Sheriff Balogun in Abeokuta, and Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo, ponder the motivation for the creation of new local councils in Ogun and Osun, despite complaints about financial constraints by the governments of the two states

Despite the dwindling economic fortunes of Ogun State, the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, recently approached the House of Assembly to seek approval for the creation of 37 Local Council Development Areas from the existing 20 local government areas in the state. The proposal came a few days after another South-west governor, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, announced the creation of 31 LCDAs in his state.

The additional council areas have been sought regardless of the grave concerns by the two All Progressives Congress governors about the finances of their states. This has fuelled suspicion that politics – rather than need – was the motivation for the setting up of the new councils.

Ogun Proposal
According to the proposal Amosun presented to the lawmakers regarding the new local government structure:
1. Abeokuta North Local Government Area will now have Abeokuta North- Akomoje, Abeokuta North West- Lafenwa, Abeokuta North East-Ita Iyalode, Oke Ogun-Imala;
2. Abeokuta South will have Abeokuta South-Ake, Abeokuta South East- Ijeun Titun, Abeokuta South West- Ijeja;
3. Ado Odo/Ota will have Ado Odo/ Ota-Ota, Ado Odo-Ado Odo, Agbara/Igbesa-Igbesa, Ota West-Atan Ota, Sango/ Ijoko -Sango;
4. Ewekoro will have Ewekoro- Itori, Ewekoro North-Wasinmi;
5. Ifo will now have Ifo -Ifo, Ifo Central-Agbado, Coker Ibogun- Ibogun, Ifo South- Ojodu;
6. Ijebu East-Ogbere, Ijebu East Central-Ojowo;
7. Ijebu North- Ijebu Igbo, Ijebu North Central-Oru, Ijebu Igbo West-Ojowo, Ago Iwoye-Ibipe;
8. Ijebu North East will have Ijebu North East-Atan, Yemoji-Ilese;
9. Ijebu Ode will have Ijebu Ode-Ijebu Ode, Ijebu Ode South-Oke Aje;
10. Ikenne will have Ikenne- Ikenne, Remo Central-Iperu;
11. Imeko Afon will now have Imeko- Imeko, Afon-Oloka Afon;
12. Ipokia will have Ipokia- Ipokia, Ipokia West Ijofin, Idi Iroko-Idi Iroko;
13. Obafemi Owode will have Obafemi Owode-Owode, Oba-Oba, ObafemiiObafemi, Ofada/ Mokoloki-Mowe;14. Odeda will consist of Odeda-Odeda, Opeji -Opeji, Ilugun-Ilugun;
15. Odogbolu will have Odogbolu- Odogbolo, Leguru-Ala, Ifesowapo- Imodi;
16. Ogun Waterside will now have Ogun Waterside-Abigi; Ogun Waterside East-Bolorunduro Efire; 17. Remo North will consist of Remo North- Isara, Remo North East-Ode Remo;
18. Sagamu will have Sagamu Central-Sagamu, Sagamu Remo West-Makun, Sagamu Remo South-Sotubo;
19. Yewa North will consist of Yewa North-Ayetoro, Iju-Iboro; Ketu-Tata;
20. Yewa South will consist of Yewa South-Ilaro, Yewa South East-Oke Odan.
The Speaker, Hon. Suraju Ishola Adekanbi, who read the governor’s letter at the plenary, said the request for new councils was in furtherance of government’s attempt to meet the yearnings of the people through delivery of democratic dividends. According to the letter, the creation of the LCDAs would bring government nearer to the people and engender more development.

Bill
A bill was sent to the Assembly a week before the governor presented his proposal for the creation of additional 37 LCDAs for the amendment of the local government structure to bring the total number of local government areas to 57.
The bill titled, “H. B No. 02/OG/2016- The Local Government (Amendment) Law, 2016, A Bill for a Law to Amend the Local Government Law of Ogun State, 2016,” was read by the Clerk of the Assembly, Mr. Muyiwa Adenopo. The Local Government (Amendment) Law, 2016 has passed through first reading on the floor of the Assembly.

