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Cameroon: Elecam board member Prof. Njeuma praises ‘special status’ bill

Elecam board member Professor Dorothy Limunga Njeuma has welcome the bill to institute a general code on regional and local authorities describing it as being much better to the bilingualism bill.

According to Prof. Njeuma, the bill is quite comprehensive and addresses several recommendations of the Major National Dialogue but admitted much still needs to be done within the confines of the special status to satisfy the aspirations of the people of the North West and South West Regions.

Read on to get her full thoughts on the bill….

Bill to Institute a General Code on Regional and Local Authorities Remarks 

1-Despite its length (501 sections, 142 pages), the bill is much better structured and much better drafted than the bill on official languages that raised a lot of dust. A table of contents should be provided at the beginning of the bill, to facilitate its perusal.

2. Some people feel that on the whole, the Bill still leaves us in a considerable state of dependence on the Central Government and, largely, makes a joke of the notion of “autonomy.” They are convinced that people in the central government are relentless in their pursuit of dominance and control of the resources of our SW Region, particularly. They point out that many details have been left out of the bill for further legislation and that such liberties should not be given to the Executive branch of Government.

3. My view is that the bill is quite comprehensive, addresses many of the recommendations of the National Dialogue and is a positive step forward. It brings out some details of what many people in the NW and SW regions want to see in the Special Status, especially in section 3 and sections 327 – 370, even if a lot still remains to be done to satisfy the prescriptions of the anxiously awaited Special Status.

4. However, the use of “may” instead of “shall be” in section 328 denies the people of the NW and SW regions the right to participate in decision making on issues of fundamental importance to their existence.

5. Section 328 should be read in conjunction with section 167 and 277 which provides in their paragraphs 2 and 1respectively that the Council Board and the Regional Council shall settle regional matters by deliberation and paragraphs 6 and 5 respectively which provides that the Council Board or Regional Council “shall mandatorily be consulted for the implementation, in the territory of the council area or region, of any development or equipment project by the State, councils or any public, semi-public or private body.”

6. The introduction of an Ombudsman, otherwise referred to as a Public Independent Conciliator in sections 367 – 371, is a welcome innovation and should be applauded. However, his appointment should not depend on proposals by the Representative of the State and the President of the Regional Council (section 368), since most complaints by citizens are likely to be against these two officials.

7. The meaning of section 368 (4) as formulated in English and in French is not clear. In the English version, it reads: He shall not be bound by professional secrecy. The French version reads: Le secret professionnel ne lui est pas opposable. I wonder what is meant by that provision as formulated in English or in French and whether the two versions mean the same thing.

8. A rational and equitable revenue allocation formula to the regions should be spelt out in the bill. Regions should receive royalties for exploitation of natural resources of their areas.

9. The management of land is fundamental. Measures should be provided to fight against land grabbing by Administrators and Mayors.

10. Some people think that the implication of the Representative of the State in the affairs of the region is unwelcome. My personal view is that there must be some control over unscrupulous mayors, most of whom are only interested in enriching themselves at the expense of the people.

11. There are a few inaccurate translations into English that need to be corrected – section 8 (first sentence), title on p. 17, etc.

12. For the title of the bill in English, should we just say “Local Government” or “Local Councils” instead of “Regional and Local Authorities?” If “Collectivités Territorial Décentralisées” has a clear meaning in French and refers to a structure, “Regional and Local Authorities” in English may refer to persons/officials.

13. It should be noted that council schools of Basic Education are under the control and management of Council Boards (section 161) while government secondary schools, high schools and colleges of Secondary Education in the region are under the control and management of Regional Councils (sections 271 and 278). Similarly, Council Boards shall control and manage Health Centres (section 160) while Regional Councils shall control and manage health facilities (section 270); may be that section should read district and regional hospitals instead of health facilities.

14. It is provided in the bill that Council Boards shall recruit and manage teaching and support staff of Council schools of Basic Education (section 161) while Regional Councils shall recruit and manage teaching and support staff of government secondary schools, high schools and colleges of the region (section 271). Similarly, Council Boards shall recruit and manage nursing staff and paramedics of integrated health centres and sub-divisional health centres (section 160) while Regional Councils shall recruit and manage nursing and paramedical staff of district and regional hospitals (section 270).

15. It should be made clear which schools and staff shall remain under the purview of the Ministries of Basic Education and Secondary Education respectively. Is there a distinction between Council Schools and Government Schools at basic education level? If it is ALL SCHOOLS and ALL STAFF that are to be transferred, that will be a HUGE responsibility for the Local Councils and Regional Councils. Clear rules and regulations of Public Service for the categories of staff concerned will have to be spelt out to avoid more frustrations than those experienced by teachers, nurses and doctors at present.

16. It should also be noted that the bill does not envisage the control, recruitment and management of staff of youth, sports and physical education as well as social affairs and other specialties such as agriculture and community development in council areas and regions by local and regional councils.

mm Published on 01.08.2022

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