The Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees on Friday raised the alarm that about nine governors were diverting local government funds, in violation of the guideline issued by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit in May 2019.
The union said the actions of the governors were depriving the people of the benefits that they should ordinarily have access to, as it threatened to shut down the 774 councils in the country if their demands were not met within 30 days.
The union also called on the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to sign an executive order preventing any state that failed to conduct LG poll from accessing local government allocations.
The PUNCH had reported that Ogun, Katsina Anambra, Kwara, Osun and Zamfara states had not conducted local government elections despite the expiration of elected officers’ tenures.
Also, Imo and Oyo state governments sacked elected officers, whose tenures had not ended and replaced them with caretaker committees like the seven states mentioned earlier. Although Edo State has no local government caretaker committees, the local governments are being administered by heads of administration.
Meanwhile, giving the ultimatum in an interview with our correspondent on Friday, the National President of NULGE, Hakeem Ambali, stressed that members of the union would storm the National Assembly and the state assemblies to express their dissatisfaction with the way the governors were running the third tier of government.
Ambali said, “About nine state governors are diverting and pilfering local government funds, thereby denying the people at the local government level the right to benefit from social amenities that should be provided by the local government.
“As a matter of urgency, Mr President should sign an executive order preventing any state government that failed to conduct local government election from having access to local government allocations so that even if the money is released to the local government account, it should be for salary payment alone.
“They have to teach them (governors) a lesson; that is why NULGE would continue to be involved in agitation until the actualisation of political and financial autonomy for local governments.
“If we are to get things right in Nigeria, it is time to approve local government autonomy because all these agitations about insecurity, unemployment, lack of belief and hope in the Nigerian nation, leading to agitation for self-determination and disintegration of the country is borne out of the greed of most of those who claim to be political elite, who corner local government resources and misappropriate them.”
Efforts to get the NULGE President to name the governors were not successful as several calls to his line till 12:40am on Saturday were not answered.
…threatens to shut down N’Assembly, 774 LGs
The union also threatened to shut down the National and state assemblies.
The union had in March 2017 staged a nationwide rally demanding full autonomy for LGs in the country against the backdrop of the Supreme Court judgment nullifying the law empowering governors to replace elected LGA chairmen and councillors with caretaker committees.
Ambali, who was the former chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ogun State chapter, carpeted state governors for refusing to conduct LG elections, stating that their action in denying the people at the grassroots the right to choose their leaders was borne out of greed.
He noted that the 7th and 8th National Assembly had passed the local government autonomy bill but the implementation, he said, was halted by governors, whom, he said threatened the lawmakers.
He said, “We have written to the leadership of the National Assembly; that is why the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, openly said the problem of local government autonomy is with the governors.
“Even the 7th and 8th National Assembly did well by passing the bill on local government autonomy. It was as a result of coercion and threat by various state governors to the National Assembly leadership that the 9th NASS decided to halt the autonomy.
“Having written them demanding that they should invite the leadership of NULGE to a meeting at the National Assembly to discuss this issue, if they fail to do that as we have said, we will commence by mobilising all our members to visit the National Assembly and the assemblies at the state level and finally, we will organise a national protest to the National Assembly to pressurise them to discontinue the killer bill against local government and also re-approve the bill on local government autonomy.
“If they do not do this, we would have no option than to shut down all the 774 local governments in Nigeria. All these would happen within the next 30 days,” Ambali vowed.
The NULGE leader argued that the governors had continued to deny the people the right to elect their leaders, describing the elections conducted by the state electoral commissions as a charade.
He stressed that the appointment of cronies to administer the councils by the governors was a way to perpetrate fraud.
The union added, “We have always vilified the system of conducting local government elections by state electoral umpire called SIEC because it has been a charade.
“It is not a reflection of the will of the people; we call it appointment by coronation because people are denied the right to choose their leaders and this is borne out of greed because putting caretakers or appointing cronies to superintend over local governments is a way to perpetrate fraud.
SANs speak on LG autonomy
Commenting on the failure of the states to conduct local government elections, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Ifedayo Adedipe, had said the constitution does not recognise the appointment of caretaker committees to run the affairs of a local government.
Adedipe said, “First of all, the constitution does not envisage, and therefore, makes no provision for interim/caretaker governance. Every caretaker administration is illegal, is unconstitutional and null and void.
“That trend is a pointer to the intolerance and anti-democratic disposition of some of these governors, who do not believe that local government should exist at all. But my worry is that they seem to be getting away with it, because we have Houses of Assembly that only exist in name, who only pander to the wishes of governors.
Also, another SAN, Chief Mike Ozekhome, had in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “Running a state with caretaker committees is a constitutional aberration going by Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution.
According to him, the committees are anomalous, unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional.
He stated “It’s possible some state governors are scared of testing their popularity, or are more comfortable using “boy-boy” genuflecting errand minions that can only ask how high when told to jump up by such imperial demi-gods called governors.”
Also, another SAN, Femi Falana, in an interview with Plus TV in 2019, said, “We shouldn’t be talking of the credible elections, free and fair elections of 1993 while we are sinking into unbelievable embarrassment in terms of conducting elections in our country. And I’m not talking of general elections alone. Local government elections conducted in Nigeria are the worst in Africa.”
Also, a former second National Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association and human rights lawyer, Mr Monday Ubani, in an interview on Channels Television published on YouTube in 2011, criticised state governors for poor local government administration.
He said, “The constitution guarantees that they should periodically go for election. It’s there in the constitution – three years. In most states in the East, there is no local government administration going on there. There is no democracy; there is no election.
“They keep on appointing those people they feel are compliant and so those people can’t question them. So, any money that comes in, they give them to go and pay salaries, and they settle them with the security votes, and that’s the end of the matter. The people don’t feel it and Nigerians don’t speak up.