Promotion of Security and Good Governance at Local Government Level – The Role of Town Unions and Development Associations in Aniniri Lga of Enugu State

Written by Emeka J. Ononamadu - Executive Director. Posted in Resources

Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights CCIDESOR – 08037423140. 

Excerpts

·         "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." - Marie Curie      

·         "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin.

Introduction

Violence, crime and conflicts are largely the product of struggle to gain access to common resources. When struggle ensues in the process of gaining access to public resources, it means that the sharing or application formula is questionable or lacks public trust. It may also mean that the level of depletion is scary and causes loss of hope.

Historically the major reason for setting up any collective government is to ensure equitable distribution or sharing of common resources and to provide security. Therefore government could be said to be the resource distribution arbiter. In our local context, we refer to distribution of public resources as “allocation”. From the above analysis, if we have a serious insecurity situation in Nigeria, in Enugu state and in  Aninri Local Government Area, the first suspect should be the three tiers of government, who hold public resources in trust.   The second suspect is the citizens who are supposed to control the way and manner government manage common resources through sustained accountability projects.  Where the demand and supply side of good governance fail to perform their responsibilities well, then the responsibilities that go with insecurity and poor governance should be shared across board.   

The land of the rising sun, which once had the near absence of all elements of insecurity, is currently one of the most unsafe and underdeveloped in Nigeria. It is unsafe because the traditional Igbo republican society has abandons the traditional value of “being the safe keepers of one another”, which can be located in the idiomatic expression of onye aghala nwanne ya, particularlywhen common resources are being distributed. With the distribution of common resources skewed towards certain persons or communities at the expense of others, the Igbo values which say that the safety of all is the responsibility of all becomes ineffective, leaving the security of neighborhoods to the sole responsibility of the police. Ndigbo have also abandoned their traditional leadership principle of good governance to government, which used to be the basic responsibility of traditional political and development associations through the application of ‘eziokwu bu ndu as a collective value.  This has led to the common attitude of “we versus them” – a situation where development is no longer seen as a collective right but as a gift. 

Today, the level of insecurity, which is sustained by poor governance, community security and development is no longer the sole responsibility of the police and government, it is the business of all stakeholders at both the demand and supply end. That is why after huge expenditures of public resources, the police has been unable to contain the epidemic of crime and corruption induced underdevelopment. Because of the development consequences of insecurity, communities can no longer afford to remain indifferent in the face of general insecurity which includes (a) weak community economy, (b) increased expenditure on law enforcement, (c) wasting of the future of crime offender due to tougher sentences, (d) fear and tension and (e) loss of confidence in the state. The links between poverty and social disadvantage, crime and victimization have shown that communities and local authorities need to work together to prevent crime and enthrone good governance. Looking at the involvement of local authorities across a number of countries in Europe, North America, Africa, and Australia, there is a shift from a relatively narrow focus on crime prevention to the broader issue of community safety and security as a good foundation for sustainable development. The role of community associations can be found in this shift of focus from crime prevention to community safety and good governance. 

Good Governance and Security

The concept of "governance" is as old as human civilization while the qualification of governance as either good or bad has been thrown up since the advent of large scale corruption in the management of public resources. Governance whether good or bad encompasses security. That is why it is difficult to deal with the subject of security without first talking about governance.  Good governance has been in front burner of public discourse since political power seekers do anything necessary to acquire power.  Governance means the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented).  The open and accountable process of decision making and implementation is therefore described as good governance, while the opposite refers to bad governance.  Since it is not only government that takes decision, government is only one of the actors of governance at the upstream level, while  community authorities and groups like the traditional leadership, community development leadership, or Town Unions  etc are downstream governance actors.  As governance actors, it is pertinent to conduct self-evaluation of how development and security have been applied in running community affairs.

Good governance and right to development are intertwined. Good governance has eight major features that can assist governance actors in self-evaluation. They include (a) participation, (b) consensus oriented, (c) accountability, (d) transparency, (e) responsiveness, (f) effectiveness and efficiency, (g) equity and inclusiveness (h) the rule of law. The application of these features ensures that crime is minimized, and development maximized. 

Looking at security from human actions, it simply means the absence of harm to life and property. People think of themselves as being secure when they can go about their lives with ‘reasonable and probable grounds’ for believing that their bodies and material possessions will not be harmed. So community security is appreciated when people can walk about without being harmed, kidnapped, and killed or their properties stolen. But when enterprising sons and daughters  from this area communities cannot freely come home, sleep at home or fear to invest at home to create jobs and boast Aninri LGA economy, It proves the organic link between insecurity and poverty or adversity.                           . 

Today, we are living in a society where no one is secured, including the law enforcement agents. We are in local government where, before now, it may be extremely difficult for some communities have not known what dividend of democracy really means, since 1999.  We live in an area where the gap between the rich and the poor is wider than that gap between “heaven and hell” and where the large percentages of our young people are not employed. These wide gaps between “their heaven and “our hell” exist because of the increase in the levels of fraud, waste and abuse of public resources.  What this presentation intends to achieve is to offer opinion on ways the Local Government and communities can work together to install security and implement sustainable development agenda. The role of communities can be clearly seen in any step taken to reverse the big gulf that has held us down for many years. 

