Senator Shehu Sani, the Chairman Senate Committee on Foreign and Domestic Debts has blamed State Houses of Assembly for failing to grant Local Governments autonomy.
Sani spoke while addressing members of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) at the Grand Finale of the “Local Government Autonomy Rally’’ in Abuja on Thursday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the rally, which was coordinated by Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, NULGE President was also held in all the states of the federation and rounded off in the FCT.
The rally was to protest the lack of autonomy by local governments.
The senator said that funds allocated to local governments rarely got to them as state governments siphoned such funds for their personal use rather than for payment of salaries and execution of capital projects.
“The greatest obstacle of local government autonomy is the state assemblies being manipulated by state governors.
“State assemblies must rise up to the challenge and do the needful. We are here for you and we will stand by you to fight for local government autonomy,” Sani said.
The senator said the struggle to gain local government autonomy must be intense in the National Assembly and by state governments.
According to him, if the money allocated to local governments are properly utilised, we will not be where we are now facing recession.
“Present political leaders still has the same manifestos as those in the 1960s, we will give you water, electricity, infrastructure and so on but we do not get to see any of these.’’
Also speaking, Sen. Abdullahi Gumel, Chairman Senate Committee on State and Local Government Administration assured the union that the senate would do all within its power to ensure local governments got autonomy.
Gumel who represented the Senate President, Bukola Saraki said the Federal Government had given bailout funds of more than N405 billion to state governments to pay salaries.
“The reason why we will support the local government autonomy is to make local governments independent.
“The Federal Government has no business providing primary health care, roads, and so on for states and local governments as these two arms of government are supposed to provide these infrastructure for their people,” Saraki said.
Earlier, NULGE president Khaleel said the rally was aimed at fighting for autonomy for local governments, as well as liberation of the masses for the future.
He said the local governments were no longer as functional as they used to be, because they had been hijacked by state governments.
According to him, this has disconnected people at the grassroots from the government.
“This is why we are making our demands clear. We demand financial and political autonomy, job security for local government workers and direct funding of local governments from the federation account.
“We also demand adequate care for traditional institutions, abolition of illegal deductions from local governments’ monthly allocations and local government representation at the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC).’’
Comrade Ayuba Wabba, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said the union had joined the struggle for local government autonomy to ensure people at the grassroots survived.
“If local governments function properly, the issue of insecurity will be a thing of the past. We can address corruption.’’
He called on Nigerians to ensure they obtained a voters’ card so that they to enable them support only law makers who would ensure autonomy of local governments. (NAN)