Former President Goodluck Jonathan has urged the National Assembly to make laws that would strengthen Local Governments, make them autonomous and empowered to generate their own revenues.
He said that 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 the people at the grassroots to decide who led them, through election.
Jonathan stated this on Thursday, 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, Bayelsa.
The NULGE officials were in Otuoke to ask for his support against a Bill, now before the national assembly, seeking to delist Local Government as a tier of governance as provided for in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Jonathan described the local government system as the oldest globally accepted means through which government impacted positively on the lives of the people at the grassroots and that any bill seeking to delist it from the constitution amounted to abuse of democratic tenets and procedures.
He further urged governors across Nigeria to refrain from directly getting involved in the day-to-day running of local government affairs, because 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.
“And until we are able to do that, it will be difficult to impact on 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 issue of appointments now make local government councils look like a part of the state’s administrative structure, but that is wrong.
“It is an abuse of democracy. So this appointment system have made council chairmen become like aides to the governors and we must discourage that,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the National President of NULGE, Comrade Olatunji Ambali pleaded with the former president to persuade the sponsor of the bill seeking to delist the Local Government tier, Rep. Bob Solomon (Ahoada East Federal Constituency), to step down the bill, saying that it would kill the acceptability of governance at the grassroots level.
He further said: “We have carefully chosen you and former president, Chief 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.
“But we ran into mucky waters during the transmission to states for concurrence, where 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 as Rep. Solomon sponsored the 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 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.