Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Tuesday, gave insight into how the nation’s governors “defraud” the Local Governments(LGA) in Nigeria, and also rendered them ineffective in the performance of their statutory functions.
Obasanjo who declared that the governors remained the “greatest obstacles” to having a virile and functional Councils, alleged that the state governors “steal” Council funds under the pretext that they have done something on their behalf.
According to him as soon as the Local Government Allocations were released from the Federal allocation, the state governors simply deduct from the source, whatever amount they claimed were spent on behalf of the Local Governments.
The ex – President made this known during an interactive session shortly after delivering his keynote address at the maiden International Conference on Politics, Security and Development, Babcock University, Ilisan, Ogun State.
The conference themed: “Forty years of Local Government Reforms and Democratic Development in Nigeria: Critical Perspectives,” and convened by the department of Political Science and Public Administration, Veronica Adeleke School of Social Sciences, Babcock University, was chaired by former Managing Director of Nigerian Airways and politician, Alh. Jani Ibrahim.
Obasanjo who recalled that he initiated Local Governments reforms between 1976 and 1979 to make them autonomous, functional and developmental, lamented that once such money were illegally deducted by governors, no LGA chairman dare questioned or challenged such illegality.
“I called such fraud, stealing and corruption. It is fraud, it is corruption. They will say they have done something or paid for something for their Local Governments. And when the Local Governments’ money comes, they take it. Who is that chairman that will tell the Governor you have taken our money? You are gone,” he said.
And earlier in his speech, Obasanjo said not allowing the LGAs to work as well as stealing of their funds from source by states is one of the greatest disservice of all political parties in our democratic experiment.
He noted that experiences have shown that the LGAs in many states across the country have become the most constitutionally-abused matter since the 1999 Constitution became operational.
He rued that only a handful of states had held local government election while others carried on as if it is legal to run local governments without the Constitution that created them.
Obasanjo decried a situation where most state governors have resorted to appointing transition committee Chairmen comprising of their surrogates to oversee the affairs of the Councils, saying the trend has sadly been sustained till date.
According to him, in States where the polls had been conducted, the governors, in connivance with corrupt electoral officials subservient to the governors and ruling party committed malpractices which make mockery of the process.
“The constitution envisages that the with the allocation from the Consolidated National Revenue Account to the Local Governments on the states will be added, the contribution of the State into a joint account as funding for the functions of the Local Governments.
“Not only did most of the States contribute nothing in breach of the Constitution, they also devised different dubious programmes and plans by which they took substantial amount of allocation due to the Local Governments.
“With that done, most of the Local Government officials just shared what remained among them without any serious service being undertaken for the people. It is perpetrated by most of the states,” Obasanjo said.
He however, expressed the optimism that the problems and challenges of LGAs in Nigeria are not beyond solutions.
He said the LGAs have remarkable capacity not only to learn, grow and adapt but also considerable capacity and flexibility to enter into effective partnerships with both the private sector and civil society in delivering services to their constituents.
The ex – President therefore suggested that the LGAs have to be led by men and women who understand the enormous challenges they face and the need to focus primarily on those issues that would enhance the living standards of the masses.
He also suggested that LGAs chairmen have to ensure prudent management of resources and lay emphasis on accountable and transparent local governance.
According to him, the principal reason for demanding “accountability and transparency is to ensure efficient deployment of resources in effective service delivery.”
But Governor Ibikunle Amosun who was represented by the Secretary to State Government(SSG), Mr Adeoluwa Taiwo, said his administration recognised the constitutional provisiona of the LGAs which informed why it had conducted successful Council elections twice – first in 2012 and last October 8, in the state.
Amosun also said contrary to the allegations that state governors in Nigeria routinely nibble at the Councils’ funds, his administration acts differently and had never dipped its hand into the LGAs’ purse, adding that he continued to supplement them regularly to the enable the LGAs pay salaries.