Members of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Kano State are protesting against the ongoing campaign for Local Government Autonomy.
These people who are mostly primary school teachers and sympathizers say over the year local government authorities have been siphoning funds meant for primary school teachers.
Secretary of the union in Kano Haruna Ilallah told reporters at the union secretariat that it became necessary for them to fight for the welfare of their members.
Hundreds of primary school teachers drown from the 44 Local Government areas in Kano gathered at court road, the headquarters of the NUT protesting the signified unacceptability of Local Government Autonomy.
They are not directly against the autonomy of Local Government Authorities in Nigeria, but they want the salaries and other entitlements of their members be separated from the local government who they accused of corruption.
“We are not against Local Government Autonomy, what we are saying is that separate our salaries from the Local Governments Authorities, let it either be handled by the state or federal government.”
Although the association of Local Government Employees of Nigeria recently spoke on getting their autonomy back, but activities such as this may present a significant threat to the other party in question.
But, the National Social Secretary of the NUT Yunusa Danguguwa believed that is only when the welfare of their members are redirected to either the federation or the state governments accounts that the autonomy of local governments will be guaranteed.
“We knew that our friends from the Local Governments in Nigeria are asking for autonomy but history has shown that from the 80’s when these Local Governments were enjoying the autonomy they have been stealing money meant for us, that is why we will not allow them to get any autonomy unless our position is clearly defined.”
A delegate at the National Conference, Goddy Uwazurike, on Wednesday, said the National Conference was unable to achieve desired results on the issue of derivation, because they had fallen into a trap, set by some members.
Criticisms for the Conference seemed to have increased following a major disagreement which ensued over the issue of derivation and resource sharing/control. Many analysts had said this was the crux of the matter as it was perceived as the root of major other national issues including unemployment, insurgency, etc.
However, Uwazurike spoke in defence of the Conference. “We fell into a trap,” he said.
“Some people came forward and said instead of us standing up here to argue and debate, why don’t we have this small group that will negotiate and see how we can reach agreement… (that was the trap) and we said, fine, let there be no acrimony.
“They came back, the man who was reading what was supposed to be the recommendation, from what we heard, read what was not the recommendation.
“That thing shocked many people. The recommendation was simple. 18 percent derivation, 5 percent would come from the Federation Account for the maintenance of areas damaged by terrorism and so on, beginning with North East.
“It’s a national fund, but the man went and said beginning with North East, North West, North Central and the rest of the country. Then some of them said, no we don’t even want the rest of the country; it’s only for us.
Asked why appropriate changes were not made upon discovery of the error, Uwazurike, explained that the man in question called in sick after he was told to make corrections, after which a larger committee took over “which was still another trap. So by the time we all came back to sit down, the tension was already high”.
He, however, noted that a decision was reached to adopt the report by the committee, which stated that status quo should be maintained.
Speaking on the most critical breakthrough of the Conference, Uwazurike noted that Conference recommended that the creation, management, funding of the local government should be the business of the State government, although the LGs would be fully autonomous.
The recommendation also states that State Finance Committees should be set up the same way the FAAC has an Allocation Committee. This Committee will be in charge of disbursing money to the local governments.
“Any money coming from the States should be handled by the local government directly, provided it is an elected local government and provided the governor has no power to sack such a person, the House of Assembly has no such powers to sack such a person.”
“The second breakthrough we have is that any state that desires State Police should go ahead and get one, provided they can fund it.
State Police will only handle state matters including murder, stealing, road network and so on, while Federal Police will handle bank fraud, treason and so on.
National Assembly Can’t Achieve What National Conference Has
Uwazurike, also commended the achievements of the Conference thus far, noting that the National Assembly cannot achieve such, as it is “bound by too many rules”.
Mr Uwazurike, a part of the sub-committee on judiciary matters, reacted to comments – in the public domain, as well as those by some delegates – describing the entire process as a failed effort, based on the assumption that some concrete recommendations were not made.
“Opinion is free and you are free to say anything”, Uwazurike said, noting that those who consider the Conference a failure must be “living in the moon” because delegates took pains to make recommendations.
“We have taken steps. We made painstaking efforts, line by line, to discuss national issues; whether is it executive, whether it is judicial, whether it is legislative. We took pains”.
Although some delegates have also publicly berated the effort, Uwazurike insisted that such delegates were “visiting delegates” and not “regular delegates”.
The Managing Editor of National Daily Newspaper, Mr Kelechi Anyawu, has called on Nigerian media practitioners to beam their lights on local and state governments as they are also responsible for providing social basic amenities.
“That’s an area the media should focus much on, especially the local governments” he said, noting that the “big buses people see in London is not provided by the UK government”.
“We are losing our local governments because of the way our states are controlling them.”
