How govs’re messing up LG administration–NULGE president
From DESMOND MGBOH, Kano
Monday, April 02,  2012

• Ibrahim Khaleel

Business24

President of the National Association of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Alhaji Ibrahim Khaleel, is one man, who is very passionate about the deliberate misinterpretation and glaring abuses, characterising the management of local governments areas in Nigeria.

The Kano- born administrator is very eloquent about the role of various state governors in the mess. In fact, he sees the governors as the greatest threat to survival of the third tier of administration in Nigeria, a reason he is fighting back from several fronts. He spoke to select journalists in Kano. Excerpts:

Background
It is very important to understand how the system of local government administration in Nigeria was initiated. Before the coming of the colonial masters, we know that some of our societies and communities were managed through a centralised, well planned traditional administrative system. When the Europeans came, they appreciated the fact that this administration they found in place was well–structured and, therefore, decided to key into existing system, using the indirect rule systems.

So, from that time to date, the local government system has no doubt witnessed a lot of reforms; starting from 1976. Thereafter, there were other reforms – the Oyoyofo Reform, the Dasuki Reform up to the era of the military regimes of Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, which gave birth to the creation of more local governments in the country because of the needs and aspirations of the common people in our communities and grassroots.

With this preamble, one would understand why the local government administrative system in Nigeria is very strategic and important to Nigerians; in fact, I must add that it is the only native and people-oriented system that we are operating for now. It is a system that came into being because of the demands and requests of the local communities and the ordinary citizens of Nigeria.

The grey areas of the 1999 Constitution as it relates to local government administration in Nigeria.
Despite the strategic nature of the local government administration in Nigeria, what is operational today is a caricature of the spirit of the system. Today, all manners of horrible experiments are being carried out, more especially from the state governments, on the local governments. The most unfortunate thing is that some of the grey areas that are being exploited by the governors are created by the 1999 Constitution. You see, my friends, going by the paper we recently presented to the National Assembly and other stakeholders; we were very clear on some of these contradictions in the constitution.

For example, Section 7 (1) declared emphatically that the system of local government administration must be conducted via a democratically elected council. And accordingly, the government of every state shall subject to Section 8 of the same constitution to ensure their existence under the law, which provides for the establishment of structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.

So, if you look at Section 7 (1) and Section 8 of the same constitution, there are a lot of contradictions. Section 7 (6b) states that the National Assembly shall produce public revenue from the local government councils of the federation but the confusion is extended further by Section 7 (b), which states that the House of Assembly in the state shall make provision for statutory allocation of public revenue.

This confusion also resurfaced in Section 162 (6) where it establishes that the States Joint Local Government Accounts for the purpose of payment of all allocations to the local government councils to the state; and from the federal account to the government of the state. In Section 162 (7), it directs the local governments to pay the local government councils its total revenue on the terms prescribed by the National Assembly. At the same time, it gives the same power and function to the state House of Assembly in Section 162 Sub section (8). So these are some of the contradictions which put the local government systems in serious mess.

We are not even talking of the IGR, which the same constitution provided that the states Houses of Assembly should make laws on what percentage of the IGR collected by the state government is supposed to be allocated through the States Joint Local Government Account and disbursed to the respective Local Government Councils within the states.

So these are some of the contradictions which my union, the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) is agitating against and we are canvassing for some kind of amendment in order to give the local government its due autonomy, to give it the autonomy to operate freely as a tier of government in order to serve the purpose upon which it was created for. That was why NULGE had been agitating for the restructuring of the local government system in Nigeria.

The issue of appointment of undemocratic structures in the local government areas
Apart from seeking these changes that we seek to be effected in the Constitution, we are equally opposed to other forms of imposition by the state governments. We are, for instance, opposed to the overbearing presence and numbers of undemocratic structures that are appointed by the state governors. These undemocratic structures come in the name of Caretaker Committee, Sole Administrators, and Interim Management officers (IMO’s) and whatever name that may be given to them from one state to another. These people are appointed by the state government to run the affairs of the local government areas, contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

Illegal deductions by the state governments
As if this is not bad enough, we are faced with another dimension to the malfeasance, that is, the illegal and sundry deductions from the local government funds through the joint local government accounts by the state governments. There are a lot of illegal and sundry deductions going on in different guises and this is happening in different forms and in different states. What is obtainable in Kano, for instance, maybe slightly different from what is obtainable in another state or in the Southern part of the country. The painful thing is that we know, for sure that no state governor or House of Assembly has any power to divert the money so appropriated to the local government from the federation account for the local government administration.

