Khaleel And His Struggle For Local Government Autonomy – By Michael Oche
Nigeria’s underdevelopment at the rural level as well as the increasing spate of poverty, and unemployment has been blamed on the strangulation of the local government system.
The stangulation of LG by state governors has led to a near absence of any sense of governance at that level. While millions of Nigerians who are affected continue to seek a way out, the governors who act like emperors continue to reign supreme
It is no hidden secret that the diversion of funds belonging to local governments by some governors has starved the grassroots of the needed funds for development.
In March 2011, NULGE after the emergence of Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel as its National President began a campaign to address constitutional reform in Nigeria. The objective is to make local government stronger by ensuring that workers have a say in the decisions.
“Our leadership decided early in the life of our administration to push for a constitutional amendment to put local governments in the proper place to deliver on its objectives,” the NULGE President said last March during an advocacy visit to Lagos state
Actually, Khaleel once vowed that NULGE would do everything to put a stop to the practice by some state governors to constitute caretaker committees to replace democratically elected officials in local governments.
The struggle for an autonomous local government system has not been easy. It has met stiff resistance from state governors who have not hidden their desires to continue to capitulate the third tier of government.
Under Khaleel, NULGE has led the struggle for an autonomous local government system. From Lafia in Nasarawa State to Calabar in Cross River State and from Lagos to Imo state, he has led protests, rallies, solidarity visits,advocacy visits to nearly every part of the country, emphasizing the need to grant the local government areas both financial and political autonomy
One day, history will remember this great Nigerian and his role to liberate our local government system.
While many Nigerians, including local government chairmen who are to benefit enormously from an autonomous sytem remain lukewarm, Khaleel has been at frontline of the struggle to extricate the LG from the exploitation of state governors.
He has won the admiration and respect of many Nigerians who see him as a liberator. Even some governors have succumbed to his superior arguments on the need for local government autonomy. No wonder, most governors are now giving their open support to the cause.
Yet, for Khaleel, the struggle is not about monetary or poltical gains, it is about development and love for country and humanity.
He said, “This is against the original intention for the creation of the local government system which was deliberately designed for speedy development.
“You all must have witnessed the levels of instability in the administration of the local government system in the country. Local government administrations are either not allowed to function as state governments starve them through the operation of state-local government joint account; or they are prematurely terminated or dissolved and caretaker committees set up, made up of political cronies and rookies.
“Looking back since we embarked on the journey into the current democratic dispensation on May 29, 1999; it is clear that our ruling elite across the political divide, irrespective of party affiliation, see and indeed operate local governments as personal fiefdoms from which they exploit without being accountable to the people. This obviously goes against the intent and rationale for the creation of the local government system which was deliberately designed for inclusive development or to take development to the very base/grassroots of our society.”
The struggle for local government is not about NULGE or it’s President, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel. It is a clarion call to stop executive lawlessness by state governors and the exploitation of ordinary Nigerians at the rural level.
But we must join hands to demand political, financial and administrative autonomy of local government; abolition of State/local government joint account; payment of 10 per cent internally generated revenue by state governments to local government,; stopping the deduction from local government’s’ federal revenue allocation by state governments; and abolition of State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) and reverting the conduct of local government elections to INEC.
We must join hands to pressure the state assemblies to vote in favour of local government autonomy. Already, speculations are rife that the Governors, who have the State Assemblies in their pockets as stooges, are beginning to mobilise to obstruct its passage as required by law. The same perfidy happened during the last review as the State Houses of Assembly sabotaged the process and the required concurrence from at least 24 of the 36 states to vote in favour of local government autonomy could not be attained.
Khaleel has led the charge for local government autonomy, our eyes are now opened and we must join him to ensure that our local government system is free.
Oche is the Labour editor for leadership newspapers