Recently, the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), staged a rally in Jos, Plateau state, where they canvassed full autonomy for local government system in Nigeria. MUHAMMAD TANKO SHITTU reports
The quest for full autonomy for Nigeria’s local government system was canvassed by the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), who staged a rally on the streets t of Jos, the Plateau state capital. From the streets the group carried their protest to the state House of Assembly and terminated march at the Government House, where the House’s Speaker, Rt. Hon. Peter Azi as well as Governor Simon Lalong, separately received the local government workers, led by their national President, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, other members of the national executives, state president of NULGE, Comrade Samson Mafuye, and members of state executive.
At the Government House, Khaleel stated that they were on a special mission to canvass constitutional reforms, in other to strengthen Nigerian people. Kahleel stressed that they decided to embark on the in other for the local government system to regain its rightful place in the Nigerian constitution.
He said: “being the only system that belongs to the real people, the most visible, more accessible to the people at the grassroots and also being the only instrument that the government at the state can use to channel its policies, programmes to the clans, districts and our villages, it is the only link between the federal government and the people.”
Driving the quest further, he declared: “You can’t have democracy without the people and these people are living within the rural areas and when they are deprived of the opportunity to participate in democracy from their own level, then there is no democracy and that is what is happening now in our local governments”.
The fulcrum of these quest, according to Khaleel, is based on three elements seeking the; “abolishing of the constitutional provision that provides, the establishment of state electoral commissions, and your voice to expunge the provision so that INEC, would be saddle to conduct elections across the board, so that local Government can be fully democratize, the issue of financial independent of the Local Government, and the third element we canvassing for is the administrative autonomy of the local government , that to say the constitution should be made to recognize the existence of local government service commission, with statutory functions, so that the local government employees could be better protected, our jobs could be secured, so that we will be treated with dignity as our counterparts in other civil services”.
NULGE cited neglect of primary health care arguing that had the local government system had its funds directly accrued to it, the issue of meningitis killing people in Zamfara state, issues of insecurity across local governments in Nigeria should have been taken care of in the first instance. “But the LG system is rendered impotent because it is eroded by political elites”. He lamented.
Beside raising the issues of autonomy, the workers also raised some internal issues pending before Governor Lalong, ranging from back log of four months unpaid salaries, promotion of local government workers since 2008, as well as implementation of the minimum wage salary scale of N18,000.
Khaleel appealed to state governors and state legislators to fill the lacuna in the constitution, adding that they should use their offices to ensure that the right thing is done to the local government system.
Speaking to the workers, Lalong noted it was a legitimate move, saying, “I remember that in the last administration from year one to the last, the governor will not even attempt to stand before you, because when you do something bad, you will run away from the people, if you do something good you will return back to the people. I will never run away from your problems, because when I was campaigning I came to you.”
On the constitutional lacuna, the governor said: “it has created a disconnect from democracy”.
“Being the workers at that tier of government, we feel we are more qualified to talk on behalf of the local government system, failure on us to engage on this nationwide rally and advocacy is like abdicating from our responsibilities and we cannot do that.
“The truth is that our local government system is missing, it is nowhere to be found, it is not functioning, because of the heavy encroachment into the exclusive reserves of this tier of government.”
Having said that he was very happy about the legitimate way that NULGE have approached the issues, Lalong professed , “I was a former speaker and any time I hear riots I say not in Plateau, in Plateau state people take constitutional and legitimate way and you have caped it up with advocacy, telling the whole world and the executives that this is our case, “you have move forward and told those who are supposed to make the laws, unfortunately I am not a speaker, because if I am the speaker, I will have just given you the result and say this is the result of the Plateau state House of Assembly, but I can’t because of the separation of powers, I cannot decide for the Plateau state house of Assembly, but I want to assure you that if this is the opinion of the majority of the people of Plateau state, I will send it to the House of Assembly, and the final thing is for them to pass the law.”
On his part, Azi said the state houses of assembly in Nigeria were facing similar situation of non- autonomy adding, “LG is not there for formalities, but they are for a purpose and if there is one state house of assembly that will pass the bill, is that of the Plateau.”