Says APC should adopt local government autonomy if indeed a progressive party
NATIONAL president of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) Olatunji Ambali has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to match his words with action on the issue of local government autonomy.
He said Buhari’s political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), should ensure local government autonomy if it was genuinely progressive.
Ambali disclosed this during an exclusive interview with The ICIR at the weekend in Abuja. He spoke against the backdrop of Buhari’s earlier reactions supporting the LG autonomy despite divergent views.
“Well, we want to salute the president, but he must be Mr. talk and do. Let him match his words with action,” Ambali said.
“That was why NULGE did an advertorial in the national dailies saying if APC is genuinely a progressive party, it must adopt LG autonomy.”
For almost ten years, stakeholders in the third tier of government had demanded true independence of the local governments.
They called for the direct allocation of resources to the local governments and the conduct of LG elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to foster development at the grassroots. Still, there were contrary opinions that such autonomy could also breed corruption.
Justifying the need for autonomy, Ambali said the last 16 years had been the worst for the country as people no longer see the relevance of democracy.
He observed that there had been a disconnect somewhere with the people. According to him, if the local government system was efficient, most rural dwellers would have shunned rural-urban migration and there will be a likely drop in the level of insecurity.
“They no longer see the importance of government….if the government at that lower ebb is functional and can provide good roads, water, you don’t need state government, for God’s sake.”
He cited Rivers and Jigawa States as the only states that allow LGAs direct access to their funds.
On the claim that the autonomy would exacerbate corruption among public officials at the grassroots, the labour leader argued, “the amount of corruption at the federal level is so humongous that it made LG’s claim of corruption so insignificant.
“And what are you corrupt on when the money does not even get to our accounts. If you are looking for corruption, check out the state and federal governments.”
He queried the number of LGA chairmen currently being investigated or grilled for corruption, justifying the assertion that they lack direct access to the local government resources.
For him, local government allocations have allegedly become ‘pocket money’ in the hands of the state governors, thus, mismanagement.
“For us, if Nigeria must be better, there must be a paradigm shift from the past. Local government must be allowed to have their direct allocations and have a budgetary system that will track how funds meant for LGA are applied.”
He raised the need to domesticate the national anti-graft agencies in the country or establish an anti-corruption agency across the local governments in the states.
With this, anti-corruption activities, he believed, would reduce drastically as “no man is immune against corruption even in churches and mosques.”
The initiative would ensure local government administrators, technocrats and politicians are kept on their toes, and any attempt to abuse office would attract a jail term, he noted.
“In local governments, accountability is easy. We know each other. Before budgets are passed, you invite all the community leaders and read the budget. They have their councillors, and the councillors would not allow you because the people would mount pressure on him.”
He recalled how councillors have always been on the neck of LGA chairpersons in the past to deliver on political promises.
Counsellors, he disclosed, have the power to remove the LG chairmen, and this, he affirmed, would ensure that political leadership is accountable to the people.