Controversy
The bill for the creation of additional local councils has generated controversy and protests.
A resident of Abeokuta, Mr. Adesola Badmus, stated that creation of LCDAs at this period of economic downturn would worsen the condition of the people. According to him, the government that is still at loggerheads with its workforce over unpaid arrears of salaries and other benefits will not be able to cope with the additional staff, as the new local councils will requires more human resources.

Badmus said, “The creation of new councils has generated rancour among some towns and villages, as the councils, according to some elders, have not been properly divided. A typical example is Orile Oko community, which, since time immemorial have been cohabiting with the Remo and have seen themselves as part and parcel of Remo and, suddenly, they find themselves being dragged to Obafemi Owode area.

“You need to see the reactions of the Remo people. The traditional rulers under the leadership of Akarigbo of Remoland have sent a powerful petition to the state Assembly, condemning the development.
“The people of Ogijo also enquired the rationale behind giving the capital of Remo North West to Sotubo, claiming that the capital should have been Ogijo. Looking at population, economic viability and other amenities, it is crystal clear that Ogijo is far ahead of Sotubo. But the government would have looked into the matter politically and not otherwise. Now it is putting the people against one another.

“This time is not the best time to do this, as opposition parties in the state have seen it as part of a plot to rig the local government council election in the state.”
However, an Ogun West pressure group, Movement for Yewa-Awori Development, threw its weight behind the proposed creation of 57 LCDAs in the state. The group in a communiqué noted that Amosun should be commended for initiating the process of creating the LCDAs 13 years after the plan was cancelled.

The communiqué was jointly signed by chairman, Movement for Yewa-Awori Development, Sanya Akindele, and secretary, Biyi Ogunriola. It stated that revisiting the issue and granting additional LCDAs to Ado-Odo/Ota and Imeko-Afon local government areas was in consonance with the current growth in population and in the spirit of “equity, fairness and balancing.”

It regretted that the cancellation of the 52 LCDAs created by the Chief Olusegun Osoba government in 2003 by the Otunba Gbenga Daniel administration had brought a setback to development in Ogun West senatorial district.
The group urged “sons and daughters of Ogun West senatorial district to shun bitter politics that is only meant to attack a moving political train, as wrong usage of the social media cannot replace constructive criticism, which can spur government to greater achievements.”

The group further appealed to the lawmakers representing Ogun West at both the state and national assemblies to channel all their efforts towards attracting meaningful development to their various constituencies.
Another resident of Abeokuta, Mr. Babatunde Idowu, said the establishment of the LCDAs was a welcome development, as it would help to bring governance closer to the people.

Idowu said, “Ogun State is a combination of both urbanised and rural settlers, and that is the only way the rural settlers can benefit from the dividends of democracy by getting closer to them and as well giving them what they want and not what the government desires.”

He said the LCDAs, if enacted into law, will create job opportunities for the youth, as more potentials will be discovered. “Most untapped resources and uncultivated arable lands will be put into use by the leadership of the newly created LCDA’s to boost agriculture development and give more life to the local farmers, who have not been able to get more from the government due to the distance and other factors militating against them,” Idowu said.
The speaker has promised that the Assembly would invite all concerned stakeholders, interest groups as well as non-governmental organisations to a forum to get their contributions to the new law before its passage.

Protest
Shortly after the governor presented the bill before the Assembly, the member representing Remo North State Constituency, Hon. Adebiyi Adeleye, submitted a petition from the Remo Traditional Council against the alleged merger of Orile- Oko with Owode local government. Indigenes of Remo area of the state stormed the state Assembly to protest against the proposed creation of LCDAs in the state. The protest came as traditional rulers under the leadership of Akarigbo and Paramount Ruler of Remoland, Oba Micheal Adeniyi Sonariwo, petitioned the Assembly on the same matter.
The agitation was against the removal of Orile-Oko from Remoland to Obafemi Owode local government, which is under Egba section.

