Some Nigerian Governors Disagree With Buhari Over Allegation Of Looting LG Funds

By NewsBits

State governors, irrespective of political party affiliation have challenged President Muhammadu Buhari over his allegation that they (governors) have sucked the local governments dry. Buhari blatantly accused the state governors of pocketing local government funds thereby stalling growth of grassroots administration in the country.

Nigeria’s president made the huge allegation while delivering a speech at an event hosted for members of the Senior Executive Course 44 (2022) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. He cited a personal experience involving an unnamed governor to explain the corrupt practices perpetrated by some governors in dispensing resources meant for local councils’ administration.

He said it beats anyone’s imagination how some governors collected money on behalf of council areas in their states, only to remit just half of such allocation to the council chairmen, who would further deplete the remittance by pilfering it.

He continued, ‘‘I found it necessary to digress after reading my speech and this digression is a result of my personal experience. What they did, this is my personal experience, if the money from the Federation Account to the state is about N100 million, N50m will be sent to the chairman, but he will sign that he received N100 million. The governor will pocket the balance and share it with whoever he wants to share it with.

‘‘And then the chairman of the local government must see how much he must pay in salaries and to hell with development. When he pays the salaries of the big man, the balance he will put in his pocket. This is what’s happening. This is Nigeria. It’s a terrible thing; you cannot say the person who was doing this is not educated. He was a qualified lawyer, he was experienced, yet he participated in this type of corruption.

“So, it’s a matter of conscience, whichever level we find ourselves. As a leader, you sit here, with all the sacrifices the country is making by putting you through institutions and getting you ready to lead. The fundamental thing is personal integrity. May God help us,” he said.

Reacting to the accusation, the governor of Benue State, Dr Samuel Ortom said the state was the first to embrace local government financial autonomy and as such it is not involved in stealing local government funds.

“If other states are stealing local government funds, it is not in Benue. Governor Samuel Ortom does not steal local government funds because he is a transparent governor. Recall that when the Federal Government started sending money directly to local governments, he was the first who embraced it. When the judiciary was to be given autonomy, he was the first to accept it. He is someone, who has no skeletons in his cupboard.

“If that allegation is true in other states, it is not the same in Benue State because our governor is transparent, and he believes in the rule of law. He allows government agencies to operate as provided by law. That is why he has conducted more elections for the local governments than any other time in the history of the state. He has allowed democracy to be entrenched at the local government level.

“As we speak, we have elected local government chairmen and councillors in place. He does not interfere in the running of the local governments. So, that allegation does not obtain in Benue State. I am not saying the President is wrong but what I am saying is that it does not happen in Benue State. Our governor does not pilfer, embezzle, or steal local government funds,” the governor said in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Terver Akase.

Similarly, the commissioner for information and communication, Rivers State, Mr. Chris Finebone, said the president’s accusation does not apply to the state. “I can’t say to what extent the President could defend the allegation. What I’m hundred per cent sure of is that his accusation does not apply to Rivers State.

“I hear some governors dip hands into local funds, but in Rivers, the governor, rather augments local finances to keep them solvent, so that they can regularly pay teachers salaries and benefits to their staff as at when due. That has been the tradition under Governor Nyesom Wike,” he said.

For his part, the governor of Kwara State, Mr. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq said his state is not involved in the act alleged by the president. Spokesman for the governor, Mr. Rafiu Ajakaye, told Vanguard in an interview said the president’s statement was not blanket one. “Mr. President’s comments on the subject matter; to my understanding, have some measures of specificity. It was not a blanket statement. To that extent, we decline comment as Kwara doesn’t come under the tag.”

For Mr. Chooks Oko, spokesman for the governor of Ebonyi State, Mr. David Umahi, also said the president’s allegation does not apply to the state. “The quantum of development going on in Ebonyi will leave no one in doubt that such accusation does not apply to my governor. We have won several awards from the World Bank on fiscal prudence, accountability and transparency and they clearly stand Umahi out as one who uses allocations for what they are meant for,” he said.

However, the president of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Mr. Hakeem Ambali, said the president’s remark was unmistaken, and urged him to go beyond the statement and compel the governors under his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) to sign the local government autonomy bill into law.

“He should go beyond that statement. He is the leader of the party. The President should lead by example; he should ask APC governors to support local government autonomy; that one can demonstrate that the APC is a progressive party.” He said the gesture would encourage other governors from other parties to emulate them.

“Local government funds have been misapplied and misappropriated. We want the President to have the good courage to take the bull by the horn. If the problems of poverty, insecurity, hopelessness, and threat to the country needed to be addressed then, local governments must be granted full autonomy; that is the way to go,” he added.

He also said NULGE had taken a decision to vote for only a presidential candidate who supports local government autonomy. “We also want all the presidential candidates to be sincere with Nigerians and state their stance on local government autonomy. Keeping mum will not help them and we have directed all our members to vote for any presidential candidate who openly declares support for local government autonomy and unfortunately, none of them has spoken on local government autonomy,” he said.

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