Monday 27 May 2019

Hidden Reason Senators Back Financial Autonomy For Local Govts

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Indications have emerged on why most Senators readily backed the directive of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) on the management of Local Government Council funds.

It was gathered that senators, who were former governors, were comfortable with the move to ensure that state governors no longer control the funds of local governments, an incident that will, in turn, reduce their enormous political influence in the state.

A source in the National Assembly who confided in LEADERSHIP Sunday said although senators who had not served as governors were also mindful of whittling the political influence of governors in the state, former governors in the Senate were more inclined to the move because they fear being relegated to the background by incumbent governors.

The Senate recently backed financial guidelines for Local Governments recently introduced by the NFIU. The NFIU guidelines prevent state governments from making withdrawals from local governments’ funds. The new guidelines also mandate financial institutions to distribute funds accruable to local governments among them, and not for other purposes.

The NFIU statement read in part, “With effect from June 1, any bank that allows any transaction from any local government account without monies first reaching a particular local government account will be sanctioned 100 per cent, locally and internationally.”

While state governors have since protested to President Muhammadu Buhari over the move by the NFIU, local government workers under the aegis of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) have urged the President to ignore their protest.

The National Assembly source said that the senators were inclined to support the move because it is politically expedient for them.
“I can tell you that the former governors in the Senate, who seem to have turned the Red Chamber into their political haven, were desirous of having local governments free financially, for their own political reasons.

“These were the same set of governors who opposed financial autonomy for LGs during their tenure, but because they understand the power they wielded at the time, they are now afraid of the political mileage governors to enjoy with the control of local government funds. That is why they are bent on clipping their wings,” the source added.

Nevertheless, the executive director of Citizens Awareness Against Corruption and Social Vices Initiative (CAACASVI), Comrade Olumuyiwa Onlede has backed the NFIU guideline.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday he decided the high level of suffering imposed on a local government employee and traditional rulers by state governors.

He said, “The policy will also allow the heads of local governments to know the actual financial strength of their various local councils and this will give them an insight on ways to tackle the numerous challenges with the funds allocated directly to them without the state governors’ interference.

“When this policy comes to place, we advise the heads of local governments to seize this great opportunity to tackle the two prevalent issues confronting the Nigeria people at the local level, i.e. non-payment of employee salaries and security of life and properties.

“As a civil society organisation, we are determined to always support government policies that are targeted towards alleviating the sufferings of the people. We believe President Muhammadu Buhari has commenced the genuine restructuring that is needed by our great country Nigeria,” he said.

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