The protesters had placards with inscriptions like, “Avoid war, embrace peace, Orile-Oko belongs to Ogun East”, “Enough is enough, return Orile-Oko to her roots, Remoland”, “Remo Youths say no to imposition, Orile-Oko is our land”, and “Respect our heritage, norms and culture, Orile-Oko is ours in Remoland”.

Chief Pekun Awobona spoke on behalf of the Remo chiefs. The Atunluto of Remoland and former chairman of Remo North local government said the protest was to give support to the petitions earlier forwarded by the Remo Traditional Council. Awobona appealed to the lawmakers not to accede to the request of the governor to the effect of ceding Orile-Oko to Obafemi Owode local government.

According to Awobona, “We are here to give support to the petition that was submitted to the house by the Remo Obas. We are here to say that Orile-Oko totally belongs to Remo and that has been so for ages.

“Remo and Egba people have been cohabiting peacefully in Orile-Oko for ages, we have not had any quarrel, we live peacefully. But the executive governor of Ogun, Governor Amosun, wanted to create LCDAs. We thank him for this, because it is a way of development.

“But in doing that, we say ‘who goes to equity must go with clean hands’, and therefore Orile-Oko, which has been part and parcel of Remoland, has been excised and merged with Obafemi Owode local government. Some people who live in Orile-Oko are Remo people while others are Egba people. The land totally belongs to Remo and ages have shown this.

“Past petitions, past inquiries, name it, they have all supported Orile-Oko to be part of Remoland, not a single of them has shown that Orile-Oko belongs to any other part other than Remo. And, therefore, we have come to seek the assistance of the speaker of the Ogun State House of Assembly and his distinguished members that they should return or not accede to the request of His Excellency merging Orile-Oko with Obafemi Owode local government because Orile-Oko is part of Remo; we are not ready to concede an inch square of Orile-Oko.”
Adekunbi promised to look into the agitation of the Remo people. He explained that the bill will soon be committed to committee stage where stakeholders would be invited to be part of the discussion.

Like Ogun, Like Osun
In Osun State, two years after Aregbesola dissolved his cabinet, he has not reconstituted it. He says the state is in dire straits and would not be able to fund the commissioners’ offices. But recently, Aregbesola announced the creation of 31 LCDAs and said the creation would lead to economic development of the state. He insisted that the move would not aggravate the state’s financial situation but would assist the government to generate more revenue for the state.
The governor reiterated his administration’s commitment to judicious use of revenues available to it, saying increasing the number of councils will not constitute any additional financial burden.

This as Aregbesola dissolved the management committees of the existing 30 local council and area office and their executive secretaries, deputy executive secretaries, members, special advisers, and other functionaries. The governor stated this in a state broadcast on the creation of additional 31 LCDs, three Area Councils, and two Administrative Offices.

The request for additional local councils, after several legal procedures, was sent to the House of Assembly in the form of an executive bill. The Assembly looked into the bill, set up a committee and, subsequently, a referendum was held on February 19 last year in which the people of the state overwhelmingly gave a yes vote to the bill.
The Assembly then passed the bill creating 31 new Local Council Development Areas, three Area Councils, and two Administrative Offices, was passed by the Assembly signed into law by the governor.

Rationale
On why the state was creating more councils at a time of grave financial challenges, Aregbesola held that his administration had given the issue sufficient consideration, saying he has put in place procedures that will cost less, save money, and bring rapid development. He added that the primary responsibilities of the newly created councils were to bring development to the people, market management, revenue mobilisation and generation. The governor stated that the state would save huge cost with the new system, adding that the same number of staff will still run all the councils and no new appointments will be made.‎

‎He said that the entire local government system will be managed by council managers for three months and managers shall be appointed and deployed by the Local Government Service Commission from among the substantive Grade Level 14 officers in the local governments.

According to Aregbesola, “Many would be wondering and asking: why create more councils at this special time of financial challenges? We have also given sufficient consideration to this. With this new parliamentary system, it will cost less to run the new councils and save a lot of money for the government than in the past.

“The primary responsibilities of our new local government system are sanitation, market management, and revenue mobilisation and generation. This is consistent with local government administration worldwide.
“The beauty of this new system is its parliamentary nature, which requires the chairman and the vice chairman to be elected by the councillors from among their own ranks, thereby saving cost.”

