From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The Bayelsa State Government says that it is one of the few states in the country where other arms of government function independently, including the local government system.
Deputy Governor Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo stated this when he received the National President of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Akeem Olatunji-Ambali, in Government House, Yenagoa.
According to Ewhrudjakpo, the clamour for financial autonomy for local councils is in line with the principles of rule of law and separation of powers.
He said the state government has since given its approval for financial autonomy to the councils, and does not tamper with their funds.
The deputy governor noted that the state government had recently resolved to increase its financial support to the councils with an additional sum of N252 million on a monthly basis.
According to him, the move was necessitated by inadequate revenue allocations from the federal government and the implementation of promotion arrears of council workers by the state government.
The deputy governor also noted that the state government has adopted a Joint Tax System policy, which he described as a unified approach of generating revenue into the coffers of both state and local government councils in the state.
‘We have not only exercised autonomy for our local government system here, but also addressed several issues people are protesting for elsewhere. In Bayelsa, we have autonomy for the judiciary since 2013 and the House of Assembly in 2019,’ Ewhrudjakpo said.
‘Bayelsa State is one state where we don’t tamper with local government funds. As the funds come, the chairmen meet with the state at the Joint Allocation Committee (JAC), and what we do is to approve the JAC figures and they go back to dispense,’ he explained.
‘Only recently, in addition to what we are giving to the local government for the payment of primary school teachers, we have just decided to give another 252million naira as support to councils.
On the issue of 30 percent Minimum Wage for council workers, Ewhrudjakpo said the state government, in consultation with council chairmen and state NULGE leadership, had set up a committee to look into its implementation.
The deputy governor, however, urged NULGE to take the issue of reforms in the local government system seriously with a view to addressing the excesses of some council chairmen and for the overall benefit of rural dwellers.
Speaking earlier, NULGE National President Olatunji-Ambali explained that his team was in the state in continuation of the union’s nationwide advocacy campaign for local government autonomy.
Ambali described local government as the most strategic, relevant and direct system of government that must be accorded its pride of place in the country to have a positive impact on citizens.