The 774 local government councils in the country are presently in dire financial strait and unable to cater to people at the lowest level in accordance with their constitutional mandate due to the actions and inactions of state governors.
Following the poor state of affairs in the local government councils across the country, the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees accused state governors of crippling the third tier of government.
Saturday PUNCH investigation revealed that apart from the structures and premises of most local government council headquarters being currently in a dilapidated state, funding of the councils had become difficult due to the continued tampering with the money belonging to them by state governors.
NULGE also raised the alarm that 34 out of the 36 state governors were guilty of diverting local government funds, leaving the government closest to the people with inadequate funds to develop the communities.
Out of the 36 states, NULGE said only Rivers and Jigawa were clean of the allegation, while the remaining state governors had refused to steer clear of local government council funds despite a directive by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit for them to desist from the act. The governors, the union alleged, had rather devised a means to manipulate the NFIU guidelines and continued to divert the funds.
The National President, NULGE, Ambali Olatunji, noted that it was a deliberate act by the state governors as they denied the grassroots of the effective leadership the masses desired, adding that the diversion of resources meant that development in the grassroots would continue to be undermined.
He stated that the governors’ refusal to conduct local government elections was also an attempt to deny the grassroots the right to have political and democratic leadership accountable to them.
Olatunji said, “It will also create room for the diversion of resources available for meaningful growth and development at that sub-national level.
“The Federal Government must have the courage to take punitive action against such violation of Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“There are many court judgments against this even by the Supreme Court that outlaw such illegality.”
The poor financial state of the local government councils has resulted in the councils being unable to carry out most of their basic functions, including the construction and maintenance of rural and township roads, primary health centres, waste disposal and other infrastructure.
Most of the local government secretariats are in a state of disrepair with buildings falling apart and outdated furniture. The premises are littered by carcasses of vehicles that have become unserviceable as well as tractors and other equipment meant to boost agricultural production in the rural areas.
Former President Muhammadu Buhari had on Friday May 22, 2022, signed an Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the judiciary, legislature and local governments. The Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 made it mandatory that all states of the federation should include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.
Also, on Monday May 23, 2022, a Federal High Court in Abuja delivered a judgment in favour of the Federal Government and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit on the state and local government joint accounts nationwide.
The Executive Order mandates the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from the source amounts due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocations to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.
Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution spells out the functions of the local government to include the provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education, and the development of agricultural and natural resources other than the exploitation of minerals.
Other key functions include the naming of streets, numbering of houses, the provision and maintenance of public conveniences and sewage/waste disposal. It is also the duty of local governments to undertake the registration of deaths, births and marriages.
Section 162(3) of the constitution states, “Any amount standing to the credit of the Federation Account shall be distributed among the federal and state governments and the local government councils in each state on such terms and manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.”
However, most of the states are relying on sub-sections 6, 7 and 8, which state, “Each state shall maintain a special account to be called ‘State Joint Local Government Account’ into which shall be paid all allocations to the local government councils of the state from the Federation Account and the government of the state.
“Each state shall pay to local government councils in its area of jurisdiction such proportion of its total revenue on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.
“The amount standing to the credit of local government councils of a state shall be distributed among the local government councils of that state on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of the state.”
The Chairman, Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees, Akwa Ibom State chapter, Anestina Iweh, said local government councils in the state, like their counterparts in other parts of the country, were struggling to survive as a result of inadequate funding.
The situation, she said, had affected administration at the local level in such a way that the councils could no longer buy papers or embark on any project, adding that after payment of salaries, there was nothing left for any meaningful development to take place.
Iweh said, “Without funding, no local government can do anything. That is why you see all local governments in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory complaining and campaigning to the appropriate quarters for local government autonomy.
“It is not only in Akwa Ibom State alone. If it were in Akwa Ibom State alone, we would have got autonomy, because the state House of Assembly last year signed in favour of autonomy, but we didn’t have the required 24 states for the National Assembly to grant us autonomy.
“So, as far as we don’t have the money, there will be no meaningful development. Local councils are just struggling to manage whatever is being sent to them from their joint accounts with the state government; after the payment of salaries, whatever is left is for the local government councils to struggle to survive, as a result, they can no longer buy papers.
