By Ugochukwu Alaribe, Umuahia
President of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Abia State chapter, Mr Ikechi Nwaigwe, has said that the bill seeking to delist local governments from the Constitution is inimical to the entire 774 local government workers, political office holders as well as the rural populace and won’t succeed.
The bill sponsored by Hon. Bob Solomon, PDP/Rivers, is currently before the House of Representatives where it has passed first reading.
Nwaigwe, who stated this in an interview with Vanguard in Umuahia, said that the best thing the sponsor of the bill could have done was to support Labour to ensure that the National Assembly grants autonomy to the local governments, and not engaging in an exercise that would meet a dead-end because it is unpopular.
He explained that the major challenge of the local government system in Nigeria is lack of autonomy, stressing that once full autonomy is granted, the local governments would develop the grassroots.
ALSO READ: Prophet Odumeje ‘Ndaboski’ opens up on his spiritual powers, gives reason people call him devil
In his words; The bill seeking to delist local governments from the Constitution bill is dead on arrival because it is unpopular. It won’t succeed. NULGE can’t keep quiet when something is going wrong in our environment. We are kicking against the bill because it is an affront to the democratic setting; it is also a bill that is inimical to the democratic setup. It is a bill that is inimical to the rural people.
“It is a bill that is inimical to the entire 774 LGA workers, the councillors, other political office holders and the grassroots in the local government system across Nigeria. It is a bill that stands against the rural people enjoying the dividends of democracy. What we had expected the sponsor of the bill, Hob. Bob Solomon, to do was to support Labour to ensure that the National Assembly grants autonomy to the local governments. Full autonomy will take care of the challenges of the local government in Nigeria. The major problem of the local government system is full financial and administrative autonomy; once that is granted, the challenges of the LGAs will be over.
Asked about the alleged hijack of the local governments by the Governors through the Joint Allocation Account Committee, JAAC; Nwaigwe insisted that granting full autonomy to the local governments would also remove state governments from JAAC as well as JAAC from the Constitution.
“As far as we are concerned, the issue of hijack is an overstatement. The Governors have not hijacked the local governments, what they have done is through the position of JAAC which is contained in the 1999 Constitution, as amended. The application of JAAC is affecting the financial and administrative autonomy of the local governments. What we are asking is that the local governments should be granted full autonomy.
When full autonomy is granted, it will jettison JAAC from the Constitution. It will also remove the State governments from JAAC. It will also strip the Governors the power to appoint State Independent Electoral Commissions. If the autonomy is granted and the INEC conducts local government polls, then you will see that full autonomy can bring development to the local governments.
He disclosed that NULGE would soon visit the residences and constituency offices of members of the national and state legislatures from the Abia state to lobby them to support full autonomy to the local governments.
“Recall that the last National Assembly approved full autonomy for local governments, but according to the Constitution, it has to go through the Houses of Assembly in the 36 states of the federation where you must get a two-thirds majority. The bill died in the State Houses of Assembly because we were not able to get the required two-thirds majority. However, we didn’t stop at that, we continued the struggle. We believe that this current National Assembly will do the needful by affirming what the last National Assembly had done. For us, no stone would be left unturned in ensuring that that full autonomy is granted to the local governments in Nigeria.
“We need the support of everybody including the President of Nigeria. He has an identification letter from a local government; otherwise, he isn’t qualified to occupy any position. Everyone occupying a position, political or civil service needs identification from a local government. This means that we are beneficiaries of the local government system.”