The bane of the Nigerian federation is that too much attention is focused on the federal government leaving chief executives of the various sub-national entities to literarily get away with blue murder. Indeed, if the governors had been under pressure or being scrutinized as the government at the center, Nigeria wouldn’t be in such a derelict and decrepit situation as it currently finds itself. While the poor choices and ineptitudes of state governors are usually overlooked, it amounts to a great disservice to the country to still ignore when there is an overwhelming reason to call out the governors who carry on as emperors in their fiefdoms.
It is against this backcloth that Naija News is weighing in on the face-off between Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State and the Chairman of Ijebu East Local Government Area, Wale Adedayo. It all started when Adedayo in a leaked letter addressed to a former governor of the state now APC leader, Olusegun Osoba, accused Abiodun of withholding statutory allocations from the federation accounts to local governments in the state, lamenting that the illegal seizure had crippled local councils in the state and brought ridicule on their officials over non-performance.
The letter read in part, “Your urgent intervention is sorely needed to convince the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, that the statutory Federal Allocation to Local Governments in Ogun State should be allowed to reach each of them as envisaged by the 1999 Constitution. Since we (Ogun State Local Government Chairmen) got on board in 2021, it has been ZERO Federal Allocation to each local government. The 10% of the state’s Internally Generated Revenue, which the Constitution also stipulated should go to the local governments has not been given since Abiodun got into office.
“Now, the negative consequences of Zero Federal Allocations to Local Government Councils in Ogun State should be clear for all to see. We should not have lost the last elections in all the places we did during the Governorship and House of Assembly polls IF our local governments were being funded as provided for in the 1999 Constitution. I am not proud to say that we (Local Government Chairmen) have done very little or NOTHING since we were sworn in because the funds to work are being withheld by Mr. Governor.” Also in the letter copies of which were sent to the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, (ICPC) Adedayo stated that the diversion of funds began immediately after Abiodun took over the reign of office in May 2019, and called for the investigation of the Governor.
The Governor, in his reaction, denied diverting council funds, asserting that on the contrary, he had supplemented the funds to enable local governments in the state to meet their obligations and carry out development projects. His chief press secretary, Lekan Adeniran explained that funds are routed to the local councils through the Joint Account and Allocation Committee (JAAC), adding that “Between May 2023, when the Governor was sworn in for the second term and July 2023, the JAAC shared among 20 local governments N4.531b, N4.444b and N4.497b respectively on first line charges and just last week N5.2b was shared among the local governments for the month of August”. However, some of Adedayo’s colleagues are reported to have corroborated his claim even though on the condition of anonymity, revealing that monies enter council accounts in the morning, and they develop wings by evening.
Adedayo’s act of bravery in exposing what has rendered local councils prostrate came across as sacrilegious in certain quarters for which there should be comeuppance. Adedayo was detained for about three days by the Department of State Services. It was in the news that the state government deployed over 100 policemen and thugs to Ijẹbu-East Local Government Area last Thursday, and instructed councillors to form a quorum to suspend Adedayo as chairman. Soon after, seven members of the legislative council suspended the embattled Chairman over allegations bordering on maladministration and financial mismanagement.
Naija News calls for an end to all persecutions of Adedayo for daring to blow the lead on what Governor Abiodun like most of his co-travellers has been doing to funds meant for the government at the grassroots. When they should be inspired by the action of their intrepid peer, it is quite disappointing to read reports that local government chairmen in Ogun State were led by their leader, Hon Babatunde Emilola-Gazal, on an apology visit where they prostrated before Governor Abiodun “to forgive” their supposedly errant colleague. Pray, what is there to apologize about when Section 162 of the Nigerian constitution prohibits state governments from interfering with local government funds? It is just like the troubling report from Imo State of Governor Hope Uzodimma requesting the caretaker chairmen of the 27 local councils to remit a staggering N91,600,000 every month into a certain “Joint Project Account”. There goes another way the local governments are shortchanged and handicapped yet mum has been the word from those who should voice out.
By the current sharing formula from the federation account, the federal government gets 48.5 percent, state governments 26.72 percent, and local government 20.6 percent. If indeed what’s allocated to the council areas has been getting to them, there wouldn’t have been the absolute absence of governance at the tier of government which is meant to be the nearest to the people. How we long for the first and second republics where local government areas got their due and were alive to their responsibilities. From allocations received and locally sourced revenues like tenement rates, motor park fees and allied taxes, councils at the time constructed roads and bridges, awarded scholarships to deserving students in their localities, and had enough for other social services.
Naija News believes that if local government chairmen across the country are as concerned as Adedayo over the hijack of their funds and are ready to stand up to their governors as he did, the local government system in Nigeria will be the better for it. But it starts with instituting democracy at that level so that only those elected by the people end up as chairmen and councillors, not cronies handpicked and installed by governors to cover their tracks and do their bidding. Governors’ appointment of sole administrators over council areas goes against the grain of the Constitution and must be stopped forthwith. Let there be regular conduct of local government elections with state electoral commissions, as truly independent entities, ensuring the credibility of such polls.