By Ebiowei Lawal – Yenagoa
To ensure that the dividends of democracy trickle down to Nigerians at the grassroots level, former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has called on the National Assembly to make laws that would make Local Government Councils strong, autonomous and have powers to generate revenue.
He said that if he were a member of the National Assembly, he would mobilized member to amend sections in the 1999 Construction of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that would totally prohibit the appointment of Local Government Chairman and give the people at the grassroots level to decide who leads them through the election.
Dr. Jonathan stated this when the national and state executives of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) paid him a courtesy visit in his country home, Otuoke, to ask for his support to stop a bill seeking to delist the Local Government structure from the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to Jonathan, the Local Government system is the oldest globally accepted means through which government impact positively on the lives of the people at the grassroots level and any bill targeted at delisting from the constitution is an abuse of democratic tenets and procedures.
He further urged governors of states across Nigeria to refrain from directly getting involved in the day-to-day running of Local Government affairs because their actions make governance unreliable, unacceptable and undependable at the grassroots level.
He said “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 would 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.
“And until we are able to do that, it would be difficult to impact all the people at the grassroots level. It is only through local councils that the dividends of democracy can permeate uniformly into society. And all of us must advocate for this right.
“The Local Government Councils must be strong, autonomous and allowed to generate its own revenue. If I were in the Senate, I would have mobilized members to ensure that we amend the constitution in a way that would prohibit the appointment of chairmen to run governance at the local council level.
“The issue of appointment now make Local Government Council look like a part of the state’s administrative structure but that is not what ought to be the case. This is an abuse of democracy. So this appointment system has made council chairmen become like aides to the governor and we must discourage that.”
Speaking earlier, the National President of NULGE, Comrade Olatunji Ambali, pleaded with the former president to help persuade the sponsor of the bill seeking to delist the Local Government tier of Government, Hon. Bob Solomon, a member representing Ahoada East Federal Constituency to step down the bill, saying it would kill the acceptability of governance at the grassroots level.
He further said “we have carefully chosen you and former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to ask for support towards the actualization of Local Government Council autonomy. We started the struggle in 2016 and the 7th and 8th Assembly graciously passed the LGA autonomous bill into law.
“But we ran into murky waters during the transmission to states for concurrence whereby some of the governors threatened speakers of their various assemblies not to give concurrence to the law. This is where we were when surprisingly another diversionary tactic was introduced into the agitation.
“A member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Bob Solomon, representing Ahoada East Federal Constituency sponsored a bill for the delisting of Local Government Councils from the 1999 constitution. When we heard it, we thought it was child’s play but it is not anymore with the way things are going now.
“I don’t know why the Local Government Council that is 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 because it is closest to the people. So any bill set out to delist Local Government Councils is an anti-people bill.”