The Government of Bayelsa State says it is currently one of the few states in the country where all arms of government function independently, including the local government system.
The State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, stated this in Yenagoa, when the National President of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Comrade Akeem Olatunji-Ambali, paid him a courtesy visit.
Media Aide to the Deputy Governor, Mr. Doubara Atasi, in a statement, quoted him as saying that the clamour for financial autonomy for the local councils is 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, does not in any way, tamper with their funds.
The Deputy Governor noted that the state government had even recently resolved to increase its financial support to the councils with an additional sum of 252 million naira on a monthly basis.
According to him, 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.
Senator Ewhrudjakpo also noted that government has adopted the policy of Joint Tax System, which he described 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 since 2013 and the House of Assembly in 2019.
“Bayelsa State 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, JAC, 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 252 million naira as support to councils.”
On the issue of 30 percent minimum wage for council workers, Senator 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 over all benefit of rural dwellers.
On the appeal for the completion of NULGE state headquarters, Senator Ewhrudjakpo, promised that the government will look into their request for appropriate action.
Speaking earlier, the National President of NULGE, Comrade Olatunji-Ambali, explained that his team was in the state in continuation of the union’s nationwide advocacy campaign for local government autonomy.
Comrade 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 can be addressed significantly, if the local government system that interfaces directly with the traditional rulers and rural people is 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.