Former president Goodluck Jonathan has urged the National Assembly to make laws that would strengthen local government councils, make them autonomous and empowered to generate their own revenues.
Jonathan stated this when national and state executives of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) paid him a courtesy visit in his country home, Otuoke, Bayelsa, yesterday.
He said if he were a member of the National Assembly, he would mobilise others to amend sections of the Constitution to totally prohibit the appointment of local government chairmen and allow people at grassroots decide who led them through an election.
NULGE officials were in Otuoke to ask for the ex-president’s support against a Bill, now before the National Assembly seeking to delist LGAs as third tier of government as provided for in the 1999 Constitution.
The former president described the local government system as the oldest globally accepted means through which the government can impact positively on lives of the people at the grassroots level.
He said any bill seeking to delist it from the constitution amounted to abuse of democratic tenets and procedures.
He further urged governors across the country to refrain from directly getting involved in the day-to-day running of local governments affairs, saying their actions made governance ”unreliable, unacceptable and undependable at the grassroots level.”
“The problem with Nigeria is that our local government structure is still very weak. And whatever restructuring we are talking about finally, Nigerians must sit down to discuss, and the issue of local government autonomy must be considered. As long as we have weak local governments, we will have difficulty managing this country. The way it is now, the person who runs the state, runs the LGAs and that makes nonsense of the whole concept of the third tier of government.The president should manage the nation, governors should manage the states and chairmen should be allowed to run the local councils.”
He said until LGA autonomy was achieved, it would be difficult to impact on people at the grassroots level.
“It is only through local councils that the dividends of democracy can permeate uniformly into the society. And all of us must advocate for this. The issue of appointments now make local government councils look like a part of the state’s administrative structure; that is wrong. It is an abuse of democracy. Appointment system has made council chairmen become like aides to governors and we must discourage that.”
National President of NULGE, Olatunji Ambali pleaded with the former president to persuade the sponsor of the bill, Bob Solomon, from Ahoada East Federal Constituency, to step it down, saying it would kill acceptability of governance at grassroots level.
“We have carefully chosen you and former president Olusegun Obasenjo to ask for support for the actualisation of local government council autonomy. We started the struggle in 2016 and the 7th and 8th Assemblies graciously passed the LGA autonomy bill into law.
“I don’t know why the LGAs that are the most reliable, dependable and acceptable tier of government should be delisted? Our belief is not to delist but deepen democracy at the local level, because that is the first point of call between the people and modern day governance. And to solve insecurity, we must seek local solutions by allowing LGAs to have local police, since states have been over policed over time. And this cannot be taken for granted because the LGAs are the mirror of the nation being the closest to the people. So, any bill set out to delist LGAs is an anti-people bill,” he said.