Lagos, Thursday, June 16, 2016: Human Development Initiatives (HDI) and other Civil Societies that seek transparency, accountability and open governance, especially in public finance in Nigeria, are concerned about the poor condition of Local Governments and governance in the country and the secrecy that surrounds the use of allocations and other resources committed to it; particularly with regard to the recent development: the inability of Local Government to pay workers salary across the country for several months; and the dearth of infrastructure at the grassroots.
More than 69% of Nigerians live in highly deprived communities. They are deprived of adequate basic education, basic health care service, efficient water supply, basic hygiene and environmental services, which consequently make them multi-dimensionally poor. The Human Development Report 2015 shows that over 50.9% of Nigeria’s population (88.497 million Nigerians) suffer from multidimensional poverty and additional 18.4% (32.001 million) are near multidimensional poverty level. Deprivation is 54.8% contributor to this alarming rural poverty level. Multidimensional poverty widens the existing inequality gaps. It is a common knowledge that poverty in Africa is as a result of misappropriation, diversion of funds, stealing of public funds, budget padding, and other forms of practices and policies that fuel fiscal corruption among others.
Since the creation of State-Local Government Joint Account, the capacity of LGAs to address local needs has diminished geometrically; many states’ electoral bodies have refused to conduct credible LGA elections, many LGAs in the North-East since the beginning of insurgency have no functional LGAs; yet they have consistently received federal allocations.
The figures released by the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) and corroborated by other media reports for year 2015 show that over
N1.18trillion was shared among the 774 Local Governments through the State-Local Government Joint Account system. Likewise, between January and March 2016, they have shared N146.068billion. In addition, a few States have received bailout funds as loans from the Federal Government from which Local Government are to benefit also. Federal Government has also suspended the deduction of the loans to enable States and LGAs pay salaries.
The latest reports from the various States reveal that most of the LGAs are still unable to pay workers’ salaries. So States’ and LGAs’ workers are on rampage for non-payment of salaries; not to talk of worry about service provision.For example, the Punch online platform reported on May 1, 2016 that Egor LGA workers in Edo State were owed 13 months’ salary. Delta State LGA worker were being owed 8 months’ salary reported in Daily Trust of May 1, 2016. Kwara state LGAs are also owing between 5 to 6 months workers salary as reported by Vanguard on May 1, 2016, among others.
What possible legitimate reasons do LGAs’ Executives have for shortage of funds when FAAC records shows the huge allocations disbursed to them!As much as we know, records of finances and workers at the LGA level are often treated as secrete documents. Their refusal to make public all public records including budget make them an accomplices. It is also very obvious that majority of the offices in many of these LGAs are often deserted; high rate of truancy, ghost workers scam, etc are corrupt practices that have created leakages to LGAs resources, which more often than not are not scrutinized by anti-corruption agencies. For instance, Egor LGA in Edo State received over
N1.338 billion, Ovia North East LGA received N1.102 billion, Ovia South East LGA received N1.177 billion, while all the 18 LGAs in the state received N19.876 billion in 2015 excluding allocations for August, September, and November 2015 which could not be retrieved from the Federal Government Budget Office website. In Delta State the reports further show that Oshimili South LGA received N994.136 million, Ika South LGA, N1.099 billion, Oshimili North LGA received N917.714 million, while the 25 LGAs in the State shared a total of N26.219 billion for the same period. In Kwara, Ilorin East LGA received N1.167 billion, Ilorin South LGA received N1.179 billion, Ilorin West LGA received N1.417 billion, while all the 16 LGAs shared N17.260 billion for the same period. There is no way LGAs will assess this quantum of allocations in on year without significant development at the LGA level other than corruption. A very clear reason why Nigerians suffer this level of deprivation, is as a result of lack of transparency, accountability, and open budget at this level of governance; and the inactivity of anti-corruption agencies at local level.
Currently, the Federal Government has announced its plan to offer another bailout to States Government but this time with a stringent 22-point reform agenda called Financial Sustainability Plan. This plan, among others, requires State Government to publish their audited financial statements and budgets, the Bank Verification Number, payroll review exercises to sanitize payroll cost, and limits on recurrent expenditure levels. This is a welcomed development.
In retrospect, the President promised not to “…fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the state and local governments. Not the least the operation of the Local Government Joint Account”. We want to believe that this is one of the steps towards fulfilling this promise.
It is instructive therefore that the President has shown commitment to ensuring transparency and accountability in the use of government resources and State Government has also demonstrated same by agreeing to the FSP. However, with over
N1.18 trillion in 2015 and N469 billion January to March allocation to LGAs, and the bailout funds released by the Federal Government to the States:
- Anti-corruption agencies (EFCC and ICPC) must begin a rigorous investigation into diversions and other acts of corruption in the use of Local Government allocations that undermine development at this level.
- The Auditor General for LGAs must publish, both in print and on online platforms, allocations released to LGAs from the State-Local Government Joint Account and all audit reports hitherto not widely circulated.
- The state legislators must be committed to oversight of the use of LGAs allocations in a transparent manner.
- State Government executive must allow the LGAs take full fiscal responsibility for their allocations, without undue interference.
- LGAs must be allowed to run like a government it’s meant to be: community members must decide their political officers through a truly independent, free and fair elections; and;
- Community members must demand participation in the planning and implementation of LGAs’ budget.
Ensuring that all these happen will empower citizens to track and hold local leaders accountable and as such contribute to sustainable development at the grassroots. It will also speedup and complement the efforts of this administration in stamping out corruption in Nigeria.
For further information, please contact
Mr. Ajayi Samuel
Human Development Initiatives. Lagos – Nigeria