Highlighting the importance of local governments, the governor stated, “It is where the government is designed to be closest to the people. While you need to follow some protocols for reasons of security and tight schedule before having an audience with a minister, a state governor or the president, you can walk in on your local government chairman or other officials of the council.

“Also, because the geographical space of the local government makes it the smallest unit of administration, it is easier to get things done at this level. The local government is also the ideal training ground for political leadership.”

APC Salutes LCDA Initiative
APC in Osun State has congratulated the people and government of the state on the creation of new local governments.
The party said, “It is a joyful culmination of the long standing aspiration of the people to have government closest to their communities.”
The party especially congratulated the governor for following the constitutional process required to create new local governments.

The state chairman of the party, Prince Gboyega Famodun, said in a statement, ”This is one great moment for Osun because the landmark achievement of creating new local governments will further enhance peace within and between communities of the state as well as increase the potential for more efficient internally generated revenue for the state as well as for the local governments.”

Famodun added, “The ball is now in the court of the people to demonstrate their appreciation through dedicated effort at keeping the new as well as the old local councils running.”
He called on the people “to stand firm and fully give their support to the government which in spite of the financial challenges the state is going through, Osun is not standing still. It is not stagnant, but moving on with positive steps to bring the best it could afford to the people.”

PDP Condemns New Councils
However, some members of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state have criticised the decision of the state government to create new council areas. A chieftain of the party, Mr. Ajijola Nurudeen, said the action of the governor was not good enough, particularly, now that the state is critically in need of financial resources. He condemned the move and said Aregbesola seemed not to know how to manage the current economic downturn caused by the sharp fall in crude oil prices.

Osun Assembly Approval
The Osun House of Assembly said that the new Local Council Development Areas, Area Councils and Administrative Offices announced by Aregbesola were passed by the Assembly. Chairman, House Committee on Information and Strategy, Honourable Olatunbosun Oyintiloye, said the Assembly commended the governor for taking the bold step, in spite the present economic situation.
It said with the announcement of the councils, the doubt over the commitment of government to bringing government closer to the people had been erased. This action, it said, would further enhance development at the grassroots across the state, stressing that in the process of approving the proposals for the new council, all the legal processes were strictly followed.

The Assembly had last year approved a bill for the creation of additional LCDAs, Area Councils and Administrative offices. The councils and their headquarters as approved by the Assembly and announced are as follows:
In Osun West Senatorial District, there are, Ayedaade South (Orile-Owu), Ayedire South (Oluponna), Ede East (Sekona), Egbedore South (Ido-Osun), Ejigbo South (Ilawo), Ejigbo West (Oguro), Irewole North-East (Wasinmi), Isokan South (Ikoyi), Iwo East (Olomowewe), ands Iwo West (Agberire). Osun East has Atakunmosa East Central (Iwara), Atakunmosa West Central (Ifewara), Ife Central West (Elefon-Owa), Ife-Ooye (Ita-Oosa), Ife-North East (Modakeke), Ife North-West (Edun Abon), Ife South-West (Awolowo Town), Ilesa North-East (Imo), Ilesa West-Central (Ereja Square), and Oriade South (Ipetu-Ijesha). In Osun Central, there are Boluwaduro East (Ajoda), Boripe North (Iree), Ifelodun North (Eweta), Ila Central (Magbon), Irepodun South (Erin-Osun), Obokun East (Ilare), Odo-Otin North (Oyan), Odo-Otin South (Inisa), Olorunda North (Ota-Efun), Osogbo South (Isale-Osun), and Osogbo West (Awosuru).

The area councils and their locations are, Ife North Area Council (Oyere-Aborisade), Ede North Area Council (Owode Ede), and Ifelodun Area Council (Iba). The Administrative Offices are Orolu Administrative Office (Diisu-Ayekale) and Okinni Administrative Office (Okinni).
In both Osun and Ogun states, the governors have said that the new local council areas would boost development, rather than be a drag on progress. Only time can tell how this would be achieved.