Onungwe Obe in Yenagoa
Former President Goodluck Jonathan has called for the reform and autonomy of local government areas, as they would only be able to generate revenues if independent.
He, therefore, called on the National Assembly to make laws to guarantee strong and autonomous local governments.
The former president said if he were a member of the National Assembly, he would mobilise his colleagues to amend the 1999 Constitution to prohibit the appointment of a LGA chairman and make the chairmanship strictly elective.
He spoke yesterday when the national and state executives of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) paid him a courtesy visit in his country home, Otuoke, Bayelsa State, to solicit his support towards stopping a bill seeking to delist the LGAs from the 1999 Constitution.
Jonathan said the local government system was the oldest globally accepted means through which government impact positively on the lives of the people at the grassroots.
He said any bill targeted at delisting LGAs from the constitution was an abuse of democratic tenets and procedures.
He urged governors to refrain from directly getting involved in the day-to-day running of local government affairs because their actions make governance unreliable, unacceptable and undependable at the grassroots level.
He added: “The problem with Nigeria is that our local government structure is still very weak. And whatever restructuring we are talking about, finally, Nigerians must sit down to discuss and the issue of LGA autonomy must be considered.
“As long as we have weak local governments, we would have difficulty managing this country. The way it is now, the person who runs the state, runs the LGAs and that makes nonsense of the whole concept of the third tier of government.
“The president should manage the nation, governors should manage the states and chairmen should be allowed to run the local councils.
“And until we are able to do that, it would be difficult to impact the people at the grassroots level. It is only through local councils that the dividends of democracy can permeate uniformly into the society. And all of us must advocate for this right.
“The local government council must be strong, autonomous and allowed to generate its own revenue. If I were in the Senate, I would have mobilised members to ensure that we amend the constitution in a way that would prohibit the appointment of chairmen to run governance at local council level.
“The issue of appointment now makes the local government council look like a part of the state’s administrative structure but that is not what ought to be the case. This is an abuse of democracy. So this appointment system has made council chairmen become like aides to the governor and we must discourage that.”