As the National Assembly commences another round of constitutional amendment, the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) has kick-started its nationwide protests to draw supports for local government autonomy. The union has scheduled national rally, one in each of the six geo-political zones across the country and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
From NULGE’s perspective, the protest is a form of subtle advocacy towards creating awareness and achieving local government autonomy. More importantly, it is imperative for NULGE, an advocate of local government autonomy to carry the campaign to the doorstep of the state assemblies, who are very critical to the process of constitution amendment.
During the seventh assembly, the move to grant local government autonomy was truncated by the state assemblies as they voted against the democratic move and the proposal to have local government autonomy could not secure the two-third required at the state assemblies. While some state assemblies voted in favour, many of them voted against it.
To this end, the focus of NULGE in this exercise is to visit the state assemblies in each zone and sensitise the lawmakers at state levels before visiting the National Assembly. Already, NULGE kick-started the rally in Lafia, Nasarawa State on Thursday, with a success story.
Members of the union from the states in the North Central: Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, were mobilised for the rally in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital; where the union successfully secured the confidence and support of the state assembly to grant local government autonomy when the time comes.
The rally took off from the Lafia City Stadium, and ended at the Nasarawa State House of Assembly, where they met the Deputy Speaker, Honourable Godiya Akwashiki, who received them on behalf of the Speaker, Honourable Ibrahim Balarabe and presented their position.
According to the President of NULGE, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, the choice of Nasarawa State for the take off of the rally in the North Central, is due to the support of the state Governor, Tanko Almakura and especially the state house of assembly for local government autonomy. Nasarawa State House of Assembly was one of the states that voted in favour of local government autonomy during the last amendment.
Describing it as important national rally, Khaleel said the leadership of this union has decided to lead a nation-wide campaign on the theme of Local Government Autonomy in Nigeria, having witnessed how the noble intention of the drafter of the constitution, making the local government system the third tier of governance in our country, has over the years been subverted in implementation.
He said: “We are gathered here in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital to kick-start a National Campaign that will take us to Calabar in the South-South; Lagos in the South-West, Kano in the North-West; Enugu in the South-East, Jalingo in the North-East, with the grand finale coming up in Abuja on April 27, 2017.
Addressing the rally, the NULGE president said as employees in the local government system, they remain the most dependable voice from which Nigerians will measure the true situation of governance at the local government level.
Therefore, he emphasised that the burden of creating awareness lies on “our shoulders to serve as a platform with our members in the frontline of the advocacy for autonomy of local government.”
He added: “This is in the context of the fact that it has become increasingly clear since 1999 that our ruling elite across the political divide irrespective of party affiliation see and indeed operate local governments as mere appendages through which they take additional resources without accountability.
“This obviously goes against the intent and rationale for the creation of the local government system which was deliberately designed for inclusive development or to take development to the very base/grassroots of our society.”
Regrettably, Khaleel said the political elite across parties have chosen to undermine the logic of the local government system by taking advantage of some contradictions in the framing of the 1999 Constitution as regards the status of the local government vis-à-vis the state.