By Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa
Bayelsa State government says it is currently one of the few states in the country where other arms of government function independently including the local government system.
The State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, stated this when the National President of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Comrade Akeem Olatunji-Ambali, called on him in Yenagoa.
According to him, the clamour for financial autonomy for the local councils is in line with the principles of rule of law and separation of powers.
He said the state government had since given its approval of financial autonomy to the councils, and therefore, does not in any way tamper with their funds.
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His words, “We have not only exercised autonomy for our local government system here but also addressed several issues people are protesting for elsewhere. In Bayelsa, we have autonomy for the Judiciary since 2013 and the House of Assembly in 2019.
“Bayelsa State is one state where we don’t tamper with local government funds. As the funds come, the chairmen meet with the state at the Joint Allocation Committee, JAC, and what we do is to approve the JAC figures and they go back to dispense.
“Only recently, in addition to what we are giving to the local government for the payment of primary school teachers, we have just decided to give another N252million as support to councils.”
On the issue of 30 percent Minimum Wage for council workers, Ewhrudjakpo said the state government in consultation with council chairmen and state NULGE leadership, had set up a committee to look into its implementation.
The deputy governor, however, urged NULGE to take the issue of reforms in the local government system seriously with a view to addressing the excesses of some council chairmen and for the overall benefit of rural dwellers.
On the appeal for the completion of NULGE state headquarters, he promised that the government will look into their request for appropriate action.
Speaking earlier, the National President of NULGE, Comrade Olatunji-Ambali, explained that his team was in the state in continuation of the union’s nationwide advocacy campaign for local government autonomy.
Comrade Ambali described the local government as the most strategic, relevant, and direct system of government that must be accorded its pride of place in the country to positively impact the masses.
He also identified insecurity in the country as a challenge that can be addressed significantly, if the local government system that interfaces directly with the traditional rulers and rural people is strengthened.
While appreciating the state government for its support to the local government system, he appealed for the completion of the union’s secretariat in the state.