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20 July 2017

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTONOMY CANNOT AUTOMATICALLY GUARANTEE DEVELOPMENTS

The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) supports the demand and agitation for autonomy for local governments. We however warn that the autonomy will not automatically engender development at the grassroots level except it comes by putting into power a workers and poor people's government devoted to utilizing public resources to meet the needs of the mass majority. Otherwise if it is the same looters who are in power nationally and at the States that would run autonomous local governments, the result would be the same.

We hold that the fundamental cause of failure of governance at all levels is the anti-poor and pro-rich policies embraced by all sections of the capitalist ruling elite. Therefore, granting autonomy to local government ruled by the anti-poor, pro-establishment parties whose ruinous capitalist policies are responsible for the prevailing condition of mass poverty in the midst of huge resources will rather bring the national cake closer to a few privileged thieves than developments for the benefit of all.

For the local government autonomy to be meaningful we demand adequate funding of the local government and democratic control of the administration of the local government including projects by the elected representatives of workers, traders, artisans, youths, peasants and community members. This is in order to guarantee judicious spending of the local government resources.

The fact that state governors irrespective of parties are united in their opposition to the local government autonomy has further confirmed our position that there is no fundamental difference between the ruling PDP and opposition APC. To the state governors, local government area is another avenue for looting as well as creation of jobs for cronies and hangers-on.

We appreciate the fears of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) which is against the inclusion of the administration and funding of primary school education, in particular payment of teachers' salaries, in the local government autonomy. We recall that the responsibility of payment of salaries of primary school teachers had to be taken away from local governments during the military era when they could not pay and owed teachers' salaries for several months. The position of the NUT however gives the false impression that basic education and teachers' welfare are being and would be better taken care of by the states. That is incorrect!

We recall that between 2013 and 2014 primary schools were closed down for about one academic session in Benue and Kogi States as a result of the refusal of the state governments to pay and improve conditions of teachers. Also recently, the NUT issued a statement to the effect that 19 states owe teachers several months of salaries. Likewise, the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) has been under lock and key for over one year arising from indefinite strike actions of staff unions due to the failure of the governments of the two owner states – Osun and Oyo – to fund the institution adequately which has resulted in a situation whereby academic and non-academic staffs are owed several months of backlog of salaries and allowances. All these are clear examples that show that no branch of a capitalist government can be trusted with workers welfare.

What this means therefore is that the NUT must always be prepared to defend the interests of teachers whether they are under local governments or the state governments. Also importantly, labour movement including NUT must fight for adequate funding of public education at all levels with democratic control by teachers, other education workers, parents, students and communities.

We hold that whatever the type or form of government so far it is run on the basis of capitalism, it cannot guarantee decent conditions for the working people or the provision of infrastructure and social services on a sustainable basis. However, with mass struggles, neo-liberal attacks or anti-poor policies can be challenged and defeated, even if temporarily.

Fundamentally, what the working people should fight for is a replacement of the self-serving government at all levels with a government composed of genuine working class representatives only which can, by the aid of a socialist plan of the economy, guarantee a better life for all. This is why we have been calling on labour leadership to initiate the process of forming and building a mass working class political party that can provide the vehicle for working masses to take political power. In the meantime, we call on workers and youths to join us in the struggle for the registration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) which has been formed to serve as a striking example in the absence of a mass party of working people.

Chinedu Bosah
National Secretary, SPN