Other sins of the state governors
For sometimes now, we have been agitating for these changes based on the needs and challenges at the grassroots. The essence of the creation of local government is to bring government nearer to the people; to create an opportunity to bridge the gap between the ordinary citizens and the local community and the governance, by way of ensuring that some developmental projects and services needed at the grassroots level are properly and adequately provided for by such local government authorities. Unfortunately because of the burden of over flooding the local governments with of sundry principal local government officers, either elected or appointed, a substantial part of the money provided for local government operations are used for the settlement and payment of salaries and allowances of these officers at the grassroots level.

So, our union is of the opinion that if we really want to develop our rural areas, such offices that are not necessary and essential, must be curtailed to allow for the free flow of development at the grassroots level. There is also the problem of over -deduction of monies meant for local government administration. Most times, they shift the bills for the payment of primary school teachers and the responsibility for the running the primary schools to the local government councils.

This is not what is contained in the constitution. What the constitution provides for is very clear based on the interpretations given and the ruling of the Supreme Court. The constitution provides that the responsibility for the administration of primary schools is purely that of the state government while the local governments are mere participants in the administration of primary schools in the country.

But what we are seeing is where the whole burden of payment of primary school teachers’ salaries is gradually being shifted to the local governments whereby about 50 to 60 per cent of the total allocations meant for the local governments are now used in the settlement of the salaries of primary school teachers, a situation which leaves the local government with only 40 per cent of their total allocations for the payment of staff salaries, political office holders salaries and other developmental projects.

State governors and conduct of local government elections
In most cases, it is the governors that mischievously create situations that would give them advantage to appoint either caretakers or sole administrators or what have you. Ideally, there shouldn’t be any reason to create vacuum in the local councils but for the mischief of the governors. That is why we would always appreciate Governor Sule Lamido, who has never created any vacuum at the local government level in Jigawa State. He has always made sure that as the tenure of the current chairmen and councilors are expiring, another election is taking place to ensure a free transition.

But if you look at what most of our governors are doing, you will discover that their conduct is not different from that of military governors. It is ironic that these same set of governors who came into office through democratic means are not democrats in the practical sense. They don’t respect the constitution; they don’t respect the aspirations and wishes of the people; they don’t even reckon with any human being, except themselves. Whatever they feel is right must be taken as the superior decision for all to accept. What we see at the state levels is the government of the governors, for the governors and by the governors. It is this attitude that is retarding the development of the local government areas.

The governors are the stumbling blocks to the operation of the local government administration in Nigeria because they deny the ordinary people the opportunity to participate freely in the administration of the local government.. That is why we believe we will stage protests and seek the support of the National Assembly to achieve our goal. We are fighting not only for the autonomy of the local government, but for the good of the generality of Nigerians.

What NULGE plans to do
That is why we, the leadership of NULGE, under my humble self, came up with a clear position that we have to fight this ugly trend that is gradually gripping local government areas. And in line with this, we have already concluded arrangement that by March 25-30, we shall convene in Benin city, Edo State. We are going there for a special delegates conference and all the delegates from the 774 local government areas in the country will meet, interact and prepare our selves to fight this great challenge.

We must come out from our shelves and fight against this ugly trend in order to position the local government administration in the country to be able to operate freely as expected and by the grace of God, we are expected to start the rally from Edo, after the conference.

We would come on the streets of Benin city, talk to the whole world and Nigeria on the position of NULGE, regarding the issue and the need for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution. And of course, our sister unions from Africa and public service are coming to identify with us. We are expecting not less than 20 countries from our sister unions, especially those that are coming from Africa and other parts of the world. I don’t believe there is any Nigerian who is happy with the way the local government system has been run in the past 50 years.

It is really unfortunate that members of the state Houses of Assembly have been pocketed by the state governors, even when most of the members come from the local government areas. So, let me say it this way, that we are calling on all members of the state House of Assembly to first, no matter how loyal they may be with their state governors, to be loyal to their electorate.

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