By Musa Adamu
The Speaker of the House of Representives, Yakubu Dogara has warned that the state Houses of Assembly are to blame if the attempt to grant local government autonomy in the on-going Constitution amendment fails.
He also drew nexus between the exodus of young Nigerians to Europe to seek for greener pastures and failure if local government to function, saying ongoing scourge of human trafficking and slave trade would become impossible if local governments were given opportunities to provide developmental activities in the grassroots.
Speaking when he received a delegation from National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in his office, the House of Representatives Speaker said most Nigerians seeking greener pastures via the Mediterranean Sea were in pursuit of a better life and conditions that would help them achieve their God-given potentials in life, having lost all hope.
Calling for developmental activities in the grassroots, which he maintained can only be achieved when local governments were granted independence, he sought the support of all stakeholders and Nigerians to lobby their state Houses of Assembly to approve the proposed law seeking to grant independence to local governments.
He said: “Recently, I was in Rome where we discussed about human trafficking and modern slavery. You need to see the kind of conditions that our citizens are subjected to. Some of you may have watched the footage on CNN where human beings like us were auctioned, some for as low as 400 Dollars. For me, I have never seen something that has jolted me really as this inhuman treatment of others by human beings. Some have even disputed it, but when I went to Rome, we attested that these things are real because I met first hand with the authorities that are charged with combating these crimes.
“But the fact is that Nigerians even form a disproportionate number of individuals or persons that are being trafficked. So, we have the responsibility to address that, and how do we address that when some of these our brothers and sisters are running away, first of all, from conditions that are even worse than death and for some of them, like I said before, death is even better than life and when an individual reaches that conclusion, it is very difficult to tame him. And all because of lack of opportunities.
“So, if we don’t free the grassroots, we don’t free the local government to provide developmental activities in the grassroots, chances are that opportunities will continue to narrow and instead of providing conditions that make human trafficking impossible, we will be lagging behind and whether we like it or not, people will continue to flee conditions that they think will not offer them opportunity in life. Everyone is in search of opportunities to realise their God given potential in life.”
He informed that the House had sacrificed a lot to grant financial independence to local governments in the just concluded Constitution amendment exercise, adding that the responsibility to make it a reality now lies with the state legislature.
“We have sacrificed a lot at this end. I believe that if the voting records are published today, some members may not even come back to this House on account of that single decision to vote for local government autonomy.
“That is not to say that all governors are against it. I have spoken with quite a number of them, they really want local governments to go, they want local government to be if that will crystalise the kind of development that we anticipate at the local level. But that is not to say all of them will want that to take place but as lovers of democracy, we have been bothered by the condition at the grassroots and if we don’t address those conditions at the grassroots by generating more opportunities, certain ills that we seek to overcome will not be overcome.”
Earlier, the leader of the joint delegation, Mr Ephraim Iyke,
described the Speaker as a reliable man of integrity and a man of the people who has shown serious commitment towards the development of local governments.
He added that it was as a result of all his contributions to the upliftment of the grassroots that the joint union decided to give him an award as a sign of their appreciation.
He said: “The way you have been so highly committed towards the affairs of local governments as it concerns our desire for local governments to be granted autonomy, you will agree with us, Mr Speaker, that the speedy passage of this bill is a testimony. We cannot do anything for you, but we know that God certainly will reward you. You may not know what you have done but we want to assure you that this effort of yours will never go unnoticed. God certainly must reward you.