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Bayelsa govt. supports local government autonomy – deputy Gov.

The Bayelsa government says it is currently one of the few states in the country where other arms of government function independently including the local government system.

The State Deputy Governor, Chief Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, stated this when the National President of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Akeem Olatunji-Ambali, paid him a courtesy visit in Government House, Yenagoa.

Ewhrudjakpo said the clamour for financial autonomy for the local councils was in line with the principles of rule of law and separation of powers.

He said the state government had since given its approval of financial autonomy to the councils, and therefore, was not in any way tampering with their funds.

The deputy governor said that the government had recently resolved to increase its financial support to the councils with additional N252 million on a monthly basis.

He said that the move was necessitated by inadequate revenue allocations from the Federal Government and the implementation of promotion arrears of council workers by the state government.

Ewhrudjakpo noted that government had adopted the policy of Joint Tax System, describing it as a unified approach of generating revenue into the coffers of both state and local government councils in the state.

“We have not only exercised autonomy for our local government system here but also addressed several issues people are protesting for elsewhere.

“In Bayelsa, we have autonomy for the Judiciary arm since 2013 and the House of Assembly in 2019.

“Bayelsa is one state where we don’t tamper with local government funds. As the funds come, the chairmen meet with the state at the Joint Allocation Committee and what we do is to approve the JAC figures and they go back to dispense.

“Only recently, in addition to what we are giving to the local government for the payment of primary school teachers, we have just decided to give another N252 million as support to councils,” he said.

On the minimum wage for council workers, Ewhrudjakpo said the state government in consultation with council chairmen and state NULGE leadership, had set up a committee to look into its implementation.

The deputy governor, however, urged NULGE to take the issue of reforms in the local government system seriously with a view to addressing the excesses of some council chairmen and for the overall benefit of rural dwellers.

On the appeal for the completion of NULGE state headquarters, Ewhrudjakpo promised that the government would look into their request for appropriate action.

Earlier, the National President of NULGE, Olatunji-Ambali, said that his team was in the state in continuation of the union’s nationwide advocacy campaign for local government autonomy.

Olatunji-Ambali described local government as the most strategic, relevant and direct system of government that must be accorded its pride of place in the country to positively impact on the masses.

He also identified insecurity in the country as a challenge that could be addressed significantly, if the local government system that interfaced directly with the traditional rulers and rural people was strengthened.

While appreciating the state government for its support to the local government system, the NULGE helmsman appealed for the completion of the union’s secretariat in the state. (NAN)

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