State Governors, FG disagree over financial autonomy for Local Councils

By Nimi Princewill.

Following a new directive from the Federal Government to disburse local government allocations directly to council accounts, effective June 1, state governors are vehemently opposed to the new policy.

Saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the implementation of this new directive, the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has sternly cautioned state governments against diverting and misappropriating local government funds.

The NFIU has also threatened to severely sanction financial institutions,
public servants, and other stakeholders fingered in the diversion of local council allocation when the policy kicks off on June 1.

Despite the tough stance of the NFIU, state governors have unanimously rejected the proposed financial autonomy for local governments, accusing the NFIU of “dabbling into a matter beyond its mandate.”

Empowered by the constitutional provision of State Joint Local Government Accounts, SJLGA, state governments posses hegemony over the management of local government allocations, including disbursement of the funds, while the local councils endure what is perceived as a parasitic relationship with the state.

It is also reported that some states take over the payment of local government employees as well as the handling of projects, while some deny councils of their allocations since council funding is all the state has to fall back to for the running of the state.

Expressing dissatisfaction with the new initiative for financial autonomy for councils, the governors teamed up to unanimously oppose it in a letter
to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Conveying their displeasure to the president, the governors described the policy, as driven by the NFIU, as “a brazen attempt to ridicule our collective integrity and show total disregard for the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.”

On the contrary, reports reveal that local government chairmen across the federation have anonymously expressed delight with the new development, as they strongly anticipate its implementation on June 1.

One of the council chairmen is reported to have said, “the recent development of NFIU is good. It will make one accountable, if the allocation is coming directly, the chairmen will be held accountable and they would not have any excuse as it is today.”

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