OrderPaperToday – The Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) has restated its opposition to a bill which currently before the House of Representatives, which seeks the scrapping of local government councils in Nigeria.
The bill, which is sponsored by Mr. Bob Solomon (PDP, Rivers), seeks the abolition of local government as a tier of government.
Part II Section 7 of the 1999 constitution (as amended), guarantees the establishment of Local Government Area Councils.
“The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this Constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the Government of every State shall, subject to section 8 of this Constitution, ensure their existence under a law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.”
Mr. Bob had asked in the bill that the creation of local government councils be vested exclusively in the state houses of assembly including the powers of funding, “in accordance with the principle and practice of true federalism.”
He argued that “the bill will go a long way towards fixing the many centripetal anomalies in the 1999 constitution.”
The bill, which is still at the stage of first reading, seeks to amend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the removal of local government as a tier of government constitutionally recognized and funded by the federal government.
However, the move by the House has met stiff opposition from stakeholders and other Nigerians.
In an interview with OrderPaper Nigeria, President of NULGE, Mr. Ambali Olatunji, vowed that members of his union will occupy the National Assembly if the controversial bill is not thrown out.
He said: ‘We have voiced our position and rejection of the anti-people bill, the killer bill, the bill seeks to destroy the local government system, sponsored by Hon. Bob Solomon from Ibua-Ahoada East federal constituency of River State.
“We voiced our opposition to it because we know it is a retrogressive bill; it will do nobody any good. What we need to do is that if we are serious about deepening democracy in Nigeria, local government system should be allowed to not only be strong, functional and operate effectively and efficiently.
“By our own demographic survey we realized that over 70% Nigerians resides within the rural communities; it is only the privileged 30% that resides within the cosmopolitan cities. We have also witnessed systematic destruction of local government system as a tier of government by the political actors, the governors which out of greed, deliberate subversion and hijacking of local government statutory functions as listed in the concurrent list and residual list in the 1999 constitution.
“In 1999 constitution section 71 A and B, it provided that a system of democratically elected political leadership is hereby guaranteed but what we are witnessing is an abuse of that constitutional provision whereby governors sack democratically elected local government political leaders and impose their cronies, their surrogates as caretaker committee, sole administrators; this give way to abuse, pilfering, diversion, misapplication and misappropriation of local government funds.
“You will realize that every month, monies are appropriated and supposed to be paid to local government for developmental purpose and programmes but because of the lacuna in the 1999 constitution that says appropriation of public funds to local government should be through joint account allocation committee and should be legislated upon by state house of assembly.
“The vision of the founding fathers is to create a pool of fund that will be domiciled in one account called joint account allocation committee whereby 10% of total generated revenue across the state will be deposited into that account for redistribution for projects and development. Whereas what we are witnessing is a direct opposite of that. No state government pays either the 10% of IGR generated in the state according to the constitution; they also do not allow local government funds to get to local government account.
“That is why NULGE is clamouring for both political and financial autonomy; that is the people at the grassroots should have democratic rights to freely elect the leaders that will be accountable, people that will serve them and meet their political yearnings and aspirations and this has been hijacked”.