As a democratically elected local representative, every day you will be expected to balance the needs of your local area.
As a Councillor you will have many different roles to balance. As the local elected representative you will engage with residents and groups on a wide range of different issues and take on an important community leadership role.
First, The NFIU rules and the assumption of office by the newly ‘Elected’ chairmen on Cross River State after five years, have both combined to give me a new task of ensuring that we sustain the discussion around how the N3billion that goes to the 18 LGAs in our State is expended.
But the goal of making these huge resources work for our rural people will remain illusive if councillors who are lawmakers at that level, do not know their duties.
Councillors are like senators and house of Representatives members at the federal level or like members of state houses of assembly at the state level. They are the ones saddle with the Constitutional role of making by-laws for the administration of LG councils in Nigeria.
A by-law is a rule or law established by an organization or community to regulate itself , as allowed or provided for by some higher authority. The higher authority, the state house of Assembly in our case, establishes the degree of control that the by-laws exercise.
Like federal and state lawmakers, councillors are elected to represent their local communities in the running of their local council and they have very important roles to play.
Among others, they are meant to communicate council policy and decisions to people in their wards.
All councillors are meant to be advocates for their communities and are case workers for their individual constituents whon advise or support is requested, while also acting as advocates for the best interest of their wards and also the wider council area.
Councillors are also meant to lobby for local concerns and issues that are important to their various wards.
They are meant to be resolving potential conflicts among community organizations.
It is part of their role to support communities to develop their own solutions to problems in their area, where appropriate.
Balancing competing demands for resources when making decisions in the best interest of the whole LGA.
These tasks are usually achieved in Chambers through a set of organized rules which include:
1. Standing order: There are rules to ensure that council and committee meetings are run properly and decisions are made in an open and accountable way.
2. Contract standing order: the rules for buying goods and services, as decided by the council.
3. Financial regulations: rules to make sure the council is honest and open when dealing with public money.
After election, you will now be able to contribute to the development and review of the councils policies through your role in challenging and scrutinizing the work of the council. Councillors are the only locally democratically elected community Representatives capable of holding public Services to account for their performance within local communities. Having been sworn in, councillors now have a key role to play in scrutinizing and monitoring how well services are delivered by the council and it’s partners.
Be mindful that councils are not just service providers. They also play a regulatory role in issues such as planning, licensing, trading standards and environmental health.
This involves councillors playing quasi-legal roles on special committees. These regulatory committees operate within a specific set of legislation and guidance that will be provided by the councillors.
Since no politician can yet get into office in Nigeria without political party affiliation, councillors are as well expected to remain affiliated, disciplined and report back to their parties.
They should engage with their Local party organization and meet regularly as a political group within the ward to continually review party policy to be abreast of council policy.
In a nutshell, councillors are like federal and state lawmakers, they are legislators and Representatives of their various communities who have control of an arm of government at the local level to oversight and checkment the chairman for the effective management of our resources and our communities.
Finally, there is also a need to reassess the quality of people we elect as councillors considering the important roles they play in the administration of our councils and the volume of money that now goes into the council.
By Agba Jalingo.