By Peter Okutu
ABAKALIKI—MEMBERS of National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, yesterday in their numbers took to the streets and major roads in Abakaliki to support the ongoing clamour for autonomy within the local government system.
The workers, who carried placards with various inscriptions, also stormed the House of Assembly and Government House Abakaliki where they were addressed by the state Head of Service, Dr. Chamberlin Nwele.
Speaking at the Government House Gate Abakaliki during the protest, National Trustee of NULGE, Comrade Abimbola Babaloloa said local government autonomy will stop deductions of local government allocation by governors.
He noted that the autonomy will bring sanity to the system and strengthen the local government administration in the country.
“If we have our own resources, we will manage it well. We want direct allocations to local governments so that it will stop the deductions being made by our governors. When we have them in our poll, we know how to utilize them better for the people. We want democracy to get to the roots, let democracy thrive at the grassroots; let it be to the standard everybody wants.
“In the past, leadership was grown from the local government system but this day, everything has just been in shambles including the election that is being handled by the SIECs. We want LG election to be handled by INEC. Lets have democracy at the grassroots. We are the people that are voting”, he said.
On his part, the state NULGE President, Comrade Leonard Nkah argued that with full autonomy, the third tier of government will provide more dividends of democracy to the people.
“Politically, autonomy will create a level playing ground for true grassroots politicians to emerge as chairmen and councillors. This will surely create such level of stability that will attract high profile individuals to come and participate in the grassroots governance and contribute their quota towards an enviable local government system, thus reducing the pressure and quest for state/federal appointments.”
Responding, the state Head of Service Dr. Chamberlin Nwele said that in Ebonyi state, over 50% of the local governments cannot pay salaries of the local government workers.
“About seven out of the 13 local government areas in Ebonyi state cannot pay salaries of workers in the system. Should we have local government autonomy?
”Today, salaries are paid on or before 15th of every month in the state at both the state and local government levels because of the governor’s ingenuity in managing the lean resources of the state,” he said.