The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila on Monday said that the realization of autonomy of the local government councils was dependant on the people.
He stated this in Abuja on Monday at a two-day capacity training for the newly elected councillors and local government council chairmen from Aniocha/Oshimili federal constituency of Delta State.
The training was organized by the House of Representatives minority leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu.
Gbajabiamila said that the autonomy of the third tier of the government rested on the people at the grassroots.
He recalled that the national assembly had successfully amended the constitution to grant autonomy to the local government in the time past but was turned down by the States as they couldn’t muster the required two-third majority of the votes.
“The Minority Leader of the House is here with his councilors of his local government, from his constituency to train them on leadership.
“We talk about training all the time but who are we training and what are we training them for? This is leadership training for councilors and I thank Elumelu for thinking about this.
“This institute has been in the making for a long time and I believe at the end of the exercise, they would have received a lot of education on what leadership is all about.
“Some people are born leaders, some learn to acquire leadership but either way, whether you’re born a leader or acquire it, you have to go do that training exercise to be able to horn your experiences and qualities you have in order to maximize your skills.
“And what better place to start than with the local government councilors. As you all know, that is the bedrock of our society.
“It’s not for us as legislators to do that. I’m sure you’re surprised but it’s actually for the people to address, the reason being, we have a constitutional amendment.
“We will throw it to the people and they will make their decision. We did it the last time but we went back to the states and we couldn’t get the 2/3rd.
“There’s a process. We followed due process. We amended it last time but 2/3rd of the States didn’t not agree with us. So it’s the people that will decide whether they want autonomy or not.
“We will do what we need to do as the constitution provides”, Gbajabiamila said.
Earlier in his interaction with the officials, Gbajabiamila underscored the importance of giving recourse to the principle of separation of powers, asking the newly elected councillors and Chairmen to be bold in discharging their constitutional mandates even at the risk of offending some people.
“I’m just going to have a little interaction with you because a lot of things are misunderstood when it comes to local government level of government.
“Many people believe and say that there are three tiers of government. Yes, there are three tiers of government. But do we understand what a tier means?
“A tier means that there are different layers. And those layers are independent and they check each other. Many people believe there is a separation of powers.
“Let me ask quickly without trying to embarrass any of the Chairmen or any of the Councillors. What do you understand your role to be in government, constitutionally?
“Does anybody have an answer to that? I don’t think so, but we all have a general understanding.
“But many of us are not bold enough when we are actually told the specifics of what our roles are because we are beholding to whoever and I said this at the risk of respecting the powers of State Governors, the federal government, and in also balancing it on understanding the powers within these responsibilities of the local government.
“So there’s something called ultra vires in law and that concept cuts across everything including governance. I as a president cannot interfere in your work, constitutionally given to you by the Constitution at the local government.
“Neither can you do what the state Governor is supposed to do.
“So, when we talk about separation of powers, most time people understand that concept to mean executive, judiciary and the legislature but that’s a very narrow interpretation of separation of powers.
“That is the horizontal separation of powers. There are two types of separation of powers – the vertical and the horizontal. The vertical separation of powers is what concerns you.
“And that is the federal, the state and the local government. It is what makes any sane society work.
“We all try to model ourselves and look at America, look at Germany, look at several other countries not realizing that or understanding that they have clearly defined the roles of everybody and the people who defined this role did it for a purpose.
“So when you go outside the rules that are defined and everybody jumps into everybody’s role will you get what is chaos. But how do you now realize and go back to what we talked about, leadership?
“You have to be bold even sometimes at the risk of offending some people.
“For some people, they argue that the local government of governance at the local government level is probably the most important in any democracy because you are the ones that are in touch with the people that matter – people at the Grassroots”, he said.