“Any local government chairman that embarks on a capital project, he or she will not be able to finish it. But if we have our money directly, we can do whatever we want to do. For now, it is not easy, that is why we are talking about local government autonomy.”
In Ekiti State, lack of electricity in the local government secretariats is causing the workers to operate from offices without power supply.
One of our correspondents reports that facilities and furniture at some of the local government secretariats in the state are not befitting of the third tier of government.
For instance at Eda Oniyo, headquarters of Ilejemeje Local Government Council, it had been harrowing for the workers since October 2019 when the headquarters was relocated from Iye Ekiti.
A worker in the council, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “We are looking forward to October when we will move from this health centre building we are currently using as secretariat to our permanent secretariat.
“There has never been electricity here since we moved to this place from Iye Ekiti. The pieces of furniture we are using are old and this place is crowded.
“The first phase of the permanent secretariat has been completed, the windows and doors have been fixed, what remains are the electrical installations and painting. New pieces of furniture have been approved for the place.
“The structures in the first phase are befitting. The place was built by the local government with its allocation and support from community members. Also, monarchs in the council appealed to the former governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, when he was in office and he released N12m, which was part of what was used for the construction.”
An employee of the Ekiti South West Local Government Council, Ilawe Ekiti, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the old secretariat did not have electricity supply for two years due to negligence.
The council worker said, “We have the old secretariat and new secretariat. There was power supply to the old secretariat until when the executive members relocated to the new secretariat complex.
“Then, the old secretariat was neglected despite the fact that that was where the bulk of the council workers, including those in chieftaincy affairs, community development and environmental departments are. There has not been light in the old secretariat for about two years now. The management is not bothered about it.”
Even though the immediate past administration of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal in Sokoto State constructed befitting secretariats in some of the local government councils in the state, most of the buildings, including the newly-constructed ones, are in bad shape.
When one of our correspondents visited some of the secretariats, most of them had become a shadow of their former selves.
The secretariat of the Bodinga Local Government Council in Bodinga town has lost its normal look and most of the workers were not available at their duty posts.
One of the workers in the secretariat, Mallam Tukur Bodinga, described the condition of the complex as poor.
He put the blame of the condition of the complex on the doorstep of the immediate past administration in the state, saying the Tambuwal administration did not do the needful for local governments in the state.
Bodinga stated, “Yes, the structure was constructed by the immediate past administration, but what do you expect where the allocations for the local government councils did not get to them.
“The refusal of the then state governor to give the local government chairmen their monthly allocations coupled with the fact that local government chairmen were stooges, resulted in what we have now.
“Even today, nothing is happening; the present administration has named sole administrators for the local governments but has yet to do the swearing-in.
“I can confidently tell you that most of my colleagues have travelled to the town. Some are doing their business in Sokoto town, while others are focusing on their farms in order to sustain themselves.
“Even our bosses, you can’t find any of them here; most of them come around when salaries are about to be paid.”
At the Yabo Local Government Council, the condition was more pathetic as the premises looked unkempt and deserted.
A resident of the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, appealed to the Federal Government to look for a way for the local governments to get their allocations directly.
He said most of the problems being faced by the citizens were a result of lack of governance at the grassroots level.
In the Kware Local Government Area, the story was not different as workers were not at their duty posts when one of our correspondents visited the headquarters.
A civil society officer, who spoke on the premises of the local government secretariat, alleged that workers only visited the office only whenever there was something to be shared.
He put the blame on both the federal and state governments, which he noted had turned the local government administration into an extension of the ministry of local government to be controlled by state governments.
The CSO officer stated, “If not for civil society organisations like ours that make use of the premises, only God knows what would have happened.
“Anyway, we are hoping that with the current administration in the state’s commitment to work, the governor may have to deal more with the local government administration.
“He may allow the local government chairmen to control their resources themselves rather than hijacking their allocations as it was being done in the past.
“It would have been better if the constitution allows the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct local government elections; with that, the issue of hijacking or control of local government resources will be dealt with.”
The condition of the majority of the local government council secretariats in Katsina State falls below expectations and not workers friendly, according to investigation.
