By Olasunkanmi Akoni
The National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, on Thursday, threatened to storm the House of Representatives in protest against the proposed bill to delist the local government from the constitution, moving minimum age from Exclusive List to Concurrent List, among others.
The union, however, stated that if in the next two weeks, the speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, failed to give the audience to the body, it would storm the National Assembly complex in Abuja in protest.
National President, Comrade Hakeem Ambali, made the remarks in Lagos at an Extraordinary SEC Meeting/Press briefing, at the union’s headquarters, to deliberate on issues, including clamour for Local Government Autonomy, Delisting of Local Government as the Third Tier of Government and Moving Minimum Wage from Exclusive List to Concurrent List.
The NULGE president, who expressed displeasure at the proposed moves by the House of Representatives, described it as an attempt to kill local government administration in the country.
He said union leaders had been mandated to pay visits to members of the Lower Chambers in their respective constituencies as part of advocacy and engagement to let them know that they should stand by the people as their true representatives and not against them.
He insisted that the union would take every step necessary to prevail on the lawmakers of the National Assembly, to jettison the idea of delisting local government administration from the constitution, adding that if the move failed, members of the union across the federation shall not only stage protest at the National Assembly but at all the State Houses of Assembly across the federation.
Ambali said the series of protest would be carried out to drive home their points with the lawmakers the importance of local government administration to the masses and advance reasons why it should not be scrapped, and should even be made autonomous.
“House of Representatives is the house that should serve the commoners. We believe that is what it should continue to be. We believe that the House would still continue to stand by the people. If they are serious about fighting insecurity, if they are serious in fighting poverty, if they are serious about securing life abundant for the people, they should grant autonomy to local government,” he said.
He, however, added that if their various moves failed to get the desired result, NULGE shall have no option than to shut down all local government administration across the federation.
Ambali, who described the present stage at which local government administration is in the country as a challenging moment for the workers, in particular, accused state governors of frustrating the realization of autonomy for the councils across the country.
He recalled that the House of Representatives and the Senate had long before granted the needed autonomy, which the State Houses of Assembly refused to give a concurrence despite the overwhelming acknowledgement by majority Nigerians at various public hearings.
According to Ambali, “This is a challenging moment for all local government workers and even the politicians. State governors ganged up to threaten the genuine aspiration of the masses for autonomy for the local government. The House of Representatives and the Senate amended the local government law for local government administration to be autonomous. By the time the amended law was sent to State Houses of Assembly to endorse it, the amendment was frustrated.
“Over 90 per cent of Nigerians voted for local government autonomy but the cabals frustrated it. They put up another move that local government administration should be delisted from the Constitution.”
He stated further that should any of the three tiers of government should be scrapped, it should be state government and not local government “because it is the closest tier of government to the people and it has an impact on the lives of the masses.”
Besides, Ambali expressed the union’s strong opposition to the appointment of a caretaker committee to manage the affairs of the councils, saying that the body would resist as the constitution made it clear that local government shall be run by duly elected officials.
On the proposed move to remove minimum wage from the Exclusive List, and put it in Concurrent List, Ambadi condemned the move, saying “doing so will frustrate the council workers.”
According to him, should such be allowed, some state will just fix ridiculous salary which cannot take care of the needs of workers, maintaining that salary should be uniform, just as the salaries of other public officers, governors, lawmakers and others were made uniform irrespective of the state they belonged.