By Bassey Udo
The organised labour has declared that the autonomy of the Local Governments and State Legislature is imperative if democracy in Nigeria must be sustained.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja lamented a situation where the current attempt to amend the country’s Constitution to allow the autonomy of these tiers of government has been stalled.
The NLC in the statement signed by its National President, Ayuba Wabba, blamed the delay on some State Houses of Assembly to assent to the Constitutional bills sent by the National Assembly on Autonomy for Local Governments and State Legislature.
“There are concerns that this constitutional amendment gridlock is at the instance of some State Governors. Currently, Jigawa, Kebbi, Zamfara, Borno, Yobe, Taraba, Gombe, Plateau, Kwara, Imo, Ebonyi, Oyo, Sokoto and Ondo State Houses of Assembly are yet to assent to the very crucial bills on autonomy for local governments and state legislatures,” Wabba said.
He said it was curious to discover that one of the bills the affected Houses of Assembly have refused to give assent to has to do with the financial and administrative independence for the legislature, which would be of utmost benefit to the State Houses of Assembly.
This, he said, suggests an attitude of institutional hostage-taking as it appeals to common logic that the concerned State Houses of Assembly would have since willingly and gladly assent to that piece of progressive legislation.
“The fact that it has not happened proves that there are very strong forces pulling some backward strings from behind the scene. This is most unfortunate!” he said.
Ahead of the meeting by the Speaker of the House of Representatives with State Governors this week, the NLC said the Nigerian workers who bear the brunt of poor allocation of public resources and scant welfare for workers at the lower echelon of government in Nigeria, are demanding that these constitutional bills should be assented to without further delay by State Houses of Assembly yet to do so.
“This progressive step is very crucial to exempt affected state legislatures and their Governors from the harsh judgment of history.
“Besides severe excoriation by posterity, the State Houses of Assembly still dragging their feet on the revolutionary constitutional bills for local government autonomy should understand that millions of Nigerians are watching with keen interest how they treat these bills which translate to huge developmental gains for the mass of our workers and people who live in rural places.
“This caution is critical given that 2023 general election is just weeks away. The Nigerian masses will not forget political office holders who took their side. This is the time to consolidate on Nigeria’s democratic growth.” Wabba said.
The two bills on autonomy for local governments and state houses of assembly, he pointed out, holds the key to the shared democratic expectation, adding that the two bills in focus also have the potential of accelerating the unveiling of accountable governance and realization of developmental goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals, as it would direct public expenditures to where they are needed the most – the grassroots.
This, he said, would go a long way in dealing a mortal blow on rural unemployment, multi-dimensional rural poverty currently at about 73 percent, high rural-urban migration and upsurge in crimes and vices.
Wabba reminded the State governors influencing their State lawmakers to delay assent to the bills, with the expectation that it would strengthen the institution they represent, to remember the vanity of their actions.
“No condition is permanent. A time would come in their political future when the only available refuge from political vicissitudes would be their State House of Assembly. Most of the Governors opposing autonomy for local governments and State Legislature have very active aspirations to be elected to the National Assembly.
“It is on the strength of the foregoing counsel that we appeal to State Governors and lawmakers to quickly assent to the constitutional bills on autonomy for local governments and state legislatures. Nigerian workers and people are waiting with their votes in 2023 to dispense in rations pressed down, shaken together, and running over for State lawmakers and Governors who take sides against the people,” he said.