Community Unions has a lot of roles to play either as development facilitators or security custodians of their communities. They include peace promotion, conflict mitigation and resolution, development facilitation, safety, Human Rights protection, general awareness, change catalyst, application of rights based approach to development, etc. These rights include basic rights, social, political and economic rights among others. No one can realize his/her self-worth in any community in Aniniri LGA in the absence of these rights. In fact, the absence of these rights is what constitutes insecurity, lack of jobs, poverty and corruption. The duty of town unions and associations is, therefore,  to ensure the realization of these rights by community members through the facilitation of citizens’ empowerment, participation, accountability and transparency. 

EMPOWERNMENT

The development of skills, practical knowledge, experience, awareness, and communication are basic requirement to undertake effective empowerment.  Empowerment also means providing adequate, correct and timely information to avoid community members wallowing in ignorance and taking laws into their hands as a result of rumours, which may create further insecurity in the communities. This communication must be vertical and horizontal in practice. It is horizontal when community and association leaderships speak to each other and compare notes on security. Vertical when the community leadership received and gives information to community members on the basis of trust and with the clear intention to empower them. In this empowerment process, which has awareness and communication as two major driving factors, there should be reliance on diverse local media sources such as town criers, usage of community based associations to spread information faster and accurately. When community leadership spreads vital and accurate information to the community members and when the community members trust and rely on the accuracy of information they receive from their leaders, trust, which is a good foundation for development and security is planted. While the opposite leads to mistrust and increases community insecurity.

Common characteristics of effective community empowerment include good communication, trust building, awareness and reasonable enforcement of governing documents. Inclusiveness—the governance involvement of as many residents of the community as possible—is a critical element in empowering a community. When people are empowered, it becomes easy to engage them in the promotion of good governance or improvement of security. 

PARTICIPATION

Not only is participation a requirement for good governance, it is also critical to community security. Studies have shown that communities with high rates of participation witness better governance induced development than communities with low participation. In most every Igbo community, there is governance hierarchy, made up of different traditional, development and cultural groups. Most of these groups do not have any direct responsibility assigned to them. Therefore, assigning good governance and security responsibilities is a key step towards participation. Sharing responsibilities make it extremely important to get all hands on deck. Participation encourages ownership and confidence. It testifies to the level of transparency and honesty while building the required cohesion needed to promote good governance and security of the community. 

In the context of Aninri LGA, participation will include the reactivation of our valid community structures, organizations and teams or the establishment of new ones that can participate in the promotion of good governance and security within and outside the community. These structures will undertake as well as link up with appropriate law enforcement agencies to ensure good governance and security.  Facilitating regular meetings, consultations to extract input and getting every community member involved, are good governance parameters. Participation can take place in the following areas: community project monitoring, community security organization, regular development and security meetings, accountability meetings, and participation in policy formulation, implementation and review. 

Accountability

Accountability is a key requirement of good governance. It is not only required from governmental institutions but also from local authorities, communities executives and civil society organizations. The level of accountability by government as well as civil society organization determines quality of good governance which has organic link with community security. An organization or institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions, actions or inactions. 

Accountability is one of the cornerstones of good governance. It exists when there is a relationship where an individual or body; the performance of tasks or functions by that individual or body, are subject to another’s oversight, direction or request that they provide information or justification for their actions. Therefore, the concept of accountability involves two distinct stages: answerability and enforcement. Answerability refers to the obligation of the government, its agencies and public officials to provide information about their decisions and actions and to justify them to the public and those institutions of accountability tasked with providing oversight. Enforcement suggests that the public or the community group responsible for accountability can sanction the offending party or remedy the contravening behavior. 

The concept of accountability can be classified according to the type of accountability exercised and/ or the person, group or institution the public official answers to. So accountability can be horizontal or vertical. Horizontal accountability is the capacity of state institutions to check abuses by other public agencies and branches of government, or the requirement for agencies to report its activities. Alternatively, vertical accountability is the means through which community groups, citizens, mass media and civil society seek to enforce standards of good performance on officials. Accountability is like feeding “trust candle” with flame. It creates the conducive community environment to entrench good governance and security to all.

Transparency

The nature of decision taking in the communities makes it necessary to separate transparency and accountability. In some cases, decisions are taken to show where power lies or flows from not in the overall interest of the community.  This is because not all accountability is done transparently.  Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations of the country, the state, the Local Government and finally the community. It means openness in handling public resources and issues. It also means that decision and information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided and that it is provided in easily understandable forms and media. The communities should therefore try to apply these seven steps of transparent leadership[1]. They include: (a) Tell the Truth, (b) Encourage People to Speak Truth to authorities, (c) Reward Contrarians, (d) Practice Having Unpleasant Conversations, (e) Diversify Information Sources, (f) Admit Mistakes, and (g) Build Organizational Support for Transparency.


Conclusion

There is no development in Aninri Local Government that will be sustainable without security of lives and properties. There will also not be any security without development which can be realized through good governance. Since security and development are intertwined, it means they must be pursed simultaneously. Good governance must not be transient in communities; it must entail the sustainable upgrading of participation quality and rights based approach to development, where development is seen as the right of communities and citizens.  The closest government at the local level must mobilize all hands to be on deck to reverse this increasing insecurity and demand that the basic right to life be respected through the provision of adequate security, and other basic infrastructure that promote security and good living.  Our socio-economic rights are lost to insecurity when many of our community member are poor, unemployed, uneducated and unable to meet up with their daily needs.  We can use development to improve security or use security to attract development and peace. It is time to be guided by the maxim which states that the security of one is dependent on the security of all.   

Thank You.

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