President of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, speaks to MOSES JOHN on the need for Nigerians to pressure the state legislature into giving support to the local government autonomy. Excerpts.
LG autonomy and constitutional amendment So far, so good. Out of the 36 states Houses of Assembly that are expected to legislate on the Bill submitted to them by the National Assembly, only 12 actually concluded the legislation of the entire bill submitted to them. Out of the 12, 9 voted in favour of the LG autonomy bill while 3 rejected entirely.
They rejected without proper public hearing as agreed and adopted by both the forum of the governors in Nigeria and the forum of the speakers of the state houses of assemblies. Maybe it is because of the huge interference of the governors of those states on the process. These states are Rivers, Imo and Edo states.
No citizen of the states was consulted by the state assemblies. They just locked themselves up and came up with the submission. The remaining states are still hanging. Hanging in the sense that most of them passed some aspects of the bill submitted to them by the National Assembly, but this particular bill on LG autonomy, most of them came up with a decision that they need to further consult before they take a final decision.
We are still engaging with them to see that they toe the line of Nigerians by adopting what the NASS did, based on the aspiration of the people of Nigeria Autonomy struggle and 2019 elections I want to believe that any responsible state assembly cannot abandon this bill just like that, considering the fact that a lot of Nigerians put in a lot of energy and effort to get to where it is today. A lot of resources were committed by the National Assembly and other stakeholders too. We believe that for Nigeria to work properly, local government must be in place. Not only to be in place, but it must be practically and visibly in place so that it can function properly and bridge the gap it was established to bridge or the purpose of its creation.
I believe no responsible state assembly will just abandon the project.
Passing the bill We have confidence, if we don’t have confidence we would back out. But we believe that nothing good comes easy.
And more importantly that if you look at the attitude of our governors in particular, it is not going to be an easy journey to change from the way they used to be to something that will benefit everybody. The current position benefits only the governors.
It benefits them because they have access to more free funds from the local government fund from the local government funds. And they use this tier of government as it is today to manipulate Nigerians politically and otherwise. So, the benefit is to them and it is not going to be easy, sincerely speaking.
That is why we believe with efforts of all and sundry, it is achievable. That is why we are still calling on all Nigerians to continue mounting pressure on state houses of assemblies asking their representatives, their members of state assemblies on the situation of this bill. And if it warrants us to march to state assemblies as often as possible, we are ready for that.
Having LG autonomy I think as a labour union, we will not be happy if by the end of the day, all these efforts become effort in futility. But we believe the success is not in our hands.
The only thing we can do is to offer ourselves, to contribute our quota and we have a very strong passion in what we are doing. We believe what we are doing is targeted towards human development. Because by strengthening local government, you are strengthening Nigeria. NULGE under our leadership is not selfish. We didn’t put much energy in what concerns us alone as workers. This is a problem of Nigerians generally. And by the grace of God, we are here today as Nigerians and Nigeria is not moving well. Our people are dying every day of hunger, criminal attacks and so on. And we believe that by the time we fix local government a lot of things will disappear, because local government is critical in stabilising any nation, it connects people from the grassroots with other levels of government. Unfortunately, like we keep on saying, the governors prove to be unpatriotic.
They only see their interests as most important.
And that is what is dragging us into what we are seeing today. Just recently, the rural – urban migration has gone as high as 7 percent because the rural areas are no longer carried along. They are no longer developing. The institutions of the local government are dilapidated. So the people are rushing out to the cities in search of greener pastures. And unfortunately for them they don’t know that the cities are so saturated that even when you are in any city it will be difficult to have something doing.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of opportunities in our rural areas which are left untapped, and this is just because of the interest of a few governors that refuse to allow this tier of government to function.