How to stop steal­ing of LG funds – Dr. Kanam

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - From An­drew Agbese, Kaduna

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari has promised to do some­thing about the lo­cal gov­ern­ment ad­min­is­tra­tion in Nige­ria. As a for­mer LG boss, what are the is­sues that need to be con­sid­ered?

First of all, I want to seize this op­por­tu­nity to con­grat­u­late Mr. Pres­i­dent on the com­mend­able steps he has taken in turn­ing around the sit­u­a­tion in our dear coun­try. Re­gard­ing the ques­tion you asked, I be­lieve we all know there is some­thing called joint lo­cal and state gov­ern­ment ac­count. That is an ac­count op­er­ated jointly be­tween lo­cal gov­ern­ments in a par­tic­u­lar state and the state gov­ern­ment, which how­ever is not the case. A quick ref­er­ence to Sec­tion 162 of the con­sti­tu­tion, par­tic­u­larly sub sec­tion 6 clar­i­fies this mat­ter. It states that, “each state gov­ern­ment is to open a state joint lo­cal gov­ern­ment ac­count not a joint state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment ac­count.” What’s the dif­fer­ence? The dif­fer­ence sim­ply is as op­posed to state gov­ern­ment and lo­cal gov­ern­ment joint ac­count, whereby lo­cal gov­ern­ments within a state and the state jointly op­er­ate and de­cide how the money is to be dis­trib­uted or used. But the state joint lo­cal gov­ern­ment ac­count is an ac­count where all monies be­long­ing to lo­cal gov­ern­ments in a par­tic­u­lar state com­ing from the fed­er­a­tion ac­count will go into. Then, as soon as that money en­ters into that ac­count, another statu­tory law which is the Al­lo­ca­tion of Rev­enue Act comes into op­er­a­tion. This im­plies that the chair­man of this Joint Al­lo­ca­tion Ac­count in the state, who is the com­mis­sioner for lo­cal gov­ern­ment, quickly calls for the meet­ing of the Joint Ac­counts Al­lo­ca­tion Com­mit­tee (JAAC), which is con­sti­tuted by the com­mis­sioner and all the ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil chair­men, and this again is a ma­jor prob­lem we have in the run­ning of lo­cal gov­ern­ment. This is be­cause, any time we dis­solve a coun­cil, the op­er­a­tion of that

Joint Ac­counts Al­lo­ca­tion Com­mit­tee be­comes illegal since there are no elected coun­cil chair­men to at­tend that meet­ing to meet and dis­trib­ute that money in ac­cor­dance to the pre­de­ter­mined dis­tri­bu­tion for­mula and the bases of which that money is given to each lo­cal gov­ern­ment from the fed­er­a­tion ac­count. Each lo­cal gov­ern­ment al­ready has a fig­ure rep­re­sent­ing its share from that joint ac­count.

State gov­ern­ments have no dime in that ac­count other than a con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ment that at the end of ev­ery quar­ter, it is sup­posed to pay 10% of its in­ter­nally gen­er­ated rev­enue into that ac­count, which will in­crease the take home of the Dr. Saleh Kanam was in the news be­tween 2008 and 2011 in Plateau State, when he was re­moved by the then state gover­nor, Jonah Jang, as lo­cal gov­ern­ment chair­man. He speaks on the abuse of lo­cal coun­cils by gover­nors and how the present ad­min­is­tra­tion can change the trend. Ex­cerpts: lo­cal gov­ern­ments. But it is the other way round, where we are wit­ness­ing re­duc­tions, du­bi­ous cuts here and there, and at the end of the day, the lo­cal gov­ern­ments only go with what they can pay salaries.

In a nut­shell, the state has noth­ing to do with that ac­count. In fact, the Al­lo­ca­tion of Rev­enue Act 2004 un­der Sec­tion 8, specif­i­cally un­der sub­sec­tion 8, pro­hibits states from bor­row­ing from that ac­count, and it is very im­por­tant for the gov­ern­ments of the state to un­der­stand this. The su­per­vis­ing pow­ers of state over lo­cal gov­ern­ment do not in­clude dab­bling into the fi­nances of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment, but to su­per­vise how these funds are to be used. That is why we have the of­fice of the au­di­tor-gen­eral in re­spect of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment at the state level. The House of Assem­bly also has com­mit­tees on lo­cal gov­ern­ment; there is also the lo­cal gov­ern­ment in­spec­torate di­vi­sion in the min­istry of lo­cal gov­ern­ment and the gover­nor too is em­pow­ered un­der lo­cal gov­ern­ment laws in the state to re­ceive pe­ti­tions from peo­ple from lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

I have been hear­ing peo­ple, even the gover­nor of Kaduna State say­ing that he has abol­ished Joint Ac­count. This is not ac­cept­able since it is pro­vided by the law. Say­ing the state gov­ern­ment is to take cer­tain amount from that joint ac­count to do some­thing with it, which we all know is pro­hib­ited by law are some of the things the present ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to find a way of stop­ping.

But why has this prac­tice per­sisted?