Katsina State has 34 local government areas and investigation revealed that the majority of their secretariats needed outright reconstruction or total rehabilitation.
Visits to the headquarters of the Jibiya, Batsari and Baure local government areas revealed that the employees work in a non-conducive environment.
The structures and the furniture showed that they were overdue for replacement due to old age and poor maintenance. Some of the ceilings of the conference halls and offices had fallen off, while the floor had deep holes.
In some of the offices, the lights and ceiling fans were not working while those working were only controlled by improvised cables.
It was also observed that the council headquarters depended largely on generators to power electronic appliances during office hours despite the fact they were connected to public power lines.
Investigation also revealed that some of the council workers engaged in farming and were operating the commercial motorcycle business, while some had private shops to augment their salaries.
It was also observed that some primary health centres were located outside the premises of the council secretariats.
Some of the council officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed dissatisfaction with the condition under which they were operating.
One of them, who is an assistant director, appealed to the state government to also focus attention on the council headquarters. He insisted that the neglect of council headquarters was impacting negatively on workers’ input and commitment to duty.
The state Commissioner for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs, Prof Badamasi Lawal, could not be reached for comments.
In Ona-Ara, Akinyele and Ido local government areas of Oyo State, the condition is so pathetic as chairs in some of the offices are nothing to write home about, while some of the offices look like where animals are being reared.
One of our correspondents, who visited the councils’ secretariats, reports that the environment are unkempt and many of the workers idling away in their offices.
Some senior officers, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH under condition of anonymity, said the condition was so terrible at the local government level in Ibadan metropolis and all over the state.
One of them said, “Unlike before when we were getting running costs regularly, now it’s once in a blue moon. Not only in Ibadan, it is virtually the same in all the local governments in the state. I was reliably informed that Governor Seyi Makinde is releasing money to the council chairmen, but they in turn release it whenever they wish. The situation is terrible at the local government level.
“Let me use this period to appeal to the governor to critically look at the situation at the local government level, because it is so terrible.”
On regular power supply, she said only the head of local government administration, administration department and the treasury enjoy standby generator to ensure that the council remained functional whenever electricity supply went off.
“We have a big problem at the local government level. We work under a bad condition. The environment is not conducive at all. You said my local government is the third one you visited, and I want to believe that officials of the two other councils must have said the same thing,” the officer stated.
In Abia State Governor, Alex Otti, is said to have allowed the 17 local government councils to run without elected officials.
Though this was inherited from the immediate past administration of Okezie Ikpeazu, who could not hold council elections before leaving office, the local governments are being run by their heads of administration.
It was gathered that the HoAs were not in a position to maintain infrastructure in the council secretariats because the financial power had been removed from them.
As a result therefore, most council secretariats are in a state of dilapidation and neglect.
In many of the councils, such as, Umuahia North, Umuahia South and Ikwuano, there are signs of neglect of infrastructure and the environment.
A worker at one of the secretariats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The LGAs are being run from the Government House.
“Our union, NULGE, has been neutralised and paralysed, except the staff welfare union, but we love what the state government is doing to fish out those who embezzled our funds. We don’t have council officials anymore to run the affairs of the councils”.
According to a high ranking official, the councils cannot even keep their environment clean as there is no fund available for that purpose.
When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor, Kazie Uko, said he was aware that “there has been quite some movement of officials and reshuffling,” he, however, referred our correspondent to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs for his reaction.
The state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr Uzor Nwachukwu, could not be reached for his comment as his phone rang out.
Another problem hindering the effective performance of the local government councils is the decision of many governors to dissolve elected councils and replace them with sole administrators appointed to do their bidding. By not allowing the people’s wish to prevail at the local government level, the governors have removed accountability and force their stooges on the people.
Kwara State has 16 local government councils operating with the appointed Transitional Implementation Committees in the last two and half years.
The last local government election in the state was held in October 2017 and the elected officials were supposed to be in the office for three years.
However, the elected council chairmen were suspended by Governor AbdulRaman AbdulRazaq in July 2019, which means they were in office for less than two years.
In Edo State, local government election has been fixed for September 2 with the heads of local government councils in charge at the moment.
The state has 18 local government areas with the last election held on March 3, 2018.
