Allocations : Discordant tunes as local councils await direct allocation

Mon Jul 1st, 2019 - Abia

May get allocations this week

By Emma Amaize, Clifford Ndujihe, Sam Oyadonga, Jimitota Onoyume, Gabriel Enogholase, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Harris-Okon Emmanuel, Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu & Marie-Therese Nanlong

FOUR weeks after the Nigerian Financial Intelligent Unit, NFIU, guidelines on the management of local governments’ funds came into effect, the measures are yet to be fully implemented in most local councils of the country.

The Federal Government, states and the 774 local councils shared N679.7 billion as May 2019 statutory allocation, according a statement by the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC, issued at the end of the Third Treasury Workshop held in Kano, last week.

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The guidelines stipulating direct allocation to the local councils were to commence on June 1. The guidelines are designed to enhance the financial autonomy of the local governments and check the abuse of the joint state/LG account by state governors.

Among others, the guidelines are to ensure that federal allocations are paid directly to the councils’ accounts and to ensure prudent spending of such monies with daily withdrawal restricted to N500,000.

NFIU is the Nigerian arm of the Global Financial Intelligent Unit domiciled in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

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Vanguard’s checks, at the weekend, indicate that the old order is prevalent in the states. While some councils said they have started receiving direct allocation, some said they are waiting to see what would happen this week when the May allocation will be released.

No dice in Plateau

In Plateau State, chairmen of local councils and the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, said the guidelines have not been followed in getting their allocation.

Chairman of Bokkos local government area, Yusuf Machen, told Vanguard on phone: “The directive was for 1st June, we are waiting for the June allocation because the one of May was still done the old way they used to give us. This one of June that we are awaiting would determine if the directive would be followed.”

His counterpart from Riyom local government area, Emmanuel Jugul concurred: “Everything is from the state, we have not yet received any subvention direct from the source, the directive is yet to take effect, I have not seen any changes yet.”

And the State President of NULGE, Comrade Samson Mafuyai added: “The local government subvention still comes in joint account with the State, we were expecting that it would start on the 1st of June but nothing happened but we are still expecting. The fund for June is yet to come; the subvention that was used to pay May salary was that of April because the subvention comes one month in arrears. April subvention was used to pay May salary so maybe they are still running the old order, feeling that it has not reached the deadline. Now that money from the federation account was shared yesterday (Thursday), we are hoping that they will give us directly if the directive still holds water. For now, we have not seen anything yet.”

Bayelsa councils wait

As of last Friday, Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, ALGON, Bayelsa state, Comrade Michael Magbisa, who is the Caretaker chair, Sagbama local government council, said, “they just finished FAAC, we are waiting.”

Vice President of NULGE in Bayelsa State, Comrade Gowon Toruyouyei, said: ”As we speak today, local government councils in Bayelsa State have not directly received their May 2019 allocations.”

Akwa Ibom, Delta comply

In the South-South region, Akwa-Ibom chairmen confirmed that they received allocations directly from the Federal Government.

In Delta, ALGON Chairman, Chief Constantine Ikpokpo said that local councils in the state got their April and May allocations directly from the Federation Account.

However, in Rivers State, council bosses kept mute when contacted and in Edo State, the local government councils said they were yet to receive as of Saturday.

Speaking to Vanguard, Delta ALGON chair, Chief Ikpokpo explained that unlike some other states in the country, the state government does not tamper with funds to local government councils, adding that Delta state government gives to the councils 10 percent of its internally generated revenue.

Contrary to his claim, Warri South local government chair, Dr Michael Tidi told one of our reporters last Friday night that the council was yet to receive its allocation.

In Rivers, Prince Solomon Eke and Rowland Sekibo chairs of Obio Akpor and Akuku Tollru local government areas respectively did not respond to calls and text inquiries by Vanguard.

A top council staff, however, asserted: “You do not expect any council boss to spill anything on this subject. It is just too sensitive for now. No council boss in Rivers state will tell you anything without conferring with the state government.”

“What you are likely to hear in the days ahead is a harmonized response collectively reached among the chairmen to avoid conflict of response over the new allocation regime among the councils,” he said.

Local government chairs in Akwa Ibom expressed delight over the new directive by NFIU noting that before the NFIU directive, they were operating on zero allocations and as such were not able to empower their people or embark on capital projects that could change the landscape of their local government areas

“In fact, the new directive is a welcome development. Before now, it was like we were running a glorified transition administration and not as people who were elected to serve their people,’’ one of the chairs revealed.

The council chairs recently paid a courtesy call on Governor Udom Emmanuel, where they pledged unalloyed loyalty to him and the willingness to continue with the previous arrangement of Joint State/Council Account.

Meanwhile, Akwa Ibom State Council of Trade Union Congress has endorsed the direct councils’ funding by the federal government. The state chair, Akamba Awah, who stated this in an interview with Vanguard, described it as a well thought out policy, adding that councils would be able to meet some of their obligations thereby fulfilling their constitutional duties to the grassroots people.

As at the weekend, local government councils in Edo State were yet to receive their allocations directly.

Vanguard gathered that the chairs met at Irrua in Esan Central local government area to deliberate on the matter ahead of a meeting the state government had called to iron out some grey areas.

The meeting is yet to hold, but Vanguard could not reach the Commissioner for Local Government and Community Matters, Jimoh Ijegbai, for comment.

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Last week, the Abia State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, applauded the NFIU guidelines on the distribution of local government funds, and decried running of the local councils by transition committees.

The party called for proper elections to be conducted in the 17 Local government areas of the state, to enable the people elect those who will oversee their council affairs.

The State Publicity Secretary of the party, Comrade Benedict Godson, reportedly said: “Just few days ago, all LGAs got their June allocations directly. This new system ought to bring about prudence, accountability and transparency in handling the finances of LGAs, but in Abia I don’t think the aim of that financial autonomy will be realistic if politically appointed TC-chairmen are allowed to head our 17 LGAs.

“Those guys are cronies of the governor and are only there to fulfill the mandates of those who put them there. The whole struggle will end up producing no result if we keep accepting appointees as chairmen.

“The Local Government is a different tier of government and should be allowed to decide what to do with their new funds, but unfortunately that’s not the case in Abia. No matter what the debt level of each LGA in Abia might be, you can’t tell me that in the system where the least amount gotten by an LGA in Abia is N120,555,809,58 which is Ukwa East and the highest N229, 514,988,80 which is Aba South that each LGA can’t take care of its staff and still carry out necessary projects.”





source: Vanguard