“I think it is very important that the media should start focusing on the grass roots and start asking questions”, he said on Sunrise Daily on Thursday.
Mr Anyawu further berated the state governors for “being in total control of what the local governments get” and added that “local governments can’t even give contracts to close pot holes and other little things they are supposed to do”.
He also called on the civil society and the general public to also ask questions on how the two tiers of government use their allocated and generated funds.
He however accused the local government councils of “misappropriation and mismanagement” of funds, noting that “what they get now is almost five or six times what they used to get in the past” when they executed laudable projects.
He argued that a shift, where the governor takes total control of the local governments and usurp their project execution obligation, has taken place asking “how many of the states have conducted local government elections; so majority of the people there are handpicked by the state governors”.
He called for the re-structuring of the local government system to ensure that they are “autonomous of the control of the state government”.
Mr Anyawu further agreed with the Co-ordinating Minister and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who had called on Nigerians to demand improved standards of living from their state governments, rather than accusing the Federal Government of insensitivity all the time.
“There seems to be an over concentration of attention on what is going on at the centre. A lot of people are more concerned about what is happening at the centre than what is happening in their locality” he said, adding that “the politics of the country, in recent times, has so much projected the centre that people have little regard for what is happening in their locality” insisting that “it should change”.
The Finance Minister had said that basic public services such as education, health and agriculture fell under the concurrent list, but wondered why citizens always blamed the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan for the failings of some state governments, who get monthly allocation larger than countries like Liberia, The Gambia and the Republic of Benin.
She went ahead to list Nigeria’s 10 highest revenue receiving states based on the federal allocations in 2013.
The states and their allocations, according to her, were Akwa Ibom, N260 billion; Rivers, N230 billion; Delta, N209 billion; Bayelsa, N173 billion; Lagos, N168 billion; Kano, N140 billion; Katsina, N103 billion; Oyo, N100 billion; Kaduna, N 97billion and Borno, N94 billion.
“So you see that our top 10 states receive more money than these countries and, therefore, you should be asking what this money is being used for.” Okonjo-Iweala said.
State governors on the platform of the newly registered mega party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Wednesday cautioned the National Assembly against legislating on any aspect of the local government administration in the country; saying that such an action will tilt the country towards a unitary state.
This was part of the resolutions of the APC governors at their maiden meeting held in Lafia, Nasarawa State capital on Wednesday.
In attendance at the meeting were Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa State), Governor Kashim Shettima (Borno ); Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti ); Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Osun); Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (Lagos); Senator Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo); Governor Abdulazeez Yari ( Zamfara),and Senator Ibikunle Amosun ( Ogun State); Comrade Adams Oshiomhole ( Edo) and Governor Rochas Okorocha ( Imo State, represented by his Deputy, Prince Eze Madumere). Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State could not attend following his trip to the lesser Hajj.
Reading the communiqué after the 4-hour long meeting, Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said the governors extensively discussed constitutional amendment and resolved that the issue of local government administration is a matter within the purview of the federating unit and that federalism is the basis of the nation’s sovereignty.
The Governors added that any attempt by the National Assembly to legislate on any aspect of council administration will undermine and weaken the fundamental principles of the Nigerian federalism.
Fayemi also said that the Forum deliberated on revenue allocation and noted that in spite of recommendations made to the Presidency, no effect has been given to the extant proposals on the need to give more funds to the states and local governments because that is where the citizens reside.
The Executive Director of Grassroots Watch, Adeola Soetan, on Monday, said that the arm of government at the local level is the strong foundation of Nigerian government while the state government is only artificial.
Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Soetan said that the creation of more local governments will not bring about better development except government officials are sincere.
He also pointed out that money invested in ‘social indulgence’ like congratulatory messages to each other is the same money that should be used in installing borehole systems, building schools and so on.
78.5percent of rural based local governments are not interested in who governs them, they are particularly interested about the development of their community.
Following the many arguments that have trailed the call for local government autonomy, Mr Soetan stated that there is need for local government to be independent of the state governments.
According to him, minimal responsibilities like tenement rate, markets that allow local governments to operate and develop have been taken over by state governments therefore limiting their level of improvement.
“The state government has assumed they have the mandate to take over duties that rightfully belong to the local government,” he said.
Mr. Soetan said that Governors, who are not in support of autonomy believe the local government is not a necessary tier of government and it should also have appointed not elected leaders, making this ‘appointed’ local government chairmen indebted to the Governor that put them in power.
The chairman, All Progressive Youth Forum, Ismaeel Ahmed, has said that the local governments should be given the fiscal autonomy by the state government since the federal government is the main source of finance.
Speaking on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr. Ahmed explained that the local government is recognised by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and is supposed to be run by elected officials and not supposed to be at wheels of the state government to do as they please.
