>By Funmi Falobi and Tobi Oyetunde<
As part of efforts to ensure community driven development at the grassroots, the International Press Centre (IPC), has launched community development charters for Lagos communities. The charter, otherwise called village book, captures the community profile and summary of development aspirations of grassroot communities following series of community led engagements facilitated by IPC in 18 communities across six local government areas of Lagos State with the support of Actionaid Nigeria and the Department for International Development DFID/UKaid, under a democratic governance initiative tagged: Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Electoral Process (SCEEP).
Speaking at the public presentation of the charters to the first set of three communities in Lagos, namely, Erejuwa-Makoko, Otumara-Ilaje and Isale-Iwaya in Lagos Mainland Local Government, the Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade noted that there was the need for the media to do more in community reporting to aid grassroot development.
“The media doesn’t really cover the grassroots citizens and what happen there. So there is a need to change the orientation of journalists. They should not only report campaign before election but do follow up after the election. This is called solution driven rural community reporting”.
Highlighting the importance of the charter, Vanessa Edhebru, representing Actionaid said that the charter is to see that the excluded people stand a chance to partake in development process and that’s why the reflective methodology action was used to get the voice and wish of the people. She declared that the charter “will help to avert violence in the act of getting recognition and also give the people room to represent themselves in a way that the government will know that they know what they are doing.”
In his keynote address entitled “Enhancing Grassroots Development, Integrating Community Stakeholder in Governance” Mr. Adeola Soetan, National Coordinator, Democracy Vanguard enjoined the people to be participatory active citizenry by being sensitive to how they are governed and be pro-active by participating in government.
He implored community members to know what is right for them and be more conversant with their grassroots government. He explained that since various communities in their varied forms and formats constitute the building blocks of local government, the local government as the nearest to the people becomes the most important tier of government.
“Democracy without grassroots development is like tea without sugar or honey. Community should be the basic unit of development by virtue of the fact that this is where the overwhelming majority of the people, especially the poor and vulnerable who mostly need the basic essentials of life are”, he said.
According to him, it is better for people to know what they want than what the government thinks they want.
“Democracy should be like a pyramid that starts from the grassroots. People should be more concerned with what is happening in their communities than focusing on the federal.
“People should always put pressure on the government and themselves by monitoring budgets and projects, have a balanced agenda and ensure that everybody is involved in government. They should hold regular meetings with elected/appointed representatives to assess performance, evaluate feedback for effective information dissemination and useful communication management between government and the governed,” he said.
Receiving copies of the charter, the Executive Secretary of Lagos Mainland, Mrs. Essien Rashidah Omolola stated thus; “these papers and lists of what the people want will surely get to our leaders. Everybody should join hands and work hard to build and develop the communities.”
Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Lagos State on Community Development Affairs and State Chairman, Lagos State Community Development Advisory Committee, Alhaji. Tajudeen Quadri noted that Lagosians have demonstrated yearning for basic amenities and not money, adding that it was the desire of government to meet the needs of the people.
“This present government is community driven, hence, the people should say whatever they want and the government will do it for them”, he said as he urged community members to also put in place measures to supervise the maintenance of newly constructed projects.
Commending the initiative, participants urged government at the local level to look into their needs in order to speed up development in their respective communities. Commenting on the development needs of the grassroot communities, the Baale of Otumara, Chief Kehinde Kalejaiye stressed the need for a health centre in Otumara community. He said: “as big as Otumara is, there is no health centre and we need a health centre in Otumara.”