Thursday, October 25, 2035
After several years of demands, protests and pleas, the local government (LG) autonomy got signed into law by the Federal and State legislatures in 2019.
The autonomy, as contained in the Constitution Amendment Bill 2018 gave powers to the local governments to independently collect and manage their allocations. It also put on them higher responsibilities in the running of the education, health, agriculture and infrastructure sectors.
For over six years, state and local governments were always in legal battles in the bid to seek interpretations to the new laws. These adversely affected the running of local government activities and almost made a mockery of the local government autonomy laws. The good side to this was that local government authorities were compelled to live up to the morale behind the new powers given them - as they sought support and sympathy from all stakeholders.
Amidst skepticism of teachers and workers’ unions, the LG authorities’ performances in the management of schools then became their first litmus test.
Six years after the law, a Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) survey revealed that 10% of public schools that came tops in all 36 states of the federation are LG-managed. This was a major success for the LGs - especially considering the fact that only 6% of public schools nationwide are managed by LGs. The most remarkable was that of Kogi state where an LG-managed primary school led all primary schools - including those privately run - in 2030.
The reasons given for this performance in the report were adequate training of teachers, good and prompt salaries, and community engagement.
Some LG chairmen, however, continued with the embezzlement culture - especially those who are governors’ loyalists. As citizens’ political awareness and engagement improved, things became increasingly difficult for such chairmen.
A number of cooperative farming practices now operate successfully at LG levels. Many LG authorities organize farmers in groups and provide support for them in fertilizers purchase, transportation of produce, prevention against pests and diseases through contributory funds and grants - whilst also helping them gain the advantages of economies of scale. According to Rabiu Waje, a farmer in Katsina-North LGA, the cooperative “is a very good way for us to reduce cost and have plentiful harvests. It saves us a lot of money. I now spend half of the amount I used to spend before in any season. I make more money and all my fifteen children can now go to their compulsory western schools, while I and my wife do our farming with big government machines,” noted Waje.
For some, especially mothers, the greatest reward of LG autonomy is the birth of a healthy primary health care (PHC) system. Over the years, the country’s PHC, over which the LGs have full jurisdiction, has witnessed enormous improvement - not only in equipment - but, especially, in the timeliness and quality of care given. Infant mortality rate dropped from 74.09 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014 (indexmundi.com) to 10.01 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2034. According to Nigeria Medical Association’s (NMA’s) annual medical report, PHC contributed a huge 60% to this drop.
While it is true that secondary and tertiary health care services have equally improved, expert say the federal and state hospitals ride on the successes of PHCs - as they now have ample time to focus on treating major illnesses and/or carrying out researches on them. Primary health centres are now better and appropriately equipped, whilst also having highly qualified primary health care medical professionals - some of whom are UCH-trained.
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