Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The leadership of three labour unions, National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), rose from a meeting with the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, yesterday to support the ongoing agitation by NULGE for local government autonomy in the country.
This decision arose after exhaustive deliberations and proper understanding of the issues at the Labour House in Abuja, which was made available to journalists in a statement jointly signed by Wabba, Ibrahim Khaleel, President, NULGE, Michael Alogba Olukoya, President, NUT and Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, President, MHWUN,
The unions agreed that the autonomy of local government councils shall be total, comprehensive with all the rights, structures, duties, functions, privileges and obligations clearly spelt out as is the case with the federal and state governments.
In view of this, the unions requested that Clauses 7, 8, 162 and any other clause in the 1999 Constitution that compromise the autonomy of local government should be deleted to give free and unfettered meaning to â€œautonomyâ€ and make local governments function as third-tier governments; and that local governments shall be directly funded and tenure of their executive and legislature stated.
In furtherance of their requests, they prayed that primary school education as a stepping stone and the foundation of all forms of education deserves a national policy, and its funding should be the responsibility of the federal, state and local governments;
â€¢That in order to ensure, guarantee and effect regular and timely payment of teachersâ€™ salaries, entitlements and benefits, teachersâ€™ salaries, shall be a first line charge on the Federation Account;
â€¢That the existing agencies such as UBEC, SUBEBs, LGEAs should be strengthened and empowered to play their roles and discharge their functions; and,
â€¢ That there should be unfettered establishment/functionality of the primary health care boards/authorities: including salaries, training, programme funding (i.e. immunisation etc.)
The bodies asked that the constitution should strengthen the Supreme Court judgment in the Attorney-General of the Federation versus Attorneys-General of the 36 states, NWLR May 6, 2002, Part 764, (removing in the process every ambiguity, lacuna or impediment), ceding responsibility for payment of teachersâ€™ salaries to states wherein it is stated inter alia: â€œIn so far as primary education is concerned, a local government council only participates with the state government. The function obviously remains with the state governmentâ€