Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, has lamented the comatose state of local government administration across the country, blaming state governments for its precarious situation and its inability to be autonomous.
Obasanjo, who spoke while playing host to members of a group ”Friends of Democracy” in his Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), Abeokuta, Ogun State capital alleged that state governments have deliberately incapacitated the council financially for their selfish reasons.
The group’s visit was to enlist for president’s support on the Local Government Autonomy Bill, which had been passed by National Assembly but still requires the nod of not less than 24 State Houses of Assembly.
While commending nine states, including Ogun, that have signed the LG autonomy bill as well as described them as progressive states, Obasanjo tagged those states that are yet to do so as “enemies of the masses”.
Obasanjo, charged the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), to be at the forefront of demanding for the LG autonomy in the interest of the people at the grassroots.
“When in 1976, we brought in Local Government Reforms, it was meant to be third tier of the government and not meant to be subjected to whims and caprices of any other government. Just the same way that the state government is autonomous from the Federal Government.
“Local Government is meant to be autonomous from the state governments. But from what we know, by design, most states have incapacitated the local government. They have virtually stolen the local governments’ money in what they called Joint Account. They were to contribute 10 percent but they never contributed anything.
“So, what we have across the country are local government areas that have functions, but cannot perform the functions. They have staff but most of them cannot pay the staff, and we keep getting excuses upon excuses.
” I see no reason why this should be so, if the Federal Government allows the states to enjoy their autonomy except in the case of state of emergency.
“The bill passed by the National Assembly which requires 24 State Houses of Assembly and like I am told only 9 states have signed it. I am proud of those states because they are what you will call progressive states that really believe in democracy.
“My own state (Ogun) is one of them. I will say kudos to Ogun State. In the South-South, only Bayelsa and Cross River States have signed it. Kudos to those two states. In the North-East, it’s only Bauchi. In the North-West, it’s only Sokoto. In the North-Central, we have four states, Kwara, Niger, Plateau and Benue. I will say kudos to the executives and the legislature of those states.
“But we must say those state executives and the legislatures that have prevented the bill from being passed, they must be taken as the enemy of the people and they should be treated as such. Because if you enjoy autonomy from the Federal Government, why don’t you want local government to enjoy autonomy?
“Again, I will say leadership of NLC and NULGE who have always fought for the interest of the people should know that the interest of the people at the local government will be best served, if the LG has autonomy which is meant that they should have.”the elderstatesman stated.