Nigeria’s former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on Wednesday, said he wished he could help the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), over the allegation of insensitivity levelled against state governors, over the state of all the 744 local governments areas in the country.
Speaking this while receiving the national president of the union, Comrade Ibraheem Khaleel, at his Hilltop residence, in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, he said some state governors had rendered local governments impotent, and described such governors as “usurpers and hijackers.”
Obasanjo said the vision and mission of creating the third-tier of government had been encroached upon by the state governments, saying “In 1976, we carried out local government reform, because local governments had no structure, as well as allocation from the national purse.
“Sadly, the state authorities, without any exception, have bastardised, usurped and hijacked the duties of local governments. Local governments are supposed to be a functional third tier of government; they are supposed to be run by democratically-elected executive and legislative members, but the states have usurped those functions by putting in place caretaker committees.
“How will the states feel if the Federal Government is doing the same thing they are doing to the local governments? Because it is unconstitutional, Federal Government will never do that and I wonder why the states are making the local governments non-functional.”
Obasanjo, who said he lacked the executive power to correct the anomaly, however, urged lawmakers both at the federal and state levels, to observe the sanctity and constitutionality of local governments in the country, adding that “we should continue to call on Nigerians and relevant authorities to cajole the state governments to allow local governments perform their duties as stipulated by the constitution.”
The former president said he lacked the executive or legislative power to correct the anomaly, adding that he could only lend his voice to those “reasonable” among the governors to change their attitude towards local government administration in the country.
He advised federal and state lawmakers to observe the sanctity and constitutionality of local governments in the country.
“As it is, I can only help you to shout and talk to the world. I do not have any executive or legislative power. I am crippled, but we shall continue to talk to those reasonable among them to change this attitude,” the former president added.
He expressed displeasure that state governments had taken over virtually all the duties and functions of local governments in the country.
In his remarks, Khaleel said the current situation in the nation’s council areas were indescribable, urging the former president to intervene on behalf of the union.
He said: “We are here to seek the intervention of former President Obasanjo on the issues beleaguering local governments in Nigeria today. You know Baba is the architect of local government system in Nigeria.
“State governments have encroached on what is exclusive to local governments and this had defeated the main purpose they were established for. State governments conduct elections into local governments at will, while fund meant for local councils is being diverted to state coffers.
“Though President Muhammadu Buhari promised to ensure the autonomy for local governments, but up till now, nothing has been done to address the anomaly. This is why we seek for Baba’s help in this regard.”