The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has shed light on the crisis rocking the disbursement of funds from the Federal Government and how such funds were being managed between states and their local government authorities.
Atiku said the problem began while he was serving as the Vice President of the country, saying he headed the local government administration where he had ensured that local government funds were transferred directly to the local government accounts.
Atiku who spoke at the ongoing presidential town hall series 3, organised by Arise News on Sunday, stated that the policy he enacted was protested by the then governors who noted it wasn’t constitutional.
Atiku said, “When I assumed office in 1999, what was handed over to me was the local government administration and when it was handed over to me, I gave instructions to the Accountant General that all local government allocations should be transferred to the local governments straight. After implementing that policy for nine months, the governors protested that that was not constitutional.
“So we looked at the constitution, and they said there was supposed to be a joint account at the state level where local government funds should be transferred and also the state government was supposed to put a certain percentage of their revenue into that account, and it (the local government funds) was then moved to that joint account.
“Then, the local governments started getting their funding through the state joint accounts and that is where we have problems. In that process, some state governments started taking part of the local government finances. Some said they were going to run universities with the state governments, some said local governments should contribute to certain projects in the state. At the end of the day, the funds were being depleted and the local governments were left with no funding, and in fact, it has gone to virtually nothing now.
Atiku said it was necessary to look at the constitution to see how the local governments could be made independent as far as their revenues and finances were concerned.
The PUNCH reported on Saturday how the National Union of Local Government Employees said the amendment to the 1999 Constitution remained a viable solution to end the diversion of local government funds by the state government.
The association made the statement in reaction to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd.)’s assertion that stunted development experienced at the local government level was caused by governors and local government officials who “pocket” public funds.
Buhari flayed the governors over what he described as poor governance at the grassroots.
Citing a personal experience involving an unnamed governor, a baffled Buhari described as “terrible” how some state governors receive monies on behalf of local government councils in their states and remit half of it to the council chairman who pilfers the remnant, leaving nothing for developmental projects.
Also, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, earlier in the week, criticised the governors, saying they had abandoned the critical demographic, preferring to spend state resources on the capital cities.
Agba, who noted that 72 per cent of the nation’s poor were residing in rural communities, accused the governors of paying scant attention to the grassroots.