The administration of governor Ayade met elected Chairmen in office for 5 months before their tenure elapsed. But very uncharacteristical of Cross River state, the governor only bowed to pressure to conduct LG elections after five years into his own administration. Now he has fixed a tentative date in March 2020.
The ground has been prepared already for the ruling PDP to sweep the 18 LGAs either by election or by selection. There are reasons for this. Apart from the emotional satisfaction of party triumph, the very teething issue of the council allocations and how they are being frittered must also remain a closely guarded party secret.
Even with the directive by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit NFIU, barring governors from touching LG allocations, these funds are still been ferried illegally from the Joint Account Allocation Committee JAAC, into which council allocations are still been paid, through devious mutual schemes to governors.
These corrupt schemes that deliver these monies back to governors are expected to be shrouded and defended by all chairmen unless the ones that want to lose the office; so no governor wants to have an outlaw LG Chairman from another political party.
In Cross River for instance, there is a substantive Cross River State Local Government Law 2007 as amended, which gives statutory backing to 27 percent deduction from the LG funds by the State after overheads. I understand that has been twerked and upped to 31 percent by the current dispensation. The deduction is purportedly for the support of State agencies like Rural Electrification and Infrastructure, CUDA, Primary Health, SEMA etc.
Aside from that deduction, the Ayade government has introduced other illegal monthly deductions from the LG funds.
2.5million is deducted every month from each of the 18 LGs for what they call security coverage. This deduction has been done till February 2020. What it is being used for is what is still not clear.
Three new deductions were also introduced in February 2020.
Cross River Future Generation Fund – 1million Naira per LGA.
Cross River Community and Social Development Fund – 2.4million Naira per LGA.
Each LGA was also, through a letter from the Ministry of Local Governments, directed to pay N12million Naira from their capital votes to the Ministry of Environment for undisclosed reasons.
All these deductions were directed in memos from the Ministry of Local Government to the Heads of Local Government Administration HOLGAs, that I have sited and the directives have been fully executed up to the end of February 2020.
Last year 2019, each of the 18 LGAs were mandated to authorize the release of 20million Naira, totalling 360million; as part of their contribution to the governor’s quick win projects. HOLGAs were handed 6million each to do the work and retire 20million while contractors were sent to go get the balance.
This year 2020 again, dissatisfied politicians and civil servants, some of who have worked and retired, some of who say they are tired of being used as conduits to perpetrate corruption, have reliably informed yours sincerely that the Commissioner of Local Governments, Stella Odey has already wired 200,000 Naira to each of the 18 LGAs to advertise jobs for contractors in journals to bid, under the Rural Roads and Infrastructure Development initiative of the governor.
It is not clear yet how much the state government wants to pull out of the LG accounts this time for these ruse projects but what is clear is that they want to move as much money as possible before the LG elections.
For the people of Cross River, whether any party wins at the LG polls or only PDP selects their candidates, what is important is for us to follow our money and insist that it must be managed according to laid down rules.
The incredible obsession of our governor over council funds is a cause for worry and the most civilised way to impede that appetite is to consistently beam light on how the money moves from source to where it ends up.
Everything should be done to support the government’s drive to build rural infrastructure but more should also be done to ensure that these are not audio infrastructure residing in the pockets and accounts of a few persons.
We must all equip ourselves, each one of us, to monitor our LG funds and ensure they end up in projects that will lift the living standard of our rural relatives.
Citizen Agba Jalingo.
Citizen Agba Jalingo is the publisher of CrossRiverWatch and writes from Lagos State.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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