DIRECT ALLOCATION:  Hurdles before local councils

 
Sat Jul 6th, 2019 - Abia
 

•Undemocratic LGs to know fate Monday
•Governors carried out civilian coup against councils – Agbakoba
•12 states yet to conduct council polls

By Clifford Ndujihe

FIVE 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 for many reasons.

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The reasons include absence of democratically elected executives at the councils, inability of the states joint allocation committees to meet, inability of unelected councils to access funds, lacuna over what to do with local council development areas that are not recognised by the 1999 Constitution, and a suit asking the stoppage of allocation to councils without elected officials.

Currently, only 24 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja have democratically elected councils. Local councils in 12 states are run by caretaker or transition committees.

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, penultimate week.

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.

Vanguard’s checks, indicate that the old order is still prevalent in most states. While some councils said they have started receiving direct allocation, some said they are waiting to see what would happen next week.

Some govs carried out civilian coup against councils – Agbakoba

Last May, Human Rights lawyer, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, filed a Suit at the Federal High Court, Lagos seeking the Ministry of Finance to stop allocation of public funds to unelected and unaccountable Local Government councils.

Agbakoba said the basis of the case is that Section 7(1) of the 1999 Constitution guarantees a system of democratically elected Government Councils. But many Local Government Councils in Nigeria are never elected and are unconstitutional. Therefore allocation of public funds, to them is a violation of the Constitution and unelected persons have unimpeded access to huge monthly allocations that are actually funds intended for democratically elected Local Government Councils, as guaranteed by Section 7 of the Constitution.

Dr Agbakoba noted that Nigeria operates democratically elected governments at all levels. The current situation where many of the 774 Local Governments are unelected is not only unconstitutional but meant no development at the Local Governments level.

He also noted that corruption is widespread in Nigeria because unelected persons that are not accountable to the electorate have received trillions of Naira of public funds.

Asked why he went to court and the progress made in the litigation, Agbakoba told Saturday Vanguard: ‘’The court will deliver judgement on Monday. The main thing is Nigeria is a federal democracy with three levels of government. The LGs are guaranteed to be democratically elected but governors have conducted a civilian coup by not conducting council elections. Therefore, the Ministry of Finance should release allocation to undemocratic local councils. The court will give judgement on our case on Monday.’’

APC tasks Ikpeazu on LG polls

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.’’

The facts

24 states and FCT, Abuja have democratically elected councils

12 states have transition/caretaker committees

5 states have Local council development areas

States with caretaker committees

Bauchi

Borno

Ondo

Bayelsa

Cross River

Kogi

Katsina

Adamawa

Imo

Anambra

Abia

Niger

States with elected councils

Zamfara

Kebbi

Yobe

Kano

Katsina

Jigawa

Taraba

Gombe

Osun

Lagos

Ekiti

Oyo

Akwa Ibom

Rivers

Delta

Edo

Benue *

Plateau

Kaduna

Nasarawa

Oyo*

Kwara

Enugu

Ebonyi

FCT, Abuja

* Gov. Oluseyi Makinde on Wednesday (May 30, 2019) in a statement issued by his Chief of Staff, Oyebisi Ilaka, announced the dissolution of the 33 local governments and 35 Local Council Development Areas(LCDAs)

Governor Samuel Ortom on January 22 swore in six acting chairmen following the suspension of affected chairmen by the House of Assembly over ‘’gross misconduct’’ for three months.

States with LCDAs

Lagos – 37

Ogun – 37

Osun – 31

Oyo – 35

Ekiti – 19

No dice in Plateau

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

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

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.”

Councils face dire straits in Cross River

By Ike Uchechukwu

Heads of Local Government Administration, HOLGAs, in Cross River are under pressure to devise ways of accessing local government funds in banks to pay outstanding June salaries and other financial exigencies.

HOLGAS reportedly held a meeting with Governor Ben Ayade in Calabar on Tuesday on the possibility of accessing the council funds.

The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit,NFIU, had restricted access to local council funds to only elected local government chairmen with effect from June 1, 2019.

In the South-South, only Cross River and Bayelsa states do not have elected council chairmen and so they cannot access local government funds already paid into their accounts.

Cross River Local Government Councils have been administered by civil servants called Heads of Local Government Administration since the tenure of elected chairmen ended in December 2016.

Vanguard gathered that due to lack of funds, some of the civil servants have not been paid their June salaries.

Some Civil servants who confirmed that they were being owed June salaries are in the ministries of Justice and Education and their parastatals and local government workers, while workers in the Ministry of Information and its parastatals as well as Office of the Accountant Genera said they had been paid.

Due to the salary delay, Governor Ayade who was nicknamed ‘Salary Master’ by civil servants because of the prompt payment of salaries in the past, allegedly summoned HOLGAS for a meeting to persuade them to seek ways of accessing the local government funds now in banks to fund the June wage bill.

When contacted, the State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress,APC, John Ochala said, President Muhammadu Buhari made it very clear that any LGA chairman who connives with any governor to defraud the state will have himself or herself to blame.

His words : “Their (local government) expenditures are limited to basic administrative necessities, not on projects or infrastructural development .It is incumbent on all critical stakeholders like the NBA, NUJ, NUT, CSOs, TUC, NLC etc. and of course the APC to call on Governor Ben Ayade to do the needful by providing enabling environment for the conduct of LG elections in the state. It is long overdue.”

On its part, the African Action Congress, AAC, called on Governor Ayade to resist the temptation of tampering with local government funds.

The state Chairman of the party, Agba Jalingo, told Saturday Vanguard on telephone: “We are aware that following the implementation of the directives of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the allocations for local governments have been paid into the accounts of the councils.

“We are also aware that in a bid to access these funds, Governor Ayade is meeting the Heads of Local Government Administrations in order to attempt the regularization of their signatures in order to collect these monies. This brazen impunity must stop.

“The HOLGAs must resist any attempt to circumvent or go against any directives of the federal government. If the Governor can’t pay salaries without local government funds, let him conduct local government elections.’’

Why Katsina LGAs can’t access funds

By Bashir Bello

The 34 local government areas of Katsina State cannot access their allocations from the Federation Account.

A reliable source in one of the local government council said the funds were paid directly to the accounts of the local government as stipulated by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU.

He said the local governments, however, cannot access the funds because caretaker committees chairmen are at the helm of affairs of the LGAs.

According to him, “the LGAs were paid directly the funds from the Federal allocation but they cannot access it. I know of some Local government areas like Bakori and Kankara which got N151 million and N179 million respectively. In fact, it was the state government that lent the LGAs money to pay their workers.”

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source: Vanguard