Already, all the political parties are getting set for the September 2 election with the Peoples Democratic Party kicking off its campaign on Wednesday.
In Bayelsa State, the eight local government councils are being administered by caretaker committees, which Governor Douye Diri inaugurated on July 26, 2023 few hours after the state House of Assembly screened and confirmed the members.
This happened barely one month after Diri inaugurated the State Independent Electoral Commission to conduct local government polls.
Earlier in March, the governor stated that his administration would conduct council election this year, saying the state government was waiting for the conclusion of the 2023 general elections.
The last council polls in the state was conducted in August 2019 by the administration of Seriake Dickson, and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party won all the eight councils and the 105 wards.
The tenure of the elected officials expired on August 14, 2022 and the governor dissolved the councils thereafter. Until the constitution of the caretaker committees last month, the councils were being run by the highest ranking civil servant in the respective councils.
Currently, Bauchi State has caretaker committee chairmen heading the local government councils.
The last local government election in the state was held in October 2020 for the first time in over 12 years. Recently, during the swearing in of the current caretaker committee chairmen, Governor, Bala Mohammed hinted that the next council election would be held within the next six months in the 20 local government areas of the state.
Local government councils in Plateau State are presently being administered by transition committee members, who were recently appointed by Governor Caleb Mutfwang. The last local government election in the state held in October 2021. Plateau State has 17 local government areas.
Gombe State’s 11 local government areas are being administered by caretaker committees.
One of our correspondents reports that the last time the local government poll was held was in 2020 with the governing the All Progressives Congress clearing the 11 councils.
However, all efforts made by Inter-Party Advisory Council to stop Governor Muhammadu Yahaya from constituting caretaker committees proved abortive and their tenures have since been renewed twice.
The last local government election in Nasarawa State was held in October 2021.
Sokoto State Governor, Ahmed Aliyu, appointed sole administrators for 21 out of the 23 local government areas of the state.
According to the Press Secretary to the Governor, Abubakar Bawa, only the Denge Shuni and Isa local government areas are expected to be controlled by the Directors of Administration.
The administration of Aminu Tambuwal conducted local government election in 2020.
Tambuwal conducted local government election twice in the eight years of his administration.
Abia State has yet to conduct election into its 17 local government councils as the affairs of the councils are being run by heads of local government administrations.
The local government election was last held last on December 18, 2020.
The Chairman of Abia State Independent Electoral Commission, Prof Mkpa Agu Mkpa, stated that the commission could not conduct the local government council election scheduled for Friday, May 19, 2023, because of the two court orders restraining the commission from going ahead with the poll as well as the indefinite strike by the Nigerian Labour Congress at that time.
Ondo State has executive chairmen in the 18 local government areas of the state.
The chairmen and executive council members were elected into the office in August 2023 following a poll. Before then, the state last conducted local government election in August 2020.
Elections into the 16 local governments and 22 local council development areas in Ekiti State will hold in December.
The winners of the chairmanship and councillorship elections are expected to assume duty shortly after they are returned elected by the State Independent Electoral Commission.
The two-year tenure of the incumbents, who were elected in December 2021, will expire in December 2023.
Katsina state has 34 local government areas.
The APC won all the councils in the 2022 local government election.
The election ought to have been earlier held but the court did not take a final decision on the exercise until 2022.
There are currently 27 local government transitional caretaker committee chairmen sworn in two weeks ago for a second term of six months.
The last time the local government election was conducted in the state was in 2021.
The state plans to conduct another local government election in December 2023.
There are 23 Local Government Areas in Rivers State. All the Council chairmen were elected in in 2021.
The local government election last conducted in Kaduna State on September 7, 2021.
The state has 23 local government areas and election is expected to be conducted next year.
Meanwhile, three council chairmen have been suspended by the state House of Assembly over alleged misappropriation of funds.
Anambra State has 21 local government areas. The last local government election in the state was conducted in November 2014.
Currently, transition committee chairmen run the 21 local government councils in the state.
Zamfara state has neither local government chairmen, nor sole administrators at the moment.
The local governments are currently being supervised by the directors of administration. Election into the councils was last held in 2014.
Source: The PUNCH