The survey conducted in Bauchi, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, and neighboring Jigawa indicates that local councils now operate separate accounts through which they receive monthly allocations from the Federation Account.
In Borno however, there are questions as to whether the directives of the federal government had been implemented or not.
Some stakeholders interviewed said they are in support of granting financial autonomy to the third tier of government, while some expressed doubt as to the ability of the Councils to properly manage resources at their disposal.
Malam Nasiru Usman, Chairman, Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Bauchi State, confirmed that the state government had commenced operating separate accounts for all the 20 local government councils of the state.
Usman told NAN in Bauchi that Gov. Bala Mohammed had issued a directive to that effect.
“We commenced operating separate accounts last month and all monies meant for local government councils were sent to their separate accounts,” he said.
Usman, who is the Head of Administration of Toro Local Government Council and also chairman, Caretaker Committee of the council, said local government election is yet to be conducted in the state.
Mr. Adamu Ibrahim, Secretary of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, (NULGE) in the state, confirmed the payment of allocation for the month of June into separate councils’ accounts.
“The local Council in the state, as from last month started operating separate accounts through their Head of Administration,” he said.
He described the development as heartwarming, as it would unbundle the councils from the shackles of financial control by state governors.
He commended the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) for barring commercial banks from allowing transactions from State Joint Local Government Accounts (SJLGAs) without monies first reaching a particular local government account.
In Adamawa, Mr. Hamma-Jumba Gatugel, chairman, the state chapter of National Union of Local Government Employees ( NULGE) also said that the local government financial autonomy is being implemented in the state.
Gatugel said that all the 21 local government councils in the state had opened their separate accounts.
“We have 21 local Government Areas in the state and all of them have opened their separate accounts as directed by the federal government.
” However, we still attend the Joint Accounts meeting for the statutory deductions that include UBE, Primary healthcare, Pension, Traditional Council among others,” he said.
Also speaking on the autonomy, Mr. Abubakar Abdulsalam, the President of a Civil Society Organisation(CSO) in Adamawa, the Progressives Minds for Development Initiative (PMDI), described the situation as a welcome development that would address poverty at the grassroots and facilitate infrastructural development.
Abdulsalam said CSOs and other stakeholders needed to monitor the states to ensure proper implementation of the policy.
NAN reports that there are no elected council officials in Adamawa and the newly elected governor has appointed Transition Committees to oversee the affairs of the councils.
Also commenting, Permanent Secretary, Ministry for Local Government, Gombe State, Mr. Mohammed Manu, also said the state government is in support of financial autonomy for local government councils.
“ The state government supports all policies of the federal government because they are for the positive development of the country.
“ All Councils in the state have separate accounts; there is no Joint Account; When the allocation comes, all Councils are remitted their share,’’ he said.
The permanent secretary, however, expressed doubts over the initiative delivering on the purpose for which it is meant, adding that the huge debt profile of the Councils may impede its success.
“Local government councils in Yobe are already autonomous, as they always have their monies given to them as soon as the federal government disburses the money,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chairman of Borno chapter of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Malam Mustapha Bulama, has called on the National Assembly to amend laws establishing State and Local Government Joint Account in the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2018, signed the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Bill into law, separating the unit from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to enhance effective management of the local councils’ fund.
Bulama said the call was imperative to facilitate the successful implementation of the NFIU’s guidelines, which sought to grant financial autonomy to the councils.
While hailing the measure, Bulama noted that effective legislations are necessary to enable the councils to manage their fund within the ambit of the law.
“The State and Local Government Joint Account was established within the provisions of the 1999 constitution.
“Any attempt by the councils to utilize the fund without required legislations amounts to gross violation of Constitutional provisions,” he said.
Bulama observed that funds are yet to be credited directly to respective accounts of Councils in the state in spite of the directive by the federal government.
He attributed the delay to the absence of relevant legislation granting financial autonomy to the councils and lack of elected political heads in the 20 local government areas of the state.
In his contribution, however, Mr. Jibrin Mohammed, Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT)
in the state, said although granting Councils financial autonomy is laudable, the arrangement might result in hiccups in paying salaries of teachers.
He suggested that funds for payment of teachers’ salaries and implementation of school development projects be channeled through the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
On his part, Chairman of ALGON in Jigawa, Alhaji Aminu Sani, expressed reservations over the ability of Councils to live up to their financial responsibilities, even if granted financial autonomy.
Sani said the autonomy is accompanied by lots of responsibilities which most Councils might not be able to shoulder.
The ALGON Chairman said that after settling staff salaries, most local councils rely on the state government for funds to embark on development projects.
Gov. Muhammad Badaru of Jigawa said that he is in support of financial autonomy for local Councils, so long as they would not fail in discharging their financial obligations.
“I am not against the autonomy but my candid advice to them (Council authorities) is that they must try to cut their coats according to their sizes in terms of employment, capital projects and other corporate social responsibilities.
“This is because the autonomy is coming with a lot of responsibilities as they are now going to collect their money directly from the federation account and as such, must account for all the monies they collected.
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