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LG autonomy: Plateau Govt yet to abolish joint account – NAN survey

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Plateau Government is yet to abolish joint account for local government councils in the state in spite of directives by Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).

The NFIU had directed that federal allocations be paid directly to individual council’s account starting from June 1.

The NFIU had on May 6 issued ‘Guidelines to Reduce Vulnerabilities Created by Cash Withdrawals from Local Government Funds throughout Nigeria,’ which sought to stop governors from tampering with funds meant for local government areas.

Mr Ezekiel Vulgap, Chairman, Association of Local Governments Of Nigeria (ALGON), Plateau chapter disclosed this while speaking with the Nigeria News Agency in Jos.

Vulgap, also the Chairman of Mikang Local Government Area, said local councils in the state were still receiving their monthly allocations through the joint account controlled by the state government.

“No local government council has been requested to open individual account in the state for the monthly federal allocation as directed by NFIU.

“We still operate joint account with the state government,” he said.

Mr Samson Mafuyai, President, Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Plateau chapter also diclosed that local councils in the state still collect their allocations through the joint account.

Mafuyai, however, said the Federal Government need to draw a guideline for the implementation of the NFIU directive.

“I wonder how the federal government want the implementation of NFIU directive to be effected without a defined implementation guideline for states,” he said.

According to him, the implementation of the directive was haphazardly done in states that have complied.

“Every state is doing it the way it feels, because there is no standard guidelines on how the directive should be implemented.

“For example, from my interaction with colleagues in other states, it is clear that what is happening in Katsina is different from what is happening in Adamawa and even Bauchi states where the implementation has started,” he said.

Mafuyai further stated that the local councils’ financial autonomy as being championed by NFIU needed to be finetuned to achieve its target.

“As it is now, allocation meant for a local councils usually go somewhere, where statutory and non statutory deductions are made before amounts different from the figures from Abuja get to them. I don’t think that is autonomy

“We can only say our local councils are autonomous when what is meant for them hit their accounts the moment Federal Allocation Committee (FAC) meeting is concluded,’’ he said.

The union leader, who is also the Director of Finance, Jos North Local Government Area, said that NULGE has been fighting for the autonomy of local councils for the past 20 years.

According to him, there is no state or House of Assembly that NULGE has not visited in its advocacy for local councils autonomy.

Mr Steve Aluko of Civil Liberties Organisation said that the directive by NFIU is a welcome development, adding that it would complement the Federal Government’s fight against corruption.

Aluko said that beyond the pronouncement, goverment must take necessary actions to ensure full enforcement.

“Any state or local government that failed to abide by the directive should be sanctioned accordingly.

“Any state that failed to implement the directive, be it Plateau or any other state, it is the example made of such states that will serve as deterrent to other states,” he said.

He further said that the NFIU and anti-corruption agencies should expose those sabotaging the implementation efforts so that the public would know them.

Meanwhile, out of the 17 local government councils in Plateau, elections were only conducted in 13 while four are being ran by caretaker committees.

According to the authorities, elections were not held in the four local councils of Jos North, Jos South, Riyom and Barkin Ladi because of security concerns.

In Kogi the situation is not different, as local government councils workers across the state have held several protests over non implementation of the NFIU directive in addition to full payment of their salaries.

But, Mr Abubakar Ohere, Special Adviser to the state governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, said the protest was politically motivated.

Ohere said that the workers had misconstrued the position of NFIU on payment of the local councils staff, saying that the directive does not guarantee additional money from the federation account to the councils’ accounts.

“Since NFIU did not know the staff strength of each of the 774 local government councils in the country, it couldn’t have possibly directed 100 per cent salary payment.

“The reality on ground is that the statutory allocations to the councils are not enough to guarantee full payment hence the councils, over time, had opted for percentage payments.

“The only option left for the councils to pay 100 per cent staff salaries is to “down size”, to reduce the staff strength to the level the monthly allocations could accommodate.

“If the workers in the local government councils insist on 100 per cent payment, when there is no money to do so, then, government would have no option than to retrench but government has been trying to avoid such option,” he said.

Mr Frank Wuhe a political analysts in Benue lauded federal government efforts towards ensuring financial autonomy to the third tier of government.

Wuhe pointed out that the third tier of government is more closer to the people and had suffered for too long in the hands of state governors.

”Funds meant for the local councils were always siphoned by the governors thereby depriving them of the development.

”They hardly have enough funds to develop their areas because what usually go to them was not enough for them to embark on any project,” he said.

However, stakeholders in Nasarawa state have commended the state government for trying to comply with the NFIU directive thereby allowing local government councils to operate individual accounts for their monthly federal allocations.

Mr Aminu Maifata, the state’s Chairman of ALGON said all the 13 local government councils in the state are currently receiving their full allocations from the federation account.

Maifata explained that the allocation for May was sent through the joint account of the state and thereafter disbursed to the various councils.

Similarlly, Mr Bala Sani, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs said the state governor has directed the ministry to ensure full compliance with the NFIU directive.

According to Sani, the NFIU directive has been complied with since June 1, as government has set up machinery to ensure its success through his ministry.

The permanent secretary said that the state government has directed council chairmen to share their monthly allocations with the state Development Areas which are not recognised by the new guidelines.

He said that the chairmen were advised to make sure that statutory deductions were considered on first line charges before other expenses were made.

The Nigeria Governors Forum recently sued the NFIU, saying the directive was illegal because it contradicted the Constitution.

The Constitution prescribed joint ownership of account between a state and all local government areas under it.

Edited by Ali Baba-Inuwa

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