President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has reiterated his support for local government autonomy in the country.
Saraki, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, in Abuja, stated this during a visit by the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), led by its National President, Comrade Ibrahim Khalil.
He said that the Senate and the National Assembly appreciate the importance of autonomous governance at the third tier of government and will continue to work towards its realization.
“Here in the Senate and the National Assembly, we appreciate the importance of governance in the third tier of government — the local government,” Saraki said. “As such, it is very important that we strengthen local government administration.
“Part of strengthening local government administration is ensuring that there is autonomy. I also believe that strengthening local government administration means that we all do our best to increase the capacity at the local government.
“Sometimes, you find out that in developed countries, people who are competent, to contest at a level even as high as the Senate, would tell you that they don’t want to be at the Federal level like Abuja or Washington, they prefer to stay at the local level” .
Saraki told the local government employees that it is also important to see that local governments are properly and independently funded, “however, there must be a symbiotic relationship between the states and the local governments to ensure that the third tier of government is not placed at a disadvantage.”
“It is unfortunate that you observed that in the last Constitution alteration exercise, we were not successful on this issue. Being a former Governor, the Senate Leader always reminds me that ‘I have seen the light.’ But on a serious note, we all have a role to play to strengthen our local government system.
“It is important that we see how local governments can be independent, how local governments can have more autonomy, and Governors cannot interfere with what is due to local governments.
“In all of this, there must still be a cordial and symbiotic relationship. If we just say that local governments should just be on their own, it might have some disadvantages.
“We must also look at how we can ensure that local governments have funding of their own without any interference,” Saraki stated.
Saraki also noted that following the last Constitutional Review exercise embarked on by the National Assembly, only nine states were in support of local government autonomy, stating that he would do more to ensure that further cooperation and collaboration is achieved to rectify the issue.
The President of the Senate said:-
“If we look at the last Constitution review exercise, unfortunately, I must say that we have a lot to do. I don’t think that we got up to nine states that were in support of local government autonomy.
“I will ensure that we do more to rectify this issue. I am proud to say that my home state, Kwara, was one of those 9 states that supported local government autonomy.
“It will happen. I assure you, it will happen. We are all in a hurry to see that it happens. The question though, is how soon? I always say that these kinds of things like the Constitutional amendment process, you cannot bully anybody. But you must ensure that there is cooperation and collaboration”.
Earlier, the National President of NULGE, Ibrahim Khalil lamented that local government administrations in the country have been rendered impotent over the years as a result of undue interference.
“Our visit is to rekindle efforts and bring all hands on deck to ensure that Local Governments become autonomous in this country,” Khalil said. “We recognize that the leadership of the National Assembly has a critical role to play in ensuring that Local Governments become autonomous in this country.”