Before local govt funds are milked dry

The agitation for local government’s independence has been louder in recent times by well-meaning Nigerians, considering how this third tier of government has become subservient to state governors across the country.

Undoubtedly, the Local Government is the closest arm of government to the masses. As it is the responsibility of the local governments to provide basic services and projects to the communities at the grassroots.

While the LGAs would have been able to discharge their responsibilities and also offer good governance effortlessly, there is the challenge of limited sources of revenue, a situation which has made the task of providing or executing meaningful developmental projects apparently impossible at the grassroots. And unfortunately, with the circumscribed share from federal account, the local government allocations have become Christmas chicken, which the state governors do recklessly feast on at wish.

However, to curtail the avariciousness of the governors, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU had issued a guideline to reduce vulnerabilities created by cash withdrawals from local government funds throughout the country. This guidelines, amongst other things, seek to systematically restore councils financial autonomy, ensure funds go directly to the council accounts, help the agency monitor transactions of the accounts, and at most, ensure transparency in how the funds are handled.

However, the governors of the 36 states, acting under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors Forum, have rejected the financial autonomy granted the 774 LGAs in the country, they accused the NFIU of dabbling into a matter that was “beyond its mandate.”

The NGF said that local government councils were not financial institutions, but creations of the constitution.

The NGF’s excuse, if considered, can be in contrary to the provision of Section 7 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, which states that the system of LG by democratically elected Local Government Council is guaranteed and accordingly, the government of every State shall ensure their existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils.

Statutorily, however, the state governments do not need to be worried about this developments, except there is usually a gain they have from keeping charge of the local government finance.

The terrible condition and development at the various local governments have been worrisome over the years. Many Nigerians do not even know the function of local governments anymore. And this is very worrisome.

One can only call on the governors’ forum to embrace measures meant for better governance and stop agitating to keep funds if there were no ulterior motives.

It is, therefore, advisable to the state governors, instead of relying solely on the federal allocation, they should think out of the box by looking inwards for resources to develop and transform their respective states, because every state is viably blessed. Also, there must be administrative procedures in our LGs to ensure dutiful, committed, dedicated and effective leaders.

The NFIU decision is well thought of and for the best interests of the Nigerian society, it should be encouraged and not stopped.

Alabidun Shuaib Abdulrahman,

Abuja.

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