THE Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) has insisted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) be mandated to conduct local government elections across the country.
NULGE has since 1999 campaigned for the autonomy of the local government system and in the process strongly argued for INEC to be constitutionally mandated to conduct local government elections rather than State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) which usually do the bidding of state governors.
Comrade Olatunji Ambali, National President of NULGE, made the union’s position known at the South-West Zonal Public Hearing of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution which held in Lagos. Comrade Ambali said the nation is yet to witness credible elections being conducted by state electoral bodies at the local government level.
According to Comrade Ambali, the electorate would come out en masse to elect their leaders at the grassroots once an unbiased umpire like INEC was put in charge of conducting local government elections. He also said that state electoral bodies should be scrapped because state governors had hijacked them and as a result they lack independence required of electoral bodies.
“We should amend the constitution to allow INEC conduct local government elections. Since they conduct the state and the House of Assembly elections, then why can’t we allow the commission to also conduct the local government elections in a credible manner?
“Once we have an unbiased umpire that can deliver, then we can scrap the state electoral bodies. We believe that with this, we will be able to fix Nigeria once we get it right at the local government level because once the foundation is strong then the country will get it right,” Comrade Ambali said, adding that the problem with the present local government system in the country was the “undue interference by the state governments.”
According to him, the state governors have killed the autonomy of the local government system as enshrined in the constitution through diversion of resources which had impeded development at the grassroots.
He said that local governments where 71 per cent of the country’s population reside are closer to the people. “When we are talking about devolution of power, it must be given to where higher number of people reside.
“We are also facing insecurity because of the failure of our local government system in the country and the issue of the insecurity is local, therefore the solution should be local.
“Besides, all the insecurity are perpetrated at the local government levels; so, for us, we must use the local government autonomy to strengthen democracy at the local government level.”
Ambali said the review committee should allow direct funds to local governments as funds appropriated for them were not getting to them directly, thus impeding growth and development in such localities. He said the neglect of local governments had mounted pressure on the states and the federal government.