Any­body who has the op­por­tu­nity of tak­ing what does not be­long to him will will­ingly take it and I think that is what the state gov­ern­ments are do­ing. As state ex­ec­u­tive, even if the gover­nor doesn’t know, he has the min­istry of jus­tice to ad­vise him on le­gal is­sues. Gover­nors can get clar­i­fi­ca­tions on any­thing they don’t un­der­stand, from ei­ther the of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral or the min­istry of jus­tice. I don’t think there is an is­sue of ig­no­rance there. As for the lo­cal gov­ern­ment chair­men, un­less and un­til the method of elec­tion in our coun­try at the lo­cal gov­ern­ment is rec­ti­fied, we’ll con­tinue to pro­duce peo­ple that are not elected but se­lected by gover­nors, whose main in­ter­est when they come to of­fice is what they get as salaries and other things that are not in the in­ter­est of the peo­ple.

Also, I must say that with apol­ogy, many of the chair­men are ig­no­rant of their own pow­ers and the po­si­tion of the law in re­spect to a lot of is­sues. The or­ga­ni­za­tion that is sup­posed to fight and en­sure that the right thing is done, and which I be­lieve is not do­ing the right thing as far as I’m con­cerned is the Na­tional Union of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Em­ploy­ees (NULGE).

ALGON is al­ready a crip­pled or­ga­ni­za­tion if you look at the back­ground from which its mem­bers were brought into of­fice, so the only or­ga­ni­za­tion is NULGE. I’m call­ing on NULGE to ask her lawyers to go to the Al­lo­ca­tion of Rev­enue Act and Sec­tion 162 of the con­sti­tu­tion and quickly do some­thing about go­ing to court, so that the steal­ing of lo­cal gov­ern­ment funds and that of state gov­ern­ments will stop.

But some say gover­nors take in­ter­est in the fi­nances of the LGs due to the high level cor­rup­tion there…

There is al­ready a mech­a­nism in place to check al­leged cor­rup­tion at the lo­cal gov­ern­ment level. It is cor­rup­tion at the state level that wors­ens cor­rup­tion at the lo­cal level. If we have a good state gov­ern­ment with pow­ers to su­per­vise lo­cal gov­ern­ment, there will be no cor­rup­tion in the state and there will be no cor­rup­tion in the lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

I’ve ear­lier men­tioned that the state gov­ern­ment has about four su­per­vis­ing pow­ers over the lo­cal gov­ern­ment. The gover­nor can re­ceive pe­ti­tions and di­rect the cor­rec­tion of any wrong do­ing in the lo­cal gov­ern­ment level. There is the au­di­tor gen­eral for lo­cal gov­ern­ment who works un­der the lo­cal gov­ern­ment but at the state level, checks how money is spent and re­ceived at the lo­cal level af­ter ev­ery six weeks. We also have the in­spec­torate di­vi­sion in re­spect of lo­cal gov­ern­ments in the same min­istry. When­ever the meet­ing of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment is con­ducted, there is al­ways the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the state, par­tic­u­larly from the min­istry of lo­cal gov­ern­ment and chief­taincy af­fairs. Thirdly, there is also the over­sight func­tion of the State House of Assem­bly; this is also a state or­gan not a lo­cal gov­ern­ment or­gan. With all these pow­ers, if there is still cor­rup­tion at lo­cal gov­ern­ment, then squarely, the root cause of cor­rup­tion is at the state level.

State gover­nors have also been sack­ing elected lo­cal gov­ern­ment chair­men at will, is this right?

That’s the man­i­fes­ta­tion of the fact that ma­jor­ity have not come to ac­cept the rule of law as the cri­te­ria for run­ning the demo­cratic process. Let me start by telling you the prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with the dis­so­lu­tion of lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cils. First of all, if you want to en­gage in any state cre­ation con­sti­tu­tion­ally in Nige­ria to­day, lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cils must come into the process. So, if at the time the fed­eral gov­ern­ment wants to en­gage in state cre­ation and ma­jor­ity of lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cils in the coun­try are con­sti­tuted by care­taker com­mit­tees, any par­tic­i­pa­tion by those care­taker com­mit­tees ren­ders the whole process illegal.

We have to look at Sec­tion 7 of the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion and see what kind of lo­cal gov­ern­ment is rec­og­nized by our con­sti­tu­tion. The sec­tion says “the sys­tem of lo­cal gov­ern­ment by demo­crat­i­cally elected lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cil is un­der this con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­teed”. So any time you have a care­taker or a sole ad­min­is­tra­tor at the lo­cal gov­ern­ment, or the tran­si­tion com­mit­tee or the man­age­ment com­mit­tee or what­ever kind of com­mit­tee, you have to rec­on­cile it with that fact.

The sec­ond is­sue is that the Joint Ac­count Al­lo­ca­tion Com­mit­tee of which lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cil chair­men are mem­bers be­comes illegal be­cause the right peo­ple to rep­re­sent the lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cils have been dis­solved. Thirdly, by im­pli­ca­tion, the state also vests it­self with the power of col­lect­ing money on be­half of lo­cal gov­ern­ment through its com­mis­sioner of fi­nance. As soon as the money comes into their hands, it is in trust for demo­crat­i­cally elected lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cils. If you dis­solve the lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cil and bring your ap­pointees as those who will man­age the lo­cal gov­ern­ment, then there is al­ready no struc­ture since it is only your ap­pointees col­lect­ing the money for you and not the lo­cal gov­ern­ment coun­cils. That’s my in­ter­pre­ta­tion of that sec­tion and these are some of the prob­lems. There are many Supreme Court de­ci­sions say­ing dis­so­lu­tion of lo­cal gov­ern­ment, re­moval of chair­men, sus­pen­sion of chair­men or coun­cilors are all gross vi­o­la­tions of the con­sti­tu­tion.

Dr Saleh Kanam

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