THE stage appears set for an inevitable collision between state governors and the Federal Government over the monthly allocation from the Federation Account to the country’s third tier of government.
Many state governments have practically taken over the management of local government funds by superintending over the disbursement of same. While some states take over the payment of local government employees as well as the handling of projects, some hide under “statutory deductions” to deny councils of their allocations.
Lately, however, the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has been vociferous in its warning to state governments over the diversion and misappropriation of local government funds, and has vowed that starting from June 1, 2019, any financial institution, public servant and other stakeholders implicated in the diversion of local government funds would be severely sanctioned.
But state governors have staunchly opposed the move to grant local government financial autonomy, describing the NFIU intervention as “dabbling into a matter beyond its mandate.”
The governors, in a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to express their dismay at the position of NFIU that allocation be made directly to local governments, had described the intervention by NFIU as “a brazen attempt to ridicule our collective integrity and show total disregard for the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.”
However, Saturday Tribune investigations revealed that local government chairmen were happy at the development and were eagerly waiting for June 1 when they would begin to enjoy financial autonomy and freedom. They would, however, not speak openly on the matter.
In Lagos, Osun, Ekiti, Kwara, Ondo, Oyo, Delta and Kano states, while stakeholders including councillors and workers confirmed that the state governments had been shortchanging the councils, ALGON officials insisted that they had been getting their fair share of the monthly allocations.
According to the investigations, many state governments had emasculated local governments by denying them of their due allocations as released by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC).
Saturday Tribune found out that some states had already taken bank facilities which they used their monthly allocations to defray and consequently only have the local government allocations to fall back on for running the state.
A former President of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, (ALGON), Alhaji Gambo Tanko Kgara, said the operation of joint accounts between the state government and the local governments was not in the interest of the third tier of government.
Tanko Kagara, the immediate past chairman of Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, said prior to the advent of the current governor in the state, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, local governments were at the mercy of the state government, as they were given paltry sums for salary payment and for other minor administrative expenses.
He, however, said with the coming of Governor Bello, the local governments now enjoy partial financial autonomy.
Although he was not forthcoming on the level of Niger State’s fidelity to the judicious release of councils’ allocation from the center, he said with the partial autonomy granted the councils by the state government, he and other council chairmen were able to embark on some developmental projects.
Tanko Kagara said, “Granting local government autonomy would improve the lot of the grassroots as the councils will have the funds to develop their areas.”
Although Chairman of Plateau State chapter of ALGON, who is also Chairman of Mikang Local Government Area of the state, Mr Ezekiel Ezekiel Vuelgap Pabuet, said the 17 councils in the state have good rapport and understanding with the state government over their allocations, he still will want full autonomy for the councils so that the chairmen can be fully accountable.
According to him, apart from statutory deductions, the local governments have been getting their dues regularly on a monthly basis.
He said, “We have been doing well. However, the recent development of NFIU is good. It will make one accountable, if the allocation is coming directly, the chairmen will be held accountable and they would not have any excuse as it is today.”