The Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to back his words and promises over the local government autonomy with decisive action, before it is too late.
Besides, NULGE has demanded from the president immediate constitutional amendment, if that is what is required to achieve the desired autonomy for local governments and free them from the apron of the state governors, who see and treat local government as an extension of the state.
Since President Buhari was sworn in on May 29, 2015, he had on several foray, promised to ensure the autonomy of local government as the third tier of government in the country.
Also, during the visit of the leadership of the Association of Local Governments in Nigeria (ALGON) on Thursday, last week, the president declared that his administration will support a constitutional amendment to free local governments from the stranglehold of states.
While promising that this would better the lot of Nigerians at the community level, President Buhari said a constitutional amendment was urgently required to clearly define the relationship among the three tiers of government.
However, while speaking with journalists in Abuja, the President of NULGE, Ibrahim Kahleel, said the union and the organised Labour will join hands with the President and support him in his efforts to liberate the third tier of government from the state governors.
The NULGE President said “We listened to President Buhari during the ALGON’s visits and I can tell you that we are very happy with what the president said. Labour as a whole and NULGE in particular are willing and ready to help the president fulfil this promise.
“I can tell you that many things are wrong with our system and the way the local government is being run in Nigeria today. President Buhari has made such promises on several occasions but we have not seen any step been taken in that direction. Inasmuch as we support him, we want him to begin the process. Four years is too short in the life of a nation, especially in a country like ours. By the year 2018, serious politicking will begin, and whatever you don’t achieve by then, it may be difficult when another election is approaching.”
Comrade Kahleel advised President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency put all machinery in motion if it requires constitutional amendment to ensure financial autonomy of local government.
Khaleel said the overbearing influence of the governor’s have affected development at local government levels, regretting that against the constitution, political leadership at the local government are now appointed by the state governors rather than elected by the people.
The NULGE president also lamented that this development has resulted in high level corruption in the local government, as the allocations to the third tier of governments are allegedly embezzled by the state governors or diverted for their own use.
Comrade Khaleel also advised President Buhari to beam searchlight on the allocation to local governments in the on-going war against corruption.
“It is very necessary for the president to also focus on the local government, especially on the allocation to the local government in the fight against corruption. We believe that many of the governors will have questions to answer on how they spend the local government allocations.”
President Buhari had admitted during the visit that the relationship between the three tiers of government is not a very nice one, especially that between the local governments and the states.
“The states feel like they own the local government, if they are of the same party. It is worse if they are not. This is a very serious constitutional problem and unless there is absolute clarity and transparency, the relationship will continue to be exploited against the interest of the ordinary people of the country,” he said.