Edo NULGE Cries Out Over Hijack of Councils’ Funds, Usurpation of Functions by Governor Obaseki

Godwin Obaseki photo
Godwin Obaseki, Edo State governor

Crisis brews between the Edo State government and the state chapter of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), with the latter calling out the governor, Godwin Obaseki, over alleged cornering of funds due to the 18 local government councils in the state from the federation account.
The state President of the NULGE, Lazarus Imokhai Adorolo, who, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) in Benin City on Friday, not only pointedly accused the governor of ripping off the councils of their funds, but also usurping their functions, positing that this abnormally had placed the councils in a difficult position to effectively discharge their duties to the people at the grassroots level.

The state government, in its reaction, however denied NULGE’s allegations, but admitted in another breadth that the state government had “practically taken over the responsibilities of the councils because they are weak financially”.

According to Adorolo, “We cannot impact on the lives of the citizens because the state has hijacked our sources of revenue, and yet the same state government comes out to tell the public that local governments are not living up to their responsibilities.

“Local governments can only work to the benefit of the people if the issue of 1999 constitution is looked into; councils need to be completely autonomous. It is sad that the Chief Accounting Officers of councils are not taken into account whenever the monies that come to local governments are being shared. That is to say that the owners of the money do not have any input as to how the money is shared. That is against the provisions of section 162, sub-section 7 of the 1999 constitution.

“The councils do not get the 10 percent of the internally generated revenue, (IGR) that the state is supposed to add to what comes from the federation account. The councils do not know what even comes from the federation account; we are only given what they feel like giving us at the end of every month. At the end of the month, we receive all manners of directives from the office of the governor and his deputy to the effect of deductions for projects that have even been funded by agencies like World Bank and UNICEF.

“As we speak, the councils are being owed between five to 16 and half months’ salary arrears, including deductions not remitted, that all amount to over 5 billion.”

Meanwhile, the State Commissioner for Local Government and Community Affairs, Monday Osaigbovo, denied the allegations and attributed the problem of local governments to over- staffing. While claiming not to be aware of any law passed by the State House of Assembly in respect of 10 percent of state IGR going to councils as required, Osaigbovo however said what the state government was doing was more than 10 percent.

The commissioner stressed that the state government had practically taken over the responsibilities of the councils because they are weak financially. “This is not peculiar to Edo; it is across the country. We are building and renovating schools and primary healthcare centres that ought to be their responsibilities.

“Again, the councils are fully involved in the sharing of money from the federation account; we do Pre-JAAC here in my office before we meet with the governor for the proper JAAC. Since we do not have elected officials now, heads of service of the 18 local government areas are fully involved in this. Again, poor payment of taxes and other rates is also responsible for the dwindling fortune of the councils,” Osaigbovo explained.

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