The National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) has thrown its weight behind the new regulations on local government finances released recently by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Agency (NFIU), saying it will help curb reckless spending of local government funds by state governors across the country.
National President of NULGE, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, told a news conference in Abuja that the regulation was a clear indication of the renewed fight against corruption by the President Muhammadu Buhari led government.
Khaleel said the union was pleased and “welcome the bold action at the Federal Government in coming up with these measures, which we are convinced will put a substantial halt to the hemorrhage of local government finances, which has over the years been flagrantly abused by state governors and their collaborators.
“As a union, we will work with the relevant agencies of the Federal government to ensure the successful implementation of the guidelines. We will train our members across the length and breadth of the country to keep an eagle eye on the operations of the Funds going to local government councils henceforth, to ensure that the abuse which has been perpetuated in the past are stopped for good.
“We wish to commend Mr. President and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for sanctioning these guidelines. This has renewed our faith in the anti-corruption fight of the present government.
“We call on all Nigerians to renew their support for the fight against corruption by the current government, so that as a nation we can move forward and use our resources for the growth and development at our people.
“Going forward, we call on all political parties to put forward credible and capable Nigerians to run for political office in our local government system, so that they can deploy their talent to run functional and credible government at the grassroots level.
“In our history as a nation this has happened before. We believe with the appropriate change in the mindset of our political elite, this can be rekindled, and our local government system, will once again be an agency for local and grassroots development.”
Khaleel said further that “it is no longer news that effectively from around 2003, state governors across all the political parties have converted Local Government funds coming from the Federations account into a source of funds which they dip their hands at will without any term of accountability because of their absolute control of the State Local Government Joint Account.
“Among the provisions of the guidelines are “that the state Local Government Joint Account ls only a collection account for funds to be shared directly to Local Government Councils within a state and that no withdrawal can henceforth be done from a state Local Government Joint Account unless and until that withdrawal is going into a particular Local Government Account.
“Provision of streamlined accounts for local governments and Provision of a ceiling of N500000 daily cash withdrawal tor all local governments across the country. All other withdrawals must be by cheque or electronic transfers.”
He said further that “the guidelines went on to provide sanctions (Provisions 8 & 9) for violation on the above guidelines. Banks and other financial or no financial Institutions that violate the provisions are liable to an instant penalty of one hundred percent (100%) refund of the amount withdrawn; while public officer/and or private citizens found undermining or violating these guidelines are to be investigated and prosecuted under the NFIU Act and other anti-corruption laws in place.”
Also, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) said it was fully in support of the circular aimed at curbing the unending corrupt activities going on at the State and Local Government levels.
President of the Congress, Bobboi Kaigama said in a statement “that cash transactions and withdrawals of the states from Joint LG Accounts is a threat to development at the grassroot; in fact, it even fans the embers of insecurity and major crisis, etc.
“The Governors have made a mess of the Joint Account system and have deprived Local Governments of their development initiative in their local areas leading to bad leadership. Whatever checks and balances principle that informed its establishment in the first place is no longer valid. Therefore we fully support the circular and call on well-meaning Nigerians to do same.
“The biggest challenge confronting the country today is leadership and its bane, corruption. The public officials deliberately violate guidelines that make a system decent. They use party affiliations and religion to see them through. It doesn’t happen in serious countries. We must call a spade by its name.
“Our institutions must begin to deal with individuals or groups according to the gravity of offence committed. Politicians must realize that they are accountable to us and not above the law.
“While we commend the NFIU on this laudable initiative we equally urge the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and others to provide the necessary support. Governors must stop usurping the power of LG Chairmen.
“We are in a democracy and we should abide by all it stands for. We also use this medium to canvas for election of Local Government Chairmen so that they could be people’s representative, rather than being selected by the Governor as caretaker. This will go a long way in institutionalising decency in the system.”