ON Thursday, November 30, 2022, President Buhari hosted the members of the Senior Executive Course 44 (2022) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. In the course of the interactive meeting, the visitors from the NIPSS presented a well-researched document with recommendations to President Buhari. The recommendations were based on their experiences in the 14 States of Nigeria, 6 countries in Africa and 6 countries outside our continent during their study tours. The Director-General of NIPSS, Prof. Ayo Omotayo, in the course of presenting the Report from the Institute to President Buhari, said that the study tours undertaken “enabled them to have both local and international perspectives on local governance, how to overcome challenges, identify the available opportunities to strengthen it and develop workable options to be considered by government in strengthening local governance.”
Having accepted the document from the DG of NIPSS, the President assured his August visitors that the recommendations therein would be painstakingly studied by the Federal Government of Nigeria with a view to implementing them before handover in May 2023. In the course of his remarks, President Buhari accused State Governors of stealing from money allocated to Local Governments, thereby limiting development at the grassroots. On Saturday, December 3, 2022, the State Governors under the aegis of Governors’ Forum (NGF) lambasted President Buhari on his accusation made against them on 30/11/2022. Having listened to both the President of Nigeria and the State Governors, the citizens of Nigeria who are governed by the Federal Government headed by President Buhari and State Governors should be free to express their respective opinions on the issue of Local Government which concerns them.
Nigerians who keep their dossiers on the state governors are aware of the sharp financial practices perpetrated by some state governors against the local government administrations in their respective states. Whenever the monthly allocations to the three tiers of government are approved for disbursement, some State Governments under the guise of Joint Projects use their respective State Joint Allocation Committee (JAC) to short –change their Local Governments by paying them fractions of what have been statutorily approved for them. Sometime in the outgoing 2022, the immediate past Chairman of Ado Local Government Area in Ekiti State cried out and was widely reported in the Dailies that the State Government made her to sign for One Hundred Million Naira but she was eventually given only Ten Million Naira for the Local Government she then administered.
There are some States which release the monthly allocations for their Local Governments without any deduction whatsoever. In Balyesa State, for example, Governor Douye Diri is found of releasing the monthly allocations of the State’s Local Governments to them without deduction. The Local Government Administrations in this State execute developmental projects and later invite their Governor to commission such projects. One does not need to be a student of Aristotelian Logic before concluding that Mr. President committed a fallancy of hasty generalization by accusing State Governors of stealing from the money allocated to Local Governments in Nigeria. He may not know the number of them who are guilty or not guilty of his accusation. However, he is in the position to order the EFCC or ICPC to investigate the financial accounts of the Local Governments in all the states of Nigeria.
The state governors went off the track by lambasting the president for what he said earlier about them. instead of meeting the President at the State House in Abuja to have insight into the Report from the NIPSS, the Governors accused Mr. President of turning “Nigeria to killing Field.” A primary school pupil knows that the issues at stake are not related. If one may accuse the President of committing a fallacy, the state governors may also be accused of suffering from logical difficulty. Between May 29, 2015 and November 30, 2022, the Council of State has been held only four times. The Constitution of Nigeria clearly enumerates the membership of the Council. If the Council has met regularly, many of the issues of National interest would have been discussed for implementation in the overall interest of Nigeria.
I strongly suggest that President Buhari should convene the meeting of the National Council of State before the end of 2022 to discuss the document submitted to him by the NIPSS. After the Nation Council of State meeting, the President should also direct either the EFCC or ICPC to investigate what the Federation Account Allocation Committee approved and remitted to all the 774 Local Governments in Nigeria from June 2015 to November 2022. The Crimes Commission should be directed to do the necessary investigation in three months (January to March 2023). Thereafter, the Federal Government of Nigeria should, before May 29, 2023, take the necessary steps to restore some sanity in the administration of Local Government in Nigeria.
- Omotoso, a deacon, writes in from Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State .