By NBF News

Lagos State residents went to the polls to elect local government officials last Saturday. Or, should we say some interested Lagos State residents went to the polls, since the exercise was marked by remarkable apathy in many of the council areas in the state? In spite of the restriction of movement of the people to ensure smooth conduct of elections into 20 local government areas and 37 council development areas, people in the state did not troop out in their millions to cast their votes as expected.

Instead of an impressive turnout at polling stations, the day, for many, turned out just one extra, lovely holiday for holiday-loving Lagosians.

Many Lagosians chose to spend the day indoors without bothering to exercise their franchise. The result is what has been dubbed voter apathy in the state.

The restriction on movement and the decision of many to stay indoors left the streets free for youngsters who turned them into pitches t hone their football skills. For many families, it was a period to stay home and rekindle family ties.

A number of reasons have been professed for the low turnout at the elections. Former Lagos State governor, Ashiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, in some reports, attributed it to voter apathy that followed the April general elections. A number of respondents have, however, attributed their disinterest in the poll to the poor performance of existing local government chairmen. A common view in the country is that local councils are more of revenue collectors than offices devoted to the service of the people. Lagos state councils have not proven themselves an exception in this regard.

Tinubu has, however, been quick to rise to the defence of the councils, attributing their non-performance to their perennial under-funding by the Federal Government, which takes the larger percentage of national revenue.

The critical issue, however, is what local governments do with the amounts paid to them. Widespread reports indicate that such monies are shared by local government chairmen and their officials and sponsors, with no benefit seen to accrue to the people.

The challenge before Nigerians, therefore, is to make local councils work.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As amended) clearly enumerates different responsibilities of the third tier of government. The councils have responsibility for sanitation, drainages, local roads, administration of markets, abattoirs and so many other responsibilities that have direct bearing on the lives of the people.

How much of these have local governments been doing? Again, candidates for the election hardly campaigned beyond posting of posters on walls. There were also allegations of imposition of candidates in some councils, with turnout in some places reported to be as low as 10% of registered voters.

Although the elections were largely peaceful albeit with undersupply of voting materials in many places, and allegations of ballot box snatching in others, the challenge before winners in the elections is to change Lagosians' perception of governance at the local government level.

Politicians at this level have to be proactive and committed to addressing challenges facing their communities. Roads in many of the councils have collapsed, with no efforts made to repair, if not rebuild them. Blocked drainages are a menace contributing to flooding in many areas, while sanitation is not accorded any attention. Local government chieftains need to fine-tune their view of local government administration and change for the better. They need to begin to see themselves as elected to serve the people.

That tier of government is not a revenue-generating arm of government. It is a service arm that is closest to the people. Its operators, therefore, ought to change their orientation of harassing and levying the people to that of offering service, which will encourage the people to willingly pay all required levies and dues to that arm of government. Let them be more committed to serving the people by responding to their needs, and not just sending revenue collectors after them.

If this happens, there will be more enthusiasm for that tier of government. Maybe then, restriction of movement for local government elections will no longer be viewed as just another holiday.

Mail Box
Jonathan said no going back on fuel subsidy removal and even Suswan in Benue State said the same. By the time the crisis will start very soon, it will consume Jonathan and Suswan, and by that time, they will begging Nigerians, please, don't shoot us like Gadaffi begged Libyans at the last minute.

Tayo Tola Agbaye,
Garki, Abuja. 08056373583
I read you article on Nigeria at 50. My sister, we are not only paying high prices for electricity not supplied, even after 51 years as one of the largest producers of crude oil, we don't have a working refinery and they want to remove subsidy so that we pay high for what God has given us free of charge. I enjoyed reading the article. Nigeria's problem is that our leaders cannot manage our resources. May God help us.

Pa Ayodele's death is regrettable. It is unfortunate that an old man who laboured for this country will die in the process of collecting his entitlements. I pray those conducting this pension verification exercise will fashion out better ways for it lest this calamity befall them at their own time.

Reginald Ihejirika,
At least someone has shown concern for pensioners. God will show concern for you.

U. Ike, ]07085265475
Pensioners were once at the helm of affairs where they bastardized the civil service. They are reaping the fruit of their recklessness.

Valent, Enugu,
Truth of the matter is that we have failed. Government refuses listening to the cry of workers as per their pensions and gratuities. We operate government of winner takes all from our leaders who are after their own pockets, not minding that pensioners contribute to their victories at the polls.

Thereafter, they abandon them to their fate. The only solution to this bad situation is a revolution if they fail to deliver good governance to the masses.

Gordon Nnorom, Umukabia.
Abia State.
Boko Haram, don't kill innocent Nigerians again. I want you guys to be killing all the armed robbers in government, both in the executive and the National Assembly.

Tayo Tola Agbaye
Garki, Abuja