FG Insists On LG Financial Autonomy

The Nigerian government has reaffirmed its resolve to grant local governments in the country financial autonomy.
This, the government said it will achieve by abolishing state and local governments joint accounts “through constitutional means”, thereby freeing the local governments’ finances from the control of the State Governors.
This was revealed by the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha at a conference on Nigerian local governments, organized by SEGNIP Promotions Limited and the Department of State and Local Government Affairs, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF).
Recall that earlier this year, banks were given directive to stop transactions on such joint accounts by the newly established government body, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU). The directive however met stiff opposition especially from the Governors, leading to at least two law suits.
The latest statement from the SGF, however suggests the federal government is resolved to go on with its agenda on the local government finances.
Mr Mustapha, who was represented by the Director of Special Duties in the SGF office, David Attah, at the event while describing the joint accounts as inglorious, said they have been grossly abused by many of the State Governors and their cronies
The SGF said such abuse gave rise to the agitation for fiscal autonomy of local governments.
He said States have starved Local Governments of needed funds to discharge their statutory responsibilities as an independent tier of government.
“After so many ruinous years of our recent past, we certainly cannot live with the continued mismanagement of public funds (joint account) any longer.
“Most of us know too well the dangers and consequences of this sustained degradation of our local government system which manifest in increased wave of crimes and social maladies like terrorism, kidnapping, cultism, neighbourhood gangs, human trafficking, baby factories, dilapidated primary schools and primary health facilities, influx of youths to urban centres and pernicious rural poverty which have dovetailed into various dimensions, agitations, and unrests,” he said.
Mr. Mustapha said the spate of insecurity in the country and the stunted development of the rural areas can be linked to the starvation of the local governments..
“More so, it is uncanny that most of us fail to see the connection between moribund local governments and Boko Haram insurgency, for instance.
“Suffice to say that no ‘baby factory’ or incidence of kidnapping would find space where Local Government Councillors are fully involved in governance and work with landlords associations and town unions.
“In the midst of all these, there is no state – not even one, that showed an example by devising a system that made the local governments work or gave a proper account of the local government funds.
“All of us, directly, or tangentially, are exposed to the impact of local government administration daily. Therefore, mismanagement and mal-administration at this level of governance will connote impacting negatively on our people with direct implication for banishing a large number of the population to abject poverty and penury,” he said.
The SGF said the introduction of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Act and the new local government administration account reporting system, were direct efforts of the present administration of President Buhari to upgrade the anti-graft or money laundering regulations and reduce vulnerabilities created by cash withdrawals from local government funds throughout the country.
Also addressing the event, Osun State Governor, Isiaka Oyetola, described the problems of the local governments as a creation of successive military governments whom he said invested in them “controversial and unworkable allocation templates and difficult constitutional amendment procedures.”
The Governor, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Charles Akintola, said the nation’s local councils have been victims of various forms of government with their attendant challenges from independence to now.
Though Mr Oyetola was not frontal in confronting the position of the SGF, he made strong cases for the maintenance of status quo in which governors control the allocation to the local governments through the joint account and this has been the position of most of the state governors save for the few who have promised to implement the FG’s policy.

Source: Premium Times

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