Former President Olusegun Obasanjo says governors who are stealing funds meant for local governments through joint account are the enemies of Nigerians.
He said this on Monday while hosting Friends of Democracy (FoD), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta, Ogun state capital.
The NGO had visited the former president to seek his support for the local government autonomy bill which had been passed by the national assembly but still needs the approval of some state houses of assembly.
Obasanjo said the states do not want local governments to enjoy autonomy despite the fact that they enjoy same privilege from the federal government.
He lamented that local governments as the third tier of government had been incapacitated financially by the state governments and are unable to perform their statutory functions.
“When in 1976, we brought in local government reforms, it was meant to be a third tier of the government and not meant to be subjected to the whims and caprices of any other government. Just the same way that the state government is autonomous from the federal government,” he said.
“Local government is meant to be autonomous from the state government, but from what we know, by design, most states have incapacitated the local governments. They have virtually stolen the local governments’ money in what they called joint account. They were to contribute 10 percent but they never contributed anything.
“So, what we have across the country are local government areas that have functions, but cannot perform the functions. They have staff but most of them cannot pay the staff, and we keep getting excuses upon excuses.
“And I see no reason if the federal government allows the states to enjoy their autonomy except in the case of state of emergency.”
Obasanjo noted that the bill seeking the autonomy of the local governments before the national assembly has only been signed by nine states and still requires to be signed by 24 state houses of assembly.
“I am proud of those states because they are what you will call progressive states that really believe in democracy,” Obasanjo said.
“My own state (Ogun) is one of them. I will say kudos to Ogun state. In the south-south, only Bayelsa and Cross River States have signed it. Kudos to those two states. In the north-east, it’s only Bauchi.
“In the north-west, it’s only Sokoto. In the north-central, we have four states, Kwara, Niger, Plateau and Benue. I will say kudos to the executives and the legislature of those states.
“But we must say those state executives and the legislatures that have prevented the bill from being passed, they must be taken as the enemy of the people and they should be treated as such. Because if you enjoy autonomy from the federal government why don’t you want local government to enjoy autonomy?
“Again, I will say leadership of NLC and NULGE who have always fought for the interest of the people should know that the interest of the people at the local government will be best served if the LG has autonomy which is meant that they should have.”
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