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The ongoing scourge of human trafficking and slave trade will become impossible if local governments are given opportunities to provide developmental activities in the grassroots to facilitate actualisation of aspirations of the people, Speaker Yakubu Dogara has said.
Speaking when he received a delegation from National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in his office, the House of Representatives Speaker said most Nigerians seeking greener pastures via the Mediterranean Sea are in pursuit of a better life and conditions that will help them achieve their God-given potentials in life, having lost all hope.
Calling for developmental activities in the grassroots, which he maintained can only be achieved when local governments are granted independence, he sought the support of all stakeholders and Nigerians to lobby their state houses of assembly to approve the proposed law seeking to grant independence to local governments.
The Speaker stated, “Recently, I was in Rome where we discussed about human trafficking and modern slavery. You need to see the kind of conditions that our citizens are subjected to. Some of you may have watched the footage on CNN where human beings like us were auctioned, some for as low as 400 Dollars. For me, I have never seen something that has jolted me really as this inhuman treatment of others by human beings. Some have even disputed it, but when I went to Rome, we attested that these things are real because I met first hand with the authorities that are charged with combating these crimes.
“But the fact is that Nigerians even form a disproportionate number of individuals or persons that are being trafficked. So, we have the responsibility to address that, and how do we address that when some of these our brothers and sisters are running away, first of all, from conditions that are even worse than death and for some of them, like I said before, death is even better than life and when an individual reaches that conclusion, it is very difficult to tame him. And all because of lack of opportunities.”
“So, if we don’t free the grassroots, we don’t free the local government to provide developmental activities in the grassroots, chances are that opportunities will continue to narrow and instead of providing conditions that make human trafficking impossible, we will be lagging behind and whether we like it or not, people will continue to flee conditions that they think will not offer them opportunity in life. Everyone is in search of opportunities to realise their God given potential in life.”
Dogara informed the delegation that the House has sacrificed a lot to grant financial independence to local governments in the just concluded Constitution amendment exercise, adding that the responsibility to make it a reality now lies with the state legislature.
He explained, “We have sacrificed a lot at this end. I believe that if the voting records are published today, some members may not even come back to this House on account of that single decision to vote for local government autonomy.
“That is not to say that all governors are against it. I have spoken with quite a number of them, they really want local governments to go, they want local government to be if that will crystalise the kind of development that we anticipate at the local level. But that is not to say all of them will want that to take place but as lovers of democracy, we have been bothered by the condition at the grassroots and if we don’t address those conditions at the grassroots by generating more opportunities, certain ills that we seek to overcome will not be overcome.”
He expressed gratitude for the award the group presented to him for his championing of the cause of local government independence, saying credit goes to the entire membership of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly for the achievements recorded so far.
“I don’t want to appropriate their work, even though I have been like the voice championing the call for local government autonomy. I am Speaker, so I speak on their behalf at that level but I can tell you that some of them have exhibited more courage than myself. I remember just before the vote really began on local government autonomy, a number of them had come to tell me that some people called them to say that they should vote against it but that they were going to vote their conscience. That it doesn’t matter who was speaking, that they will vote their conscience. That to me, shows a lot of courage.”
“We have always been lucky to have men and women of courage representing our respective 360 constituencies in the House of Representatives. We showed that courage in the last assembly and then we have exhibited it in this assembly as well. Now the ball is out of our court and it is back to the state assemblies, that is where it even holds sway and I have said to some delegations that have visited me that if we fail to gather the two-third support from the 36 state assemblies, it will be your fault because there is virtually no member of a state assembly that does not come from a local government. You can mobilise your people to say, look, our member this is we want. We sent you there and this is what we want, if you don’t do it, then don’t come back to us. I believe we will achieve that result.”
Earlier, the leader of the joint delegation, Mr Ephraim Iyke, described the Speaker as a reliable man of integrity and a man of the people who has shown serious commitment towards the development of local governments.
He added that it was as a result of all his contributions to the upliftment of the grassroots that the joint union decided to give him an award as a sign of their appreciation.
He stated, “The way you have been so highly committed towards the affairs of local governments as it concerns our desire for local governments to be granted autonomy, you will agree with us, Mr Speaker, that the speedy passage of this bill is a testimony. We cannot do anything for you, but we know that God certainly will reward you. You may not know what you have done but we want to assure you that this effort of yours will never go unnoticed. God certainly must reward you.
“For you to have embarked on this project, the passage of it, as big as it was, explains it all that you are a man of the people you really know that if this autonomy is granted, it will correlate into proper development in the grassroots.
We are so happy, these two bodies. For the very first time, these 2 bodies, ALGON and NULGE, decided to come together to pursue this cause. We remain grateful to you, Mr Speaker, because you have rightly done what others could not do.”