Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan says the move to scrap the local government (LG) system in the country is undemocratic.
Jonathan said this on Thursday when the national and state executives of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) paid him a courtesy visit at his country home in Otuoke, Bayelsa state.
The NULGE officials were in Otuoke to seek Jonathan’s support against a bill seeking to delist the local government as a tier of government.
Solomon Bob, a member of the house of representatives, had in December sponsored the bill to remove the third tier of government from the constitution.
Commenting on the issue, Jonathan asked the national assembly that instead of scrapping the LG system, it should make laws that would strengthen it and grant it autonomy.
He said if he were a member of the national assembly, he would mobilise his colleagues to amend sections of the constitution to prohibit the appointment of local government chairmen and allow the people at the grassroots to decide who led them, through election.
He described the local government system as the oldest globally accepted means through which government impact positively on the lives of the people at the grassroots.
Jonathan asked governors across Nigeria to refrain from directly getting involved in the day-to-day running of local government affairs.
“The problem with Nigeria is that our local government structure is still very weak. And whatever restructuring we are talking about finally, Nigerians must sit down to discuss. And the issue of local government autonomy must be considered,” Jonathan said.
“As long as we have weak local governments, we will have difficulty managing this country. The way it is now, the person who runs the state, runs the LGAs and that makes nonsense of the whole concept of the third tier of government.
“The president should manage the nation, governors should manage the states and chairmen should be allowed to run the local councils.
“And until we are able to do that, it will be difficult to impact on all the people at the grassroots level. It is only through local councils that the dividends of democracy can permeate uniformly into society. And all of us must advocate for this right.
“The issue of appointments now make local government councils look like a part of the state’s administrative structure, but that is wrong.
“It is an abuse of democracy. So this appointment system have made council chairmen become like aides to the governors and we must discourage that.”