Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel the president of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), eads his national Executive and members of local government councils in the South West Zone on a rally over local government autonomy today, Soji-Eze Fagbemi, looks at the position of NULGE and what the union would present to the leadership of the states House of Assembly and other issues surrounding the autonomy of local governments in the country.
Historically, Lagos has been seen as the center of Nigeria political agitation and especially the struggle for that which is right. Today, the members of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), led by their National President, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, will storm Lagos in continuation of their protest rally and campaign for local government autonomy across the six geo-political zones of the country.
The South West rally is particularly important to the success of NULGE campaign in favour of Political, financial and administrative autonomy of local government areas, because most of the states from the zone voted against the idea during the seventh assembly, when it was time for state assemblies to vote of the amendment and bill to grant local government autonomy.
With another constitution amendment going on in the National Assembly, NULGE has took off where it stopped during the failed attempt to have local government autonomy. The difference this time is that NULGE has intensified its efforts. Part of its planned strategy to ensure that local council in Nigeria is granted autonomy in the present efforts to amend the 1999 Constitution is to Organize rally across the six geo-political zones where they will meet the members of the state house of assemblies on the imperative and need for them to support autonomy for local government and sensitize the generality of the people.
With successful rallies in Lafia, Nasarawa State and Calabar, Cross Rivers state for the North Central and South South zones respectively, NULGE is due for Lagos today.
NULGE President, Khaleel said the campaign, through the protest rally has become one of the most viable options left for Nigerians and especially the local government workers to draw attention to “what we can correctly describe as the re-colonisation of our people.”
Being the nucleus upon which the entire national political edifice of the country rests, he insisted that the workers in the local government system will be abdicating in their responsibilities if they are not in the frontline of the struggle to extricate the nation from the exploitation and vice grip of the political elites.
Today’s rally is expected to end with a meeting with the members of Lagos State House of Assembly, where the union will presents its position and makes submission to the Speaker. The union will be canvassing for major amendments to the constitution, which the union believes will rescue the local government from the state governors and underdevelopment.
NULGE wants all the contradictory provisions of the 1999 constitution (as amended) that allow for the confusion and manipulation of local government system by state governments erased. Citing example, Khaleel said in section 7 (1), all the phrasing appearing after the words “and accordingly” should be deleted. Instead the following should be inserted: “there shall be for the Local Government Council a Chairman.”
NULGE also insist on strict observance of the provision of section 7 especially the full observance of the provisions on democratically elected local councils. He said, “The constitution should be reviewed such that a provision caters for the areas of Structure, Functions, Composition, Establishment, Funding, Status and other matters that affect local governments, rather than delegating it to the state governments or Houses of Assembly.”
NULGE is also demanding that new provisions/amendments to Section 5(4) on Local Government Councils, which shall read thus: “The executive Powers of Local Government Councils shall be vested in the Chairman.” The NULGE president said Subsection (5) The Executive Powers vested in the Chairman in Subsection (5) shall not be exercised so as to impede or prejudice the exercise of the Executive power of the Federation or of the State in which the Local Government Area concerned is situated or to engender any asset or investment of the Government of the Federation or the state or of the Local Government Area;
He said: “Those other provisions that contradict full autonomy should be expunged from the constitution to avoid the serious contradictions. For instance the structure, finance, establishment, composition and functions of Local Government Councils should not be vested in the state governments or state Houses of Assembly but in the Constitution in view of section 5 that proposes vesting Executive Powers of the Local Government Council in the Chairman.
“The Constitutional provision on the existence and functions of the State Independent Electoral Commission should be expunged completely in the 1999 constitution because they have become the instruments of anti-democratic practices by the State government.
“In terms of Power and control over public Funds: The adoption and adaptation of section 120-124 (3) to Local Government Chairman, Vice Chairman, Auditor–General for Local Government and the Chairman and members of Local Government Service Commission (LGSC).”
The union also insists on full observance of fiscal Federalism as enshrined in the constitution, and proposes that the Local Government Service of each state should be represented by the most Senior Accountant deemed fit by the Local Government Service Commission at any meeting of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission called for the purpose of distributing money from the Federation Account to the Federal, State and Local governments.
Besides, he said that local government should retain functional and fiscal relations with the higher tiers of government, Mathis includes, the state allocation of 20% of its internally generated revenue to the local governments within the State and establishment of a joint Planning Board through a law enacted by the House of Assembly, to require each local government in the state participate in the economic planning and development of the local government areas.
NULGE is also advocating for regular auditing of the accounts of all the local governments within the state.
Khaleel said: “In terms of the funding of Primary Education, the level of participation by the local government councils shall be in accordance with an Act of the National Assembly. We also recommend that the payment of primary school teachers’ salaries should be the sole responsibility of the federal and state governments. Primary Education is a subsidiary function as per provision of the 4th schedule of the 1999 constitution and April 2002 Supreme judgment on funding of Primary Education.”
Khaleel told Nigeria Tribune that during the rally, the union will also be conveying the main content of their submission to the governor of Lagos State, for onward transmission to the President, Muhammadu Buhari, while the presentation to the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, is also for onward transmission to the leadership of the National Assembly, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.
Against the backdrop that local government lack capacity to govern themselves, Khaleel pointed out that up till this now, there are many, many committed and patriotic Nigerians in all the 773 local government across the country that, if allowed, will provide dedicated and committed service at this critical tier of government, which is closest to the people.
He stated that at the beginning of the current republic in 1999, many excelled themselves serving at the local government level before the systematic and complete negation of the local government system.
He said “You all must have witnessed the levels of instability in the administration of the local government system in the country. Local government administrations are either not allowed to function as state governments starve them through the operation of state-local government joint account; or they are prematurely terminated or dissolved and caretaker committees set up, made up of political cronies and rookies.
“Looking back since we embarked on the journey into the current democratic dispensation on May 29, 1999; it is clear that our ruling elite across the political divide, irrespective of party affiliation, see and indeed operate local governments as personal fiefdoms from which they exploit without being accountable to the people. 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.”
The NULGE president blamed the state governors for the plight of local government people and the underdevelopment of the local areas. He, therefore, pleaded with the members of state house of assembly across the federation to free themselves from the claw of the state governors. To him, the present struggle is a twin-struggle and not for the freedom of local government alone but also a fight to free the state assemblies from the unconstitutional control of the state governors.
Khaleel said the campaign is simply target at political, financial and administrative autonomy of local government; abolition of State/local government joint account; payment of 10% internally generated revenue by State governments to local government,; stopping the deduction from local government’s’ federal revenue allocation by State governments; proposal for payment of teachers’ salaries to be on first line charge of FAAC, and abolition of State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) and reverting the conduct of local government elections to INEC,
It also includes the implementation of the ruling of Supreme Court judgment against appointment of caretaker committees for LGs and reckless dissolution of elected local government councils. He said: “Our daily experience as workers at the local government level shows that the most prevalent situation in local government administration is the perpetual encroachment of the financial and administrative powers of local councils by the state governments.”