The National Assembly has expressed sadness over the rejection of the local government autonomy during the just concluded constitution amendment.
Speaking Tuesday in Abuja, at the National Stakeholders’ Conference on Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs organized by the Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, the lawmakers lamented that they had been working hard to ensure that development reaches the grassroots and that each time the bill that will give the local governments autonomy gets to the State Houses of Assembly, it is rejected by some states.
The three-day conference involved participants from the federal, states and the local governments with the theme, ‘Harnessing Grassroots Potentials For Service Delivery and For Sustainable National Development: The Proper Place of Local Government Administration and Intergovernmental Relations’.
Declaring the conference opened, the Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, said most Nigerian people live in the rural areas thus the need for adequate attention at the grassroots.
“This is the reason why the debate on the devolution of power has been kept on the front burner for a long time. Nigeria opted to run a three tier of government for development to spread to the local governments,” Akume said.
Akume a former Benue State Governor said he established the national council for intergovernmental affairs to advise on issues that will bring development at the grassroots, and that the recommendation of the stakeholders’ conference will be taken to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for prompt action.
Speaking at the event, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Character, Abba Moro, said it is unfortunate the people the local government autonomy is meant to serve directly are the ones rejecting it despite the efforts of the National Assembly.
“It is only in our country that a state assembly will reject a bill that will give it autonomy. Local government is the foundation of government. The aggregation of development in the local government will fast-track development.
“I was a local government chairman and during our time, I was the ALGON chairman in Benue State. LG were having unfiltered access to their funds when the present Minister, George Akume was the Governor.
“But it is like we left with the local governments. Because of the nature of our society, in the face of emasculation, NULGE is not doing anything. They maintain a muted silence. Did they maintain silence when they sought for the position of leadership?
“I sponsored one of the bills of the LG autonomy that was rejected. As long as I remain in the national assembly, I will continue to return that bill. We need to constantly remind ourselves that we need to do the right thing. We must ensure LG get their autonomy,” Moro said.
Also speaking, the Senate Committee Chairman on Special Duties, Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf, said democracy must start with the mobilization of the grassroots and ensuring that the local governments work.
Yusuf said, “If not, we will continue to get things wrong. If you impose from the top to bottom, there will be a crisis. We must harness the potentials at the grassroots. We have been trying at the National Assembly to ensure that local governments get their autonomy and get their resources.
“They have been blocked which has closed down a lot of potentials. At the national assembly, we couldn’t get the two thirds from the states for the passage of the LG autonomy. When it was presented in the state, NULGE even came and protested at the national assembly but in the end, the LG autonomy did not pass in the state.”
Also, the Chairman, House Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs, Hon Akin Alabi, said Local government chairmen hardly do projects now because there is no funds available to them.
Alabi said, “The more we give them freedom, the more we empower the local governments and the more the development will go to the grassroots,” Alabi said, adding that NULGE even rejected a bill to give them autonomy. They kept quiet even when the national assembly members were fighting for the freedom of the local governments.”