Comparing the local and state government he said unlike the former, the state government cannot be administratively run by persons appointed by the president unless there is state of emergency in case of insecurity, “if the federal government cannot do that to the state why should the state do that to the local government’’.
He added that the State House of Assembly is responsible for creating the local government and there is a constitution that recognises 774 local governments. This, he said, allows the National Assembly to allocate certain amount of funds from the federal government.
Minority leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has called for caution with the local government autonomy recently approved by the lawmakers.
Speaking on Channels TV Sunrise Daily, the lawmaker decried the inclusion of local governments as purview of federal government, saying that they should be the responsibility of state government.
According to him, local governments are not meant to be in the constitution. “We have agreed on the autonomy of local government but we are yet to vote on what defines the autonomy and those are clauses that we have vote on soon.”
He affirmed his support for the local government autonomy in terms of elections into the councils but utterly disagreed with “the ridiculous things….and clauses that have been put into the law that basically allows the federal government to run local government.”
“That is running from one problem to creating another problem”, he added.
This week’s edition of Sunrise is about some of the proposals by members of the House of Representatives for the on-going Constitution amendment with a focus on local government autonomy, appointment of the Attorney-General of the Federation, impeachment of President and six-year single term as proposed by the Senate.
A member of the House of Representatives, Ibrahim El-Sudi, legal practitioner, Bisi Adegbuyi and social commentator, Biodun Sowunmi, make up the panel of discussants.
The Delta State governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan on Monday said about 65 percent of local government council’s revenue is used to pay the salaries of primary school teachers.
Mr Uduaghan, who was a guest on Channels Television’s morning programme, Sunrise Daily, said those calling for local government autonomy must consider the problem of funding the third tier of government.
Watch the video below for the complete interview on local government autonomy with Mr Uduaghan.
The president of the Trade union Congress (TUC) has urged the state governors to support the push for local government autonomy as they (the governors) are as well demanding for more power from the Federal Government.
Mr Esele, made the plea on our breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily in Port Harcourt, where he noted that to make the local governments functional, “there must be a law to make the local governments independent and functional.”
The former chairman of Ikoyi/Obalende Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Mr Folarin Gbadebo-Smith has kicked against the controversial call for Local Government (LG) autonomy saying that the local government can’t survive without the state government.
Mr Gbadebo-Smith on our breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, stated that “no local government can survive on its own without a state government authority” adding that “all system in the country must function as an integrated units.”
The former LG chairman asked why authority should be handed-over to an office whose performance cannot be measured.
According to him, “the LGs are only accountable to the State Assemblies while their funds come from the federal government. If they are given the autonomy, they (LG officials) are going to do what they like, because they are no longer accountable to anybody.”
Prescribing a fomular that will get the LGs productive in development, Mr Gbadebo-Smith suggested that the “civil societies which represent the voice of people, should play a much stronger role by interfacing with the local governments.”
He also called the development of a public accountability system as well as a performance audit system.
This is what the state governments can be of good use for by reaching a agreement with the local government leaders to achieve a set target.
“There has to be sanctions and rewards for such targets” he added.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal on Wednesday cautioned the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha and other state governors on their handling of the country’s local government system.
The speaker warned that the National Assembly will move to discourage illegal local government councils by stopping their funding.
Mr Tambuwal sounded this warning against the background of the recent incidence in Imo State.
The Imo State governor had in August sacked the 27 reinstated Local government chairmen from office summarily dissolving the third-tier administration in Imo State and replacing the chairmen with Directors of Administration and General Services (DAGS).
The Speaker while in a meeting with the leaders and members of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALCON) at the National Assembly complex in Abuja, said most of the states in the country have been paying lip service to the section of the constitution that guarantee the autonomy of the Local government council.
“What we are thinking of doing in the House of Representatives and I’m sure, by and large the National Assembly is to tie that particular provision with the release of funds to undemocratically installed caretaker committee,” the speaker said.
“I will use this medium to call on the governor of Imo State to please respect the rule of law. If it is about might and power, I’m sure he is not the strongest personality, in terms of physique, that is in Imo state. But God in His infinite wisdom has made him to be the governor of Imo State, through an electoral process put in place by law. He should therefore also respect the law and do the right thing.
“What is happening there in Imo State is actually unacceptable and please; I am pleading; I am joining other Nigerians to plead with him to respect the laws of the land and do the right thing,” Mr Tambuwal said.
The National President of ALGON, Nwabueze Okafor, had appealed to the lawmakers to save the local government so that it can work for the country.
“The time has come for us to decide whether we want the Local government system to operate or whether we want to remove it entirely,” he said.
Mr Okafor said the ready vehicle through which the government can convey the dividend of democracy to all Nigerians is the local government councils. He therefore pleaded with the National Assembly to intervene in saving the councils from the powers of the state governors.