By Ushang Ewa
Local government employees in Cross River State have demanded for total autonomy for local government areas.
The employees under the aegis of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) Friday, took to the streets of Calabar, the Cross River State capital to press home their demands for political, administrative and financial independence of the 774 local government areas of the country.
The local government system is dying under the excruciating control of state governments across the country, the National President of the union, Ibrahim Khaleel told members at the Freedom Park before the rally began and lamented that they have been reduced to mere “departments of the state governments” and no longer the third their of government as stipulated in the constitution.
“The state governors have been a major impediment to local government autonomy just because of their selfish interests” Khaleel said, adding that; “The resources of the local governments that should have been harnessed to develop these communities are being hijacked by the state governments.”
Khaleel called on the presidency as well as lawmakers at the national and state levels to treat the issue of local government autonomy with expediency as the only way to ensure an inclusive and participatory government for all Nigerians was to grant full autonomy to the third tier of government which is the closest to the grassroots.
Furthermore, Khaleel called for local government elections to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission as governors have abused the State Independent Electoral Commissions while the President of the state branch of the union, Godwin Ayendi said autonomy for local governments will ensure development at the lowest level, strengthen democracy, lead o improved lives of the grassroots and guarantee national security.
Also, the union called for the federal government to create a local government service commission and for them to have a representative of theirs in the Federation Account Allocation Committee to ensure proper monitoring of local government allocations.
The presidents of the union in the south south region of the country also took turns to address the members and others present.
The demonstration took through major streets and terminated at the Cross River State House of Assembly where they were received by the Speaker, Honorable John Lebo.
The union said the rally was the first for the south-south region and in the country and said subsequently, other regions will be visited and will conclude with a mega rally at the Federal Capital Territory.
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