Christopher Isiguzo and Gideon Arinze in Enugu
Hundreds of workers from the 17 local government areas of Enugu State wednesday literally shut down the state capital demanding the autonomy for the third tier government in order to achieve improved service delivery.
The council workers, who commenced their rally from Okpara Avenue by Ogui road junction, marched through the popular roads within the city before arriving at the state House of Assembly complex where they handed over their demands to the lawmakers.
The rally organised under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) attracted notable leaders of the union including its National President, Ibrahim Khaleel, who was represented by the National Treasurer, Ambali Akeem; state President, Kenneth Ugwueze; state Chairman of NLC, Virginus Nwobodo, among others.
In his speech, Khaleel said the local government is the mirror of the society through which development can get to the grassroots level, noting that the true dividend of democracy is achieved through the provision of security and better life for the people.
According to him, there is the prevalence of ethnic violence because many Nigerians who reside in localities have been deprived of basic social amenities and excluded from government.
He regretted that local governments have been witnessing coronation instead of proper election of chairmen which is why they have been turned into mere appendages to the state government, adding that the tenure of local government political leaders are not clearly stated in the law.
â€œWe have had cases of dissolution of local government chairmen by state governors without recourse to the constitutional provision and it continues to affect the development of the grassroots level,â€ he said.
On the way forward, Khaleel said there should be the establishment of a local government service commission so that workers can be adequately be protected from the state government, adding that there should be the establishment of a central body to conduct elections so that local government leaders can focus in the development of the grass root level.
He said: â€œWe can only address the issue when we are allowed to run our activities without any form of interference by the state government. â€œThere should be a central body that conducts local government elections so the chairmen can focus in the development of their local governments.â€
Receiving the council workers, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly expressed the readiness of the lawmakers to support the quest for council autonomy.
He said they would vote in support of local for autonomy which has been in the front burner for some time now. Ubosi said that since the state assemblies are fighting for autonomy, there is no way they would not support the local councils to be autonomous. He said he knew much about the local government system not to support the council autonomy because, according to him, he was once a councilor, council chairman before he became a legislator.
He, however, said getting the local government autonomy might not be that easy, and advised that the local government authorities consult the relevant authorities to ensure that the autonomy is assured.