Following Imo and Edo states’ outright rejection of the granting of autonomy to local governments, President of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Comrade Ibraheem Khaleel has lambasted Governors Godwin Obaseki and Rochas Okorocha for influencing and cajoling their states assemblies to vote against the wish of majority of Nigerians. He accused the governors of the two states and their party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, of influencing the State Houses of Assemblies to reject the proposal in the bill, while as a result of their governors’ influence, the houses of assemblies in the northwestern states are stepping down on the bill.
Khaleel questioned the level of intelligence and quality of many members of the state assembly, who would want to remain perpetually under the control of the state governors rather than seek to be independent to be able to perform their role effectively. He explained further that the union was not asking the legislators to automatically endorse the bill, but to conduct a public hearing as agreed by the Speakers Forum and the Governors Forum that in view of the sensitivity of the issue of local government, more consultations need to be carried out and more Nigerians engaged.
According to him, “I want to call on our governors to, as a matter of respect for Nigerian citizens who have spoken and aspiring to have a local government system they can call their own, that will be free for them to participate democratically by electing their Chairmen and Councillors as and when due without undue influence from the government of the state. “The governors should begin to have some level of decorum in their approach to governance. Look at the shame brought to bear on our democracy by the election in Kano where underaged were the ones that mostly voted.
“These are some of the issues that we have been trying to make Nigerians understand. That is not only in the area of democracy. The idea behind establishing local government is by way of bringing governance closer to the people and providing a platform for everybody to participate at his own community level. “But the governors have hijacked this tier of government for their own advantage. This is why we are doggedly following this issue and we are not happy with most of the governors that are foot-dragging this issue. If you look at the governors from the northwestern states, they are foot-dragging.
“The state assemblies showed some patriotic disposition to embrace local government autonomy and ensuring that local government becomes more functional. But when the governors tried to influence the decision of the Assembly, they started stepping it down and this is worrisome.
“We are calling on all governors, as a matter of urgency, to have respect for our democracy and our people to allow the legislature from their states to do their jobs as legislators to conduct public hearing as agreed by the Speakers Forum and even the governors forum that because of the sensitivity of the issue of local government, wider consultations need to be done.