The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara, has said that the House is working to grant financial autonomy to local governments in the ongoing constitution alteration exercise because that is the only way to guarantee development at the grassroot.
The speaker also charged local government workers to step up agitation for local government autonomy, saying only through their individual and collective efforts will the desired change be achieved.
Dogara gave this charge when he received the national executive members of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), who paid him a courtesy visit in the National Assembly.
The speaker noted that no progress can be achieved in the local government if the present status quo of interference and administration by state governors is retained, adding that local governments must be financially and politically autonomous to trigger development in the rural areas.
He said, “It is a responsibility all of us owe to our people. As a matter of fact, we are not even doing it for you, we are doing it for the Nigerian people. And the way local government administration is in Nigeria, I must say it is truly a stab on the conscience of every true democrat. It doesn’t matter whether you are the president, if you are a senator, a member of the House of Representatives, a leader of any of these institutions or in the judiciary.”
The speaker informed them that some governors who opposed local government autonomy are of the view that local governments will collapse if their administration is handed over to the elected chairmen.
However, the speaker argued that state governors would have “extricated themselves from blame if they let local governments free.”
He added that progress can never be gotten by maintaining the status quo and the House has chosen to ensure that the ongoing Constitution Amendment exercise captures the yearnings of millions of Nigerians for development in the grassroots.
“For us as representatives of the people, we have heard the cry of the people and we know that the only way we can add value to local government is by giving them political and financial independence. This will expand opportunites in the grassroots.”
Earlier, the delegation from NULGE commended the Speaker for leading the campaign and advocacy for local government autonomy and described him as a patriot and statesman.
He called on the speaker to ensure that the ongoing Constitution Amendment captures local government autonomy, adding that he should involve all stakeholders that can bring it to fruition, including President Muhammadu Buhari, who they said is in the best position to ensure that governors stop violation of the constitutionally provided roles of local government officials.
National president of NULGE, Ibrahim Khaleel, also appealed to the Speaker to pass their agitations to president Muhammadu Buhari whom they said, is in the best position to rally for the support of state governors.
“You have the capacity as speaker of this House, together with your team,to make Mr President understand that it is only him and only him that can change the situation. No amount of agitation ir campaign can change the minds of the governors. When he calls the governors and speakers of the House of Assembly, he can make the difference.”