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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
(GCFR) has reiterated the  need for local
governments to have an autonomous  status
in the country.

He spoke at the International
Conference on Politics, Security and Development organised by the Department of
Political Science and Administration, Babcock University, Ogun State.

He expressed dissatisfaction with
what he called the negligence of the local government system in the country
over the years.

In his keynote address drawn from
the theme of the conference and entitled: Forty 
years of local government reforms and democratic  development in Nigeria: Critical perspective,
the former president said until  local
government system  was democratized and
made more responsive to development needs, the expected  growth and development in the local
government areas  in the country would
remain elusive.

He noted that state governments
constituted the major obstacles to local government development by stealing
their funds at source, while the tenure of local government chairmen depended
on the whims and caprices of the state governors.

He added that only a few states had
held local government elections, while others have carried on as if it was
legal to run local government without the constitution that created them.

Worse still, he said, most
governors floated the idea of appointing transition committees comprising their
surrogates to oversee the affairs. This, he said, was a fraud.

He said: “Good leadership at the
state and local government levels with integrity, dedication and lack of
corruption are what can make local governments work to achieve their purpose
for the people.

“But to be able to do these, local
governments have to be led by men and women of integrity who will understand
the enormous challenges in the system and focus on primarily on issues that
would enhance the living standard of the masses.

“Therefore, the local government as
a third tier of government should not be scrapped or changed to local
administration.

“Rather, it should be strengthened
and democratised. Officials of the local governments should always be elected
and not appointed.

“While all Nigerians should come
together to pray for the possibility of  
reviewing the constitution, local governments should engage in agricultural
production. The development would go a long way to boost production in the
country.”

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