“The state governments that are either working against the passage of the Local Government Autonomy Bill are enemies of the people and must be treated as such,” former President Olusegun Obasanjo stated yesterday.
Speaking in Abeokuta, Ogun State, the ex-leader regretted that only nine of the 36 states had signed the bill passed by the National Assembly to crystallise development at the grassroots.
Obasanjo made the observation while addressing the Jerry Ugokwe-led Friends of Democracy, who paid him a courtesy visit.
The elder statesman introduced the reforms in 1976 while holding sway as a military Head of State.
He told his guests that the bill, among other things, was to make council areas autonomous “like the state governments.”
His words: “When in 1976, we brought in local government reforms, it was meant to be third tier of government and not to be subjected to the whims and caprices of any other government, just the same way the state governments are autonomous.”
He decried that 42 years after, that aim was yet to be achieved, adding: “ Rather most of the state governments are virtually stealing local government funds that the Federal Government appropriates to them monthly.”
He continued: “Local government is meant to be autonomous. But from what we know, most states have incapacitated the councils. They have virtually stolen their money in what they called joint account. They are to contribute 10 per cent but they never contribute anything.
“So, what we have across the country are local government areas that have functions but cannot perform them. They have staff but most of them cannot pay the workers and we keep getting excuses upon excuses.
“The bill passed by the National Assembly has only been signed by nine states. I am proud of those states because they are what you will call progressive states that really believe in democracy.”
The Owu chief further said: “My own state (Ogun) is one of them. I will say kudos to the Ogun State government. In the South South, only Bayelsa and Cross River have signed it. Kudos to those two states.
“In the North East, it’s only Bauchi. In the North West, it is only Sokoto. In the North-Central, we have four states – Kwara, Niger, Plateau and Benue. I will say kudos to the executives and legislatures of those states.”