Sen. Abdullahi Gumel, Chairman Senate Committee on States and Local Government Administration, has expressed optimism that Local Government autonomy will scale through in the ongoing Constitution Amendment process.
Gumel who made this known in an interview with the Newsmen on Sunday, said the cooperation enjoyed from the speakers of state assemblies in the constitution amendment retreat was a sign that local government autonomy would not fail this time.
According to him, the benefits that accrue to the establishment of local government autonomy are enormous, adding that it would go a long way in bringing government closer to the people.
“All Speakers of state houses of assembly and all majority leaders of state houses of assembly were in attendance at the Constitution Review Retreat and we voted in favour of local government autonomy,” he said.
The chairman blamed state governments for scuttling efforts to vote in favour of local government autonomy in the past.
He said governors who were not in support of the move often gave the excuse that it was not constitutional.
Gumel urged state assemblies not to allow anybody discourage them from working in the interest of the people.
He said the National Assembly had played its part by voting in favour of the item, urging state assemblies to consider the plight of Nigerians at the grassroots and allow it to pass.
“If some governors feel it is not constitutional to give autonomy to local governments, we are amending the constitution and we are giving Nigerians a tier of government that is closer to them, dear to them and can do the job that they want.
“it is unfortunate that efforts in the past failed particularly at the state assembly level but with this year’s participation, particularly by state assemblies, we are hopeful that it will scale through.
“It is not something new; we are only emphasising that the state assemblies should wake up and take responsibility to see that this tier of government is fully established.
“Section VII of the 1999 Constitution (Amended) provides that states must establish local government administration.
“With this, a democratically elected local government is guaranteed not a caretaker committee because it is strange to the constitution,’’ he said.
Gumel stressed that local government autonomy would attract quality people to the grassroots.
He pointed out that professionals, who had a lot to offer in developing the grassroots were not interested in working at the local government level because it would amount to “intellectual suicide.
“If you train as engineer for instance and go to the local government, there will be nothing to do. You only collect your salary and go home.
“How would you put what you have learnt into practice in that situation?
“If the local governments are getting their funds directly, there will be structures on ground to enable people practice their profession and help develop the grassroots.
“Right now if you go the local government headquarters you will not see anybody. There is no symbol of authority.
“The chairmen only share the pittance they are given by the governors to the people and leave for the city.
“The only symbol of authority in those places are a headmaster, a pastor or an imam. Even the DPOs do not stay. They go to the city and leave their subordinates there,’’ he said.
The senator commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the political will to see to the establishment of local government autonomy, adding that it was the only way local governments could be vibrant.