• Don’t help govs to siphon funds, union warns members
• Council chiefs should disobey govs’ illegal orders —Unit
Olalekan Adetayo and Olufemi Atoyebi
The Nigerian Financial Intelligent Unit said on Sunday that the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees had reported state governors who had been stealing local governments’ funds.
Also, NULGE has written a letter on August 9 to all the nation’s 774 local governments’ chairmen on August 9 to alert them to the fact that the governors might be planning fresh tactics to steal the LG funds.
It warned the council bosses and workers against helping the governors to steal the LGs’ money.
The National President of NULGE, Ibrahim Khaleel, had told The PUNCH that the state governments had come up with another means of siphoning money from the local governments’ accounts despite the NFIU financial guidelines.
The NFIU had directed the state governments to stop tampering with local governments’ funds.
The NFIU had on May 6, 2019 issued the ‘Guidelines to Reduce Vulnerabilities Created by Cash Withdrawals from Local Government Funds throughout Nigeria.’ By this, governors have been stopped from tampering with the funds meant for local government areas. The guidelines took effect from June 1.
But Khaleel accused the state governments across the country of forcing local governments to pay levies to them from the fund apportioned to the councils from the federation account.
He said local governments were being asked to contribute to the running of some projects in states which ordinarily were the responsibilities of state governments.
When contacted on Sunday on whether the council workers had reported any governor to the NFIU for the alleged diversion of the LG funds, the unit’s spokesman, Sani Tukur, confirmed the NULGE’s letter, adding that NULGE had reached out to the unit officially on the issue.
He however said he had not been fully briefed on the matter and as such could not give the names of the affected governors.
“I can confirm to you that NULGE has officially informed the unit of the development. I have however not been officially briefed on the matter,” he said.
A source in the unit however told one of our correspondents that the NFIU was working on an advisory that would address the concerns raised not only by NULGE but also by all other stakeholders.
The source added that it was in the interest of the local government officials not to oblige the governors any request that might put them in trouble.
He warned that when the anti-corruption agencies would begin to go after such local government officials, it would not be a tenable excuse that their state governors were the ones who directed them to carry out the illegal transactions.
When also contacted on Sunday, spokesman for the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Abdulrazaque Barkindo, said the issue raised by NULGE had not been discussed at the NGF meeting.
He said, “That issue has not come to the NGF meeting. Governors have not discussed that. You also know that the case is in court, so we are careful the way we talk on an issue that is before the court.”
Council chiefs should disobey govs’ illegal orders – Unit
A source close to the forum however said it was wrong for NULGE to make a blanket pronouncement that state governors were circumventing the guidelines.
He said, “When NULGE claimed that state governors have devised another means; which governors are they referring to? Did governors meet at the level of the NGF and devise the means or are they referring to particular governors?
“Local government chairmen should learn to be able to stand for something. If they are convinced that this thing is wrong, they should not be swayed by any governor to do it.
“They should learn to stand for what they believe is the right thing. If, as a council chairman or treasurer, your governor asked you to carry out an instruction that is against the guidelines, why can’t you refuse to do it?”
Don’t help govs to steal funds, NULGE warns members
When one of our correspondents attempted to get Khaleel’s reaction to the issue, his efforts were not successful.
A text message sent to his mobile telephone line was not replied.
However, one of his aides, forwarded to The PUNCH a letter written on Friday by NULGE to all council chairmen.
The letter, dated August 9, 2019, was signed by Khaleel, the union’s General Secretary, Agunoye Chukwuemeke; and the National Treasurer, Ambali Olatunji.
The letter, with Ref NULGE 26/Vol.TV/164, directed all council chairmen, treasurers of the councils and directors of general services and administration to be cautious in carrying out directives from state governors to transfer LGs’ funds to state governments’ agencies.
The letter stated, “While we have not relented in the struggle to achieve autonomy for the system we operate through constitutional means, we are however encouraged by the content of the NFIU recent guidelines with respect to the operation of the state-local governments’ joint accounts.
“Given the passion with which the Nigeria Governors’ Forum had opposed this initiative, it is clear to us in NULGE that they will go to any length to either bend these guidelines or find ways of administratively/bureaucratically undermining them.
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“In other words, from their pronouncements and action, our state governors are still determined to continue the looting of local governments’ resources with their stranglehold on these joint accounts.
“It is with respect to the above context that we wish to use this opportunity to caution the leadership of councils, particularly chairmen, treasurers and directors, general services and administration to exercise a high degree of restraints in carrying out directives of state governors in releasing any fund whatsoever through the back channels to organisations or agencies of state governments.”