The National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) have protested over the demand of local government autonomy and also called on all Nigerians to support the initiative aimed at achieving local government independence from state governments.
The protest which was led by National President of NULGE, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, the National President of United Labour Congress of Nigeria (ULC), Comrade Joe Ajaero, and also all the Local government workers in Lagos.
According to Khaleel, “The struggle is to secure “political, financial and administrative autonomy of Local Government Areas (LGAs), abolition of State/LGA joint account, payment of 10 per cent internally generated revenue by State governments to LGAs and stopping the deduction from LGAs’ federal revenue allocation by State governments.
“Being the nucleus upon which the entire national political edifice of our dear country rests, we as workers in the local government system will be abdicating in our responsibilities if we’re not in the frontline of the struggle to extricate our nation from the exploitation and vice grip of our political elite.”
“We need not restate the fact that as employees in the local government system, we remain the most dependable voice from which Nigerians will measure the true situation of governance at the local government level. The burden of creating awareness therefore lies on our shoulders to serve as the vanguard of the advocacy for local government autonomy.”
Comrade Khaleel further stressed that “Other are proposal for payment of teachers’ salaries to be on first line charge of FAAC, abolition of SIEC and reverting the conduct of local government elections to INEC, implement the ruling of Supreme Court judgment against appointment of caretaker committees for LGs and reckless dissolution of elected local government councils.”
He posited that daily experience as workers at the local government level shows that the most prevalent situation in local government administration is the perpetual encroachment of the financial and administrative powers of local councils by the state governments.
“This manifests in a number of ways such as the confiscation of federally allocated revenues to local governments by states, compelling them to shoulder some expenditure responsibilities or mandatory deductions for so-called joint projects by states, lack of capacity to initiate development projects, among other challenges.”
“As the tier of government which connects majority of the people to the other tiers of government, it is important that local government is empowered with the autonomy to deliver on its mandate of taking development to the grassroots,” Khaleel said.
However, the National President of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said the constitution should be reviewed to allow local governments set up their own independent electoral commission to enable them conduct elections without undue interference by State Governors.
“The entire change we demand starts from the process of electioneering at the local council levels. This will ensure local government structures are not hijacked by the States.
“Because what we want is efficient health centres, education system as well as social security at the grassroot, after all, they are the closest to the people.
“This struggle isn’t about the workers alone, it’s a struggle for all Nigerians owning to the fact that 80-90 percent of the Nigerian masses are direct beneficiaries of local governments’ services.”
He said with the nature of the nation’s diversity, there must be an all-inclusive arrangement in governance without maligning the local governments.
While speaking to the protesters on behalf of the Governor of Lagos State, the Lagos state commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, Alhaji Musliu Folamin, said that the governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, is a man who have the interest of the local government at heart and has been in the forefront of ensuring that all issues pertaining local government autonomy is held to a high esteem.
“We have read through your request ranging from the financial autonomy, administrative autonomy and democratic autonomy, they are well exquisite, all this request you’ve made i want to believe they are constitutional issues”.
“The governor we know on the first day we got the mantle as the Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, one of his orders that he told me was that never deduct a dime from local government allocations and i stand by this till date”.