The President, National Union of Local Government Employees, Ondo State chapter, Dr. Bunmi Eniayewu is a comrade to struggle. In this Interview with BISI OLOMINU he spoke on the recently passed bill on local government autonomy by the National Assembly, and other sundry issues in the state.
What is your opinion on the recently passed law by the National Assembly granting autonomy to local government administration in Nigeria?
This is a good question and it gladdens my heart. What the National Assembly has done is in the right direction and it is just to give the third arm of government right to determine its destiny as enshrined in the constitution. The constitution is the ground norm guiding the activities of each arm of government and what the National Assembly has done is to adhere strictly to what the constitution says. It is indeed a welcome development.
What is your impression of the present government on local government administration in Ondo State?
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) should be praised and commended since his assumption of office for paying local government workers promptly. He has through his action saved many lives from being lost. Many families working in councils in Ondo State were in turmoil before he assumed office, but when he came in, he started the payment and backlog of salary owed by previous administrations have been paid by this administration. That is a sign of good development and sign of good omen in Ondo State.
In our series of meetings held with Arakunrin on local government issue, he has shown that he has the workers’ welfare at heart and is ready to mitigate the problems identified at councils in the state.
We have held series of meetings with Arakunrin on local government problems and how to resolve them. In all , he has shown his interest on how councils should be administered. He is very open to local government administration and wants to see all councils develop at their own pace in the state.
We have competent personnel in the councils in the state that are ready to work with the state government to make the arm virile in the state.
Since the councils are closer to the people at the grassroots, it is pertinent to develop them and make them work in the state.
How good or practicable is local government autonomy in Nigeria?
Local government as the third tier of government is good and practicable in Nigeria. It is closer to the people and best democracy at the grassroots. Not all can have access to the governor, but those at the grassroots can easily gain access to the Chairman of a local government. Granting autonomy would not whittle down the powers of the executive, but rather it brings governance nearer to the people. It will also make the Chairman to be accountable to the people since they are elected by a political party. Also it will make council to take its own destiny in it is hands and competitively strive hard among Chairmen to succeed in their council areas. Having elected local government chairmen in place will make them to key into the programmes of their parties and strive to leave a legacy behind.
The belief of NULGE nationwide is for councils in Nigeria to be autonomous financially, politically and administratively, so that if anything goes wrong, those at the helms of affair can be held responsible.
There’s no need for primary school teachers to fear granting local autonomy to councils in the country.
Primary school teachers’ belief is that their salary could be diverted to other means by chairmen of councils and this could lead to zero allocation like it was in the past?
I too share in the pains of our teachers in the past. There’s no worker after owed salary for 30 days of work who would be happy. Granting autonomy would not in anyway delay their salary being paid. What we are saying is that democracy at the grassroots should be entrenched as it is done in other climes. Councils should take their destiny in their own hands to develop. Let there be elected Chairmen that would carry the vision and mission of his or her parties at the councils level in Nigeria since governors have much to contend with at the capitals.
How therefore can the logjam be resolved?
Let the money due to primary school teachers be paid to them through first charge. I don’t have problem with this and I too concur with our teachers on this. What am saying is that let there be autonomy to councils where Chairmen would be accountable to those at the grassroots, where they will be elected, rather than being selected. Those being selected are not accountable to the people since they are not elected, this is not good for our democracy.
One allegation levelled against councils in Nigeria is corruption, how could this be tackled?
Corruption is not limited to councils alone, it is everywhere in the country. Are we saying that there is no corruption in other arms of government? This menace is meant to be tackled and thanks to the present government that is doing something in that aspect. Since we have governors and Houses of Assembly across the country, any Chairman that is proven to be corrupt can easily be impeached by the legislators at the councils or the case could be taken to the state’s Assembly for adjudication
Your view on local government councils creation and Local Government Development Areas creation?
Creating local councils so far they are in conformity with the constitution is good, but the present economic recession will not make them a reality.
Additional local development areas are not viable too. Of what good are councils created but not recognised by the constitution. Creating LGDA is job for the boys.
Creating Local Government Development Areas (LGDA) now by any state is additional problem. Apart from not being recognised by the constitution, it will be more expensive as what goes to single council will now be shared between two or three local government councils. Again, the personnel will increase too. Apart from Lagos state that created some and is still surviving because of the high revenues accrue to the state, others that created same or trying to create are thinking otherwise.