Govs direct beneficiaries of LG woes – NULGE

 Says Dankwambo economical with truth

By Moses John, Abuja and
Joy Emmanuel, Yenagoa

National President, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, has lashed at Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe state, for saying most Nigerians don’t want to work in local government because it lacks capacity to manage council funds.
Comrade Khaleel in an exclusive interview with Blueprint in Abuja accused Dankwambo and his colleagues of mismanaging local government resources, thereby undermining development in the rural areas.

Dankwanbo, had, while speaking at the 18th Founders Day ceremony of Igbinedion University, Okada, in Edo state, penultimate weekend, declared that it would be unwise to release huge allocations directly to local governments’ coffers, because they “lack capacity.”
“Presently, local governments in Nigeria have weak managerial and administrative capacity to effectively implement programmes and projects for the welfare and wellbeing of the people.

“This is because, better educated people never think of working in the local government system. They search for jobs in the urban areas, be it in the public or private sector,” the governor had said.
And backing Dankwambo on the call, his Kwara state counterpart, Abdulfatah Ahmed, however, added that for the third tier system of government to thrive, there must be certain economic reforms within the councils.

Making NULGE’s position known in an interview with our reporter, Comrade Khaleel said the Gombe state governor was only being economical with the truth, as most of the local government workers are over qualified.
The governor, the NULGE boss further submitted, was only justifying his failure to cause development and progress at the grassroots, where majority Nigerians are.

“While I appreciate the fact that every Nigerian is entitled to his or her opinions, but I disagree with the assertion of Governor Dankwambo, and I am not surprised that someone like him alleged that local governments lack capacity to manage the huge funds going to them.
“May be that is why he decided to be sitting on the funds meant for rural development. But I will like to draw his attention to some facts. One, I don’t understand what he means by capacity, and what kind of capacity is he talking about? I know even in Gombe Local Government Service, there are a number of Ph.D holders, and from different professions, we have people that excel in various profession and are thriving,” he contended.

The labour leader further disclosed that “Nigerians are fully aware of the kind of relationship that exists between the local government system and governors in power, because they cannot say anything positive about the local government system, as they are direct beneficiaries of what is happening there.”

Khaleel further added: “I also want to draw the attention of the governor to the fact that local government was the first government in Nigeria before the creation of states and even federal government. When the Europeans first came to Nigeria, what they met was community governance through the chiefs and emirs in our communities and districts, and so they decided in the north to even govern through indirect rule.

“That Indirect Rule is what transformed to native authorities that gave birth to state and federal governments in our country, and he can’t even talk about the system as lacking in capacity because all the infrastructures that we are enjoying today were products of native authorities and military rule.

“I also want to draw his attention to some of his colleagues who were local government workers before becoming governors of their various states. Like the governor of Kano state was a local government secretary, he is Ph.D holder, and he got it while in the local government before becoming a governor. Governor Ambode of Lagos was also a local government staff, in fact a treasurer in the local government when Asiwaju Tinubu appointed him then as accountant general of Lagos state”.

“We have various accountant generals who were appointed from the local government service. In Ondo, former Governor Olusegun Mimiko appointed accountant general from the local government system and even the Head of Service of Ondo state then was from local government.

So, what is he saying? We also have various state governors appointing directors of local government to the position of permanent secretaries and we’re performing very well. Up till now, our colleagues, former presidents of NULGE are permanent secretaries in Osun state.
“So I can’t understand the issue of capacity he is talking about and I know in Gombe state, he refuses to implement the schemes of service for local government that put local government staff a little bit far to the level of directorship on level 17. So, what capacity is he talking about? He is just using that justify the illegality being perpetrated with the local government funds, democracy and other things.”

On the union’s efforts to free the local government from the excruciating control of the governors, Kahaleel promised that Nigerians would soon enjoy the outcome of the agitation.
According to him, with the commitment shown by various state governors and the speakers of state House of Assemblies visited during the campaign rally, it is clear that Nigerians are fed up with what is happening at the third tier of government.

“I believe there is tremendous success as a result of agitation, not only by NULGE but by majority of Nigerians. The issue of local government is of great concern to every right thinking Nigerians, and they have been talking, and because it has become a national agitation in every nook and cranny of the country, and because of that, I believe the commitment of the two chambers of the National Assembly is highly appreciated by Nigerians.

“This is because at the level in which they (lawmakers) are moving to ensure that useful amendments are made to strengthen the institutional framework of local government, things have reached an advanced stage.
“There is a serious commitment and concern from both the governors and speakers of the state Assemblies, and even the National Assembly is trying to enlighten other stakeholders on why this very reform needs to be done so that the connectivity between governance and grassroots people is ensured”.

Bayelsa chapter backs autonomy call
In a related development, the Bayelsa chapter of NULGE has further strengthened the union’s call for local government autonomy.
The call was made in Yenagoa, during an interactive session of CSOs, media and NULGE stakeholders.

They condemned the Joint Accounts Allocation Committee (JAAC), saying it is used for siphoning of local government funds by the state governments.
Describing the demand as an age-long issue which has been clamoured for over a decade, the participants also called for the abolition of the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC).
According to them, the various state governments use local government funds to sustain the SIECs, adding that the Independent National Electoral Commission should be saddled with the responsibility to checkmate the various state governors from imposing local government chairmen on the people.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the discussion, the participants said there should be financial autonomy for the councils, including direct funding from the Federation Account, massive grassroots development, eradication of poverty from grassroots, abolition of illegal deductions from local government monthly allocations and local government representatives at the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC).

The participants also called for political autonomy for local government, which according to them, include, election of peoples representatives and not selection or imposition of candidates by the stats governors, abolition of sole administrators and caretaker committee styles of administration and conduct of local government elections by INEC.
The participants further advocate for job security for local government workers to include; aggressive manpower development and productivity shield against state government victimisation and the recognition of Local Government Service Commission and Office of Auditor-General for Local Government in the constitution.

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