By Oluwatope Lawanson
Yiaga Africa, a Civic Society and Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), on Saturday advocated the use of People’s Assembly to improve democratic practice in Nigeria.
Mr Ibrahim Faruk, Programme Manager, Governance and Development, Yiaga Africa, spoke at a two-day retreat on the ‘Concept of People’s Assembly as a Form of Deliberative Democracy at the Local Level’ in Lagos
Faruk said that the People’s Assembly was an initiative of Yiaga Africa under its ‘Turn Up Democracy Project.’
According to him, People’s Assembly will help in bridging the gap between the citizens and the government as it is a democracy tool to promote public discourse.
Faruk said that ‘Turn-Up Democracy” was supported by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom.
He explained that the Assembly’s establishment was part of efforts to re-ignite faith in democracy and bridge the gap between citizens and the government.
“The people’s assembly will help to build the needed trust and re-establish that connection.
“It also gives the local government more legitimacy when decisions are taken in consultation with the people in their local government areas.
“The commencement of this initiative at the local government level is borne from the recognition of the importance of democratic governance at the level of government closest to the people,’’ he said.
Faruk said that one of the focuses of People’s Assembly was on how it could improve democratic practice, build citizens power and reclaim the state.
He said: “The people’s assembly is a model that is centred around deliberative democracy and what this means is that the citizens have an opportunity to deliberate while creating a space where they learn, identify issues and also find common solutions.
“At the end, the local government executives would gather the challenges and solutions proposed by the people’s assembly.
“They will then factor that into policy decisions or into budget or into determining were projects are sighted based on the issues and solutions that are provided by the people’s assembly.”
Faruk said that the retreat sought to promote a culture of deliberation through a People’s Assembly to inform policy decisions at the local level.
“We are focusing on the local level and finding the local solutions after citizens have identified their major concerns.
“At the end of the retreat, we hope to have been able to institute the practice of deliberative democracy,” he said.
Mr Sulaimon Yusuf, Chairman, Surulere Local Government, said there should be more involvement of stakeholders in the process of policy and decision making .
Yusuf also urged Yiaga Africa to be more involved in sensitising members of the community and their leaders on the importance of their involvement in governance and legislative engagement.
Also, speaking, Mr Akeem Dauda, Secretary, Ikeja Local Government, called on the Federal Government and the National Assembly to grant local governments autonomy through a review of the constitution.
This, he said, would enhance more developmental projects at the local government levels.
Prof. Surajudeen Mudashiru, Department of Political Science, Lagos State University (LASU), speaking on the experiences of local government leaders on governance, highlighted the challenges faced and opportunities for improved governance on the local government areas.
While decrying the high cost of democracy in Africa, Mudashiru said that it gave room to godfatherism which would make them to be at disadvantage because of the “Terms and Conditions” involved.
According to him, the people’s assembly will enhance democracy from the bottom/grassroots to the top.
“Through this, we will be able to have more youths inclusion in politics and governance because the population of youths still outweighs the older ones, therefore, it should be harnessed,” he said.
Mudashiru advised political leaders to stop giving handouts to “Area Boys” instead they should create sustainable jobs like mechanised farming.
“By providing jobs, the state will be self-sustainable. This is all about commitment and the government should be committed to the well-being of the people.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that participants comprised Chairmen/Representatives from Ikeja, Surulere and Kosofe Local Government Areas, local government Secretaries, representatives of youths and organisations, and faith-based groups.
Yiaga Africa advocates use of People’s Assemb;y to improve democratic practice in Nigeria
By Oluwatope Lawanson