Governors, LG chairs pocketing councils’ allocations – Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has accused the state governors and local government council chairmen of colluding to pocket the federal government’s allocations to the third tier of government.

The accusation is coming just 24 hours after the Minister of State for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mr. Clement  Agba, accused the governors of creating poverty in the states by abandoning the rural populace in the scheme of things.

Agba, had while briefing State House Correspondents Wednesday, said the governors, rather than building good road networks that would galvanise the economy of the rural dwellers, embarked on the construction of unnecessary flyovers and airports.

He also said the federal government had through its various poverty alleviating programmes, tried improving the people’s standard of living, but that the effort was not complemented by the state governors

Buhari speaks  

And making similar accusation Thursday in Abuja, President Buhari said governors and the local government council retarded development at the grassroots by pocketing allocations meant for the local government.  

President Buhari spoke at a parley with members of the Senior Executive Course (SEC) No. 44 (2022) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.

He narrated his personal experience on stemming the tide of corruption in the local government system after the presentation of the report of NIPSS SEC 44.

After listening to comments on the Course 44 presentation, themed ‘‘Strengthening Local Governance in Nigeria: Challenges, Options and Opportunities,” by some members of the Federal Executive Council, who aired their personal views on enhancing the autonomy of local governments, the president narrated his own experience on the treatment of local governments by some state governments.

He said: “I found it necessary to digress after reading my speech and this digression is as a result of my personal experience. What they did, this is my personal experience. If the money from the Federation Account to the State is about N100 million, N50 million will be sent to the Chairman but he will sign that he received N100 million, the governor will pocket the balance and share it with whoever he wants to share it with.

‘‘And then the Chairman of the local government must see how much he must pay in salaries and to hell with development. When he pays the salaries of the big man, the balance he will put in his pocket. ‘This is what’s happening. This is Nigeria. It’s a terrible thing; you cannot say the person who was doing this is not educated.”

The president urged public office holders to be guided by their conscience and personal integrity wherever they find themselves.

He pledged that the recommendations contained in the presentation of SEC 44 would be painstakingly studied by the government with the view to implementing its recommendations.

While declaring that the present administration had done so much in building trust between the government and the people, the president said the report would largely assist in the provision of good governance to the people at the grassroots levels and by extension win back their trust in government.

‘‘It is obvious that government cannot afford to pay lip-service to the recommendations contained in this report. I assure you that the Report will be treated with the seriousness and urgency it deserves. Government will study the report with the view to implementing the carefully detailed recommendations,” he said.

Commending the quality of the report, the commitment and dedication that went into it, the president said the NIPSS can always be trusted to deliver on very critical and sensitive assignments of national importance.

He expressed delight that the Institute had been exceptional in handling several assignments, and that “the current submission is a commendable improvement on the existing standards.

‘‘The quality of the presentation, and the confidence with which they were made, strongly attests to the quality of training the participants received during the course. I congratulate you for justifying the confidence and trust reposed in each and every one of you by your respective nominations.

‘‘I am also happy with the level of knowledge and discipline you have all openly demonstrated. I have been briefed of the rigorous training process you all underwent at Kuru. Your graduation therefore is well deserved,’’ the president told the 89 participants of SEC 44.

President Buhari said he was convinced that they were well equipped for the strategic tasks, increased responsibilities, and positions of authority of trust.

“I challenge you to go back to your various establishments, units, posts, beats, departments, directorates, Ministries, Parastatals, commissions, commands, agencies to revitalize, reinvigorate, reform and rejig your various platforms and spheres of influence, responsibility and leadership,” he said.

NIPSS’ needs

After listening to some demands by the leadership of NIPSS, the president promised to look into some of the challenges facing the Institute, adding that no government establishment exists without challenges.

He assured that the present administration was poised to complete the review and passage of the NIPSS establishment act and condition of service before handover in May 2023.

The president directed the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to take all necessary steps towards actualizing the passage of the Bill.

DG NIPSS remarks

In his remarks, Director-General of NIPSS, Professor Ayo Omotayo, said the course participants undertook study tours of 14 sates of the federation, six African countries and six countries outside Africa.

He said: “This enabled them to have both local and international perspectives on local governance, how to overcome challenges in achieving it, identify the available opportunities to strengthen it and develop workable options to be considered by government in strengthening local governance.”

Nigeria not broke-Minister

In a related development, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has stated that Nigeria is not broke and also not ready to ask for debt relief.

The minister spoke Thursday in Abuja at the presentation of President Muhammadu Buhari Administration scorecard (2015-2023).

“Nigeria is not broke, we are not in any way broke. We have continued with the tradition of revenue generation and that’s why we share whatever accrues among the three tiers of govt. We also put in place zero income taxes for small businesses, stabilised businesses and also support businesses through the Economic Sustainable Programme which targets MSMEs (Micro, Medium and Small-size Enterprises).

“Fighting poverty is a collective programme which involves the States and Local Governments.  Food inflation is driven largely because of logistics.  Moving those produce from farms drives the high cost of inflation occasioned by high cost of diesel. 

“We don’t have any need to restructure our debt. Our management of debt is going on steadily.  We have provided for that in our budget. We are not going for debt relief and not going for any restructuring,” the minister said.

She further said the federal government had since 2015, disbursed N5.04 trillion to state governments, noting that “the non-oil sector drives the country’s economy more than the oil sector owing to vandalism of infrastructure.”

The minister said oil production was increasing, noting that as at October 2022, this had soared to 1.4 million barrels per day.

Ahmed also pointed out that N1.7 trillion was released for this year’s capital projects as of September 2022.

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