AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. OLUSEGUN MIMIKO AT THE SWEARING-IN CEREMONY OF THE NEW AND DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED LOCAL GOVERNMENT CHAIRMEN IN ONDO STATE ON MON. 25th APRIL 2016.
I am particularly happy and I feel fulfilled to be at this auspicious occasion to perform the inauguration of the newly elected Chairmen of the 18 Local Government Councils in the State. These Chairmen emerged consequent upon the recently concluded elections of Saturday, 23rd of April, 2016 conducted by the Ondo State Independent Electoral Commission (ODIEC).
I use this opportunity to congratulate ODIEC on the successful conduct of a transparent and credible election and I felicitate with the electorate on the judicious use of their franchise to vote in their preferences at this tier of government.
It has been a burning desire of our administration not only to inject fresh and robust governance into the Local Government Councils but, to also inculcate the democratic ethos and the spirit of fair political competition in that tier of government through free and fair periodic elections. The delay experienced in the conduct of the election has been due to the fall-out of the protracted legal issues between the Chairmen of the past administration on one hand, and our present administration, on the other.
You will recall that following the dissolution of the Local Government Council in February 2009, the then chairmen of the 18 Local Governments instituted an action in the High Court of Ondo State seeking reinstatement to their various offices. The court of trial and the Court of Appeal adjudged our action as valid and lawful. We still presently, have an extant and valid judgment of the Court of Appeal. We are under obligation to respect and obey the said judgment until that judgment is suspended or, set aside.
Again, the present political configuration in the state in which the plaintiffs and defendants have found themselves in the same party has, I am advised, changed the situation. What is more, the statutory tenures, prescribed by law for the erstwhile chairmen have since lapsed. Our eagerness therefore to conduct the local government council election is in absolute obedience to the provisions of our laws and the removal of all the legal impediments placed on our way and that of ODIEC by those who do not want the Local Government Council conducted. Indeed it was only on Friday 22nd April 2016, that the last of the cases seeking to stop the conduct of the election was finally dismissed, thus clearing the way for the conduct of the Local Gov. Council election of Saturday, 23rd of April 2016.
After four sets of Caretaker Committees, that have been appointed to pilot the affairs of the Local Governments since our administration was inaugurated, this makes the first time that we are having elected Chairmen and Councilors in the Local Government. While I congratulate all the Chairmen and Councilors on their victories at the polls, I must also salute and congratulate our party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) on the overwhelming majority and victory it recorded at the polls. I have no doubt in my mind that going by the political antecedents of the elected leaders that are being sworn in today, there will be accelerated progress at the grassroots. I like to place on record, the good performances of the Chairmen and members of the outgone Local Government Caretaker Committees who, put in a lot of hard work in the peaceful administration of the Councils.
For the newly elected Chairmen and Councilors, you are reminded that your administration is a democratic one that must be alive to the functions of the Local Governments as enunciated in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) which include but not limited to: provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education; development of agricultural and natural resources; provision and maintenance of health services; making recommendations on economic development to the State on areas affecting your Local Governments; construction and maintenance of roads, etc.
In the effective delivery of these and other services, in the dividends of democracy to the populace as promised in your electioneering campaign, the Chairmen will substantially require the cooperation of the career officers, Supervisory Councilors, Political Leaders and the Traditional rulers in their Local Governments. I therefore encourage all of you to employ team dynamics and good human management spirit in your administrations.
You will also be expected to display exemplary leadership, transparency and accountability in the conduct of government business. As the Chief Security Officers in your domains, maintenance of peace and security in the face of daunting security challenges should be your primary concern. You are expected to complement the efforts of the State Government in the pivotal role to ensure the security of lives and property of our citizenry so as to continue with the peace and harmony that currently pervades the state.
As you are aware, this administration has instituted in almost every nook and cranny of the state, masses-centred projects and programmes virtually throughout the state – these range from the ubiquitous Neighbourhood Markets to the Caring Heart Mega Schools; from the advances in Health care to urban renewal; from poverty reduction initiatives to community development projects etc. It is therefore important to consolidate on the various achievements already recorded in the various Local Government Areas by your predecessors in office. In the knowledge that government is a continuum, Council Chairmen must ensure that none of the people oriented projects being inherited now, is abandoned.
It is instructive to note that you are coming on board at a time when the State and the Local Governments are faced with plummeting financial resources on account of the falling prices of oil globally. With this development, the ability of the Federal, State and the Local Governments to shoulder enormous responsibilities is greatly hampered with the result that all tiers of government are finding it difficult to fulfill their obligation to the workforce in the area of payment of salaries.
While assuring that this administration is determined to keep the pace of development and the standards we have so far established, I wish to charge you to intensify more effort in the area of revenue generation in your Local Government Councils and diversify to Agricultural projects such as animal husbandry and crop production. As the Government closest to the grassroots, you should be responsive to the needs and yearnings of the populace. I therefore encourage you to adopt the bottom-up approach and an all- inclusive political strategy in your leadership style.
With the present state of finance, it will just be apposite to call the attention of the federal government to our skewed fiscal federalism that vests a disproportionate percentage (52%) of revenue in the federal government while the states and local governments – the very tiers with considerable contacts with the populace – are given 26% and 20% respectively! This can only cause a major hindrance to the development and implementation of policies at the local levels. By virtue of Paragraph 32(b) Part I of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the RMAFC is empowered to prescribe a periodic review of the Revenue Allocation formula every 5 years in accordance with Section 162 (2) of same constitution. Regrettably, this has not been done since 1999! We are appealing to RMFAC and the Federal Government, to take the appropriate bill to the National Assembly.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is on this note that I wish to inaugurate the newly elected Local Government Chairmen. I wish you all a peaceful and successful tenure of office.
Thank you and God bless.