The Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has taken a step that if followed through, will from June 1, 2019; make it very difficult for Governors to exert control over the utilization of LG allocations, as presently obtains. The Joint Allocation Accounts Committee (JAAC), where LG funds are paid into will now only exist for the receipt of Federal allocations meant for Local Governments and not disbursement.
Not more than N500, 000 can be withdrawn cash, any amount higher than that must follow wire transfers, to ensure proper tracking and monitoring of the funds.
This is commendable because, the control of LG funds is the greatest incentive for the obsessive grip of State Governors on Local Governments. Since, the House of Assemblies voted against financial autonomy for the LGAs during the last constitution amendment exercise, it is very laudable that the NFIU is bringing this.
Now that this incentive is going to be removed and monies sent directly to the LGA’s, I want to believe that my State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade can now conduct Local Government elections, which are over 3 years due.
The argument by CROSIEC that there is no money for the elections fall short. Apart from the monthly Federal allocation which the Governor says is only N2.7billion, there is the LG joint account which is not talked about.
Allocation to the 18 LGA’s in Cross River State has also been in excess of N2 billion monthly for close to four years, according to official records from the Federal Ministry of Finance. Since the Councils have remained without properly constituted excos, these allocations rarely get to them. Though afraid to speak publicly, those running the Councils always tell us, “allocation no dey reach us. There is very little we can do.”
And due to the dysfunctional Councils, there are lots of retirements every day, which benefits are delayed in the Joint Account. There are no salaries to Councillors, Chairmen, and the statutory appointment structure of 29 political appointees, because elections haven’t held. So a lot of money has been saved up in the Joint Account.
The Governor told his exco earlier in the year, just before the last election when he was setting up Caretaker Committees for the 18 LGA’s that, he will need to put between N200 million to N300 million, from the Joint Account into each of the 18 LGA’s for “quick win” projects in the 18 LGA’s. Details of the projects weren’t clear, because the memo didn’t make it to exco again, even as unconfirmed information say about N4 billion was eventually withdrawn from the account for the said projects at the LGA’s. I understand there is still over N8 billion in the Joint Account, yet CROSIEC needs only a fraction of that to conduct LG elections.
This amount, still saved in our State’s joint account, is far more than enough, not only to conduct our overdue LG elections, it will also be able to return stability to the third tier, particularly now that the governor has off-loaded 6000 appointees, who can be absorbed at that level.
Agba Jalingo is the Editor-In-Chief of CrossRiverWatch and writes from Lagos State.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are solely attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo and do not in anyway represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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