By: Valentine Adese,
The quest for Local Government Autonomy in Nigeria has taken a new shape, as the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other Non-governmental Organizations operating in five (5) states in the South-west zone of Nigeria, have declared to mobilize electorates not to vote in any forthcoming elections, if the Houses of Assemblies in that zone did not vote in support of Local Government Autonomy.
This declaration of “No-Atonomy-No-Vote” was made after a Media and Civil Society Technical Session on Constitutional Amendment Review, organized by Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), at Heritage Continental Hotel, Akure, Ondo state, Nigeria.
The National President of NULGE, Comrade Ibrahim Kaleel, who led the press briefing team after the technical session and flanked by other leaders of NGOs, and CSOs said, “We call on the five (5) Houses of Assemblies in the South-west zone comprising of, Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, and Ekiti, to pass the Local government Autonomy without delay!
“We are aware that some of the Houses have stepped it down for the purpose of conducting public hearing but, they must vote in favour of it.”
According to Comrade Ibrahim, no country runs a federal system like it is been ran in Nigeria.
He said, “It is sad that the quest for local government autonomy has been a recurrent decimal in this country that the people have to continue demanding for same since 1960s.
“We only had vibrant local government authorities in the country in 1999, when the Independent National Electoral Commission conducted elections to fill vacant political offices at that level.
“You would also recall that in 2012 when the then President Olusegun Obasanjo came with the move to reassess the three levels of governance in the country, with the team led by Prof. Jerry Gana, it was reported that the performances of the local governments then was far better that the 36 states put together.
“But today, because of lack of autonomy, LGs like Kanduga has fallen not only to poverty but to Boko Haram. If you know Kanduga before in Borno state, it was known as a local government of peace and people always want to spend their retirement years there.
“From facts, all these have happened because crucial unnecessary interventions of State Governors and their non-inclusive tendencies.
“There is no way we can live in peace in our democracy with this style and level of exclusion in the country. This exclusion of local governments and its people in our democracy will always witness chaos and crises.
“One critical activity of Local Government Council Chairmen was to preside over Security Councils of the LGAs and to take stock of any security challenges, with the aim of providing solutions or make a comprehensive report to higher authorities. This has been taken away from them by the Nigerian state Governors.
“The present security challenges of Farmers and Herdsmen, were in the past handled by LG authorities in does days but, owing to the fact that the local government level of governance destroyed this role is no longer visible.”
“Democracy is government of the people. So what is democracy without the people in the local government? The activists ask.
“Why would the third tier not be included in our democracy,? We must take queue, as unbiased umpires, to see that the local government autonomy bill is adopted and will use all legal means to drive home our point” the groups collectively added.
Earlier, while welcoming the participants to the programmes, Mr. Edwin Onoja an officer with PERL, said the technical session was to engage the media and stakeholders on the issues in order to proffer solutions that would make government perform better in service delivery.
He said, “The programme in Akure is a solution oriented driven programme, aimed at providing how knowledge from the session can be implemented in the six states of the south west zone to enable the houses of assemblies in the zone, favourably pass the needed local government autonomy bills.
“The technical session is to help re-strategize and reinvigorate the performance of participants and networks.” He stated.
On his part, Mr. John Mutu, also an officer with PERL and a member of a group under the aegis of “Friends of Democracy” in his remarks, educated the participants that the National Assembly had 33 bills but, 21 was passed, while 12 were voted against.
He said the NASS transmitted only 15 bills to the various state houses of assembly and that unlike the 7th assembly, the bills have continued to be transmitted in piece mill.
While reviewing the amendment processes so far, Mr. John Mutu said, “out of the 36 state of the federation, 12 have voted on the local government autonomy bills. 9 voted in favour, while 3 voted against. States that have voted in favour are: Benue, Plateau, Niger, Kwara, Bauchi, Sokoto, Ogun, Bayelsa and Cross Rivers states.
“While those which voted against are: Imo, Rivers and Edo states.”