By Daniel Nyoung Edem, Asogwa Ogochukwu Rosemary and Nwaoriaku Jane,

The Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Enugu State Chapter, Wednesday staged a protest to demand greater Local Government autonomy in administrative, political and financial functions.

Hundreds of workers marched to the Enugu State House of Assembly in Enugu in a peaceful protest against what they described as injustice and political interference in the activities of the local governments by state actors.

NULGE says that State Governments were hindering the progress and participation by the people at the grassroots.

Also in attendance at the rally were members of the National Labour Congress, NLC, whose members joined NULGE with various shades of placards.

The Unions jointly called for the independence of Local Government, which it said was paramount and crucial to the employment of local people and growth of the economy. The Unions also pointed out that Local Governments could not attract competent hands because of the unattractive atmosphere at the third tier of government.

During the rally, the National Treasurer of the Union and Chairman of NLC, Ogun State, Comrade Ambali Akeem, noted that granting the Local Government autonomy would serve the people better, especially those at the grassroots. He therefore called for the strengthening of the local government system.

Comrade Akeem said: “Let’s strengthen the capacity of the councillors and chairmen. Let’s develop the anti-corruption agency at the local government level so that there would be checks and balances. If we strengthen the system, local government administrators would be accountable to the people who elected them and not loyal to the lords that appointed them.”

He expressed dismay that current local government chairmen were surrogates of State Governments, as they were as good as appointed rather than elected by the people. He therefore dismissed the installation of Local Government Chairmen as mere coronation ceremonies, calling for Local Government elections to hold at the same time as other national elections. He believes such a system would empower the Chairmen, who he says would be compelled to serve those who elected them or find it impossible to reintegrate after coming down from power.

Comr. Akeem added that the salaries of workers and better primary education were part of the demands of the union.

In another statement, a former National President of NULGE, Comrade Kingsley Obasi, told newsmen that NULGE was agitating against being tied to the aprons strings of the State Government, adding that financial allocations should be released directly to the Local Government and not left in the hands of the State Governments.

Addressing the Union at the State House of Assembly , the Speaker of the Enugu State Assembly, Hon. Edward Ubosi, said that the agitations of NULGE have been registered and would be given due attention.

He promised to his best to ensure that the demands were met. He tasked NULGE members and stakeholders to continue their campaign at the various local government headquarters in the State for more support and votes since the process would still end in voting by the House in consultation with the Union.

“NULGE would bear me witness that I am supportive to its course. The Local Government is working. Biometric is ongoing, and arrears have been settled. By next month, all leave allowances would be settled. Pensions too have been settled and by September 18, all due allowances would be taken care of. If we could pay salaries, and allowances, why can’t we give you autonomy?

“I assure NULGE that the Enugu State House of Assembly will give local government autonomy a human face.”

Ubosi further thanked the NULGE members for presenting their case peacefully without recourse to fighting or destroying government property and prayed for God’s love and help in the Union’s activities.

Author: Cerebral Lemon