017 within the premises of the Bwari Shopping Plaza; the Townhall meeting was hosted by Youth Ablaze in partnership with DEAN Initiative.
The eye opener Townhall meeting had citizens from every section and groups within the Area Council. Participants lamented the recklessness with which Council administrators are governing.
No participant at the Townhall meeting was able point to or identify any project the Council have initiated or done in one calendar year, neither could anyone of them have an idea of what the Council receives monthly in allocation or what it generates in IGR. Over 80% of the participants quoted correctly the Federal budget for 2017 and the newly presented 2018 budget. About 40% also gave account of Federal IGR sources and amounts declared by the Federal government.
Sadly, no participant at the Townhall meeting had idea what the Area Council’s budget; not even once since they have been in Bwari. None as well had knowledge of how much in IGR the Council generates and what is done with such income.
The group represented at the meeting include among others; members of the Bwari Technology village, Builders association, Association of shop owners, Commercial motorcyclists, Religious leaders, School owners, Indigenous youth, Student bodies, Market women, Traders, Civil servants and Traditional rulers.
The citizens decried the force with which the Area Council uses in collecting the IGR and the more painful thing is that while citizens hustle to pay their multiple taxes, the Area Council on her side has failed to deliver the smallest possible services.
What happens to these monies? That is the question #OpenLGAs Project is out to unravel.
Commercial drivers claimed they are subjected to daily payment of several revenues to the tune of N700. School owners and churches pay N18,000 for Buses while businesses pay for; signposts, sales, shop space and others.
Bwari Area Council parades 10 Quarry plants and other major businesses, despite all revenues and monthly allocations, Bwari AC citizens cannot feel the impact of governance at the local level.
Citizens seems to hence have lost faith in government due to continuous service delivery failure. The closeness of LGAs to the people is at the moment not yielding its designed impact.
The reasons for this can be said to be very clear; while a lot of donor funding and voluntary activities are invested in monitoring the Federal government activities and projects, the LGAs are deemed almost not important to monitor and they over the years have been making overnight millionaires through endemic corrupt practices. The LGA Chairmen have their monthly allocations and IGR all to themselves to decide what to do with.
The representative of Bwari traditional ruler at the townhall meeting attributed the trend to systemic corruption. He said they themselves are even more confused as they seem not to understand how government run or who to hold accountable.
Each time they meet the LGA Chairman, he complains of lack of fund release by the Minister and the Minister will complain that he has no release from the Federal government. But the little they receive and make in IGR, he said are never accounted for.
The citizens at the meeting unanimously agreed to responsibility for their silence over time. The convener of the Townhall meeting; Youth Ablaze and the activecitizen.com.ng emphasized the OpenLGAs ideology and the importance of citizens’ participation in monitoring government activities. The citizens there and then constituted working groups to contact the leadership of the Area Council to demand relevant information using the FOI and follow up with due actions.
You can forward your contribution and questions around the #OpenLGAs Project to firstname.lastname@example.org