Less than days after President Muhammadu Buhari raked about seeming indifference of governors to the welfare of people in their states, he has again accused the governors of fleecing local governments of their funds.
Consequently, the third tier of government has continued to experience what he called stunted development and growth, Buhari said.
Lack of impact on the local communities in terms of development has earned his administration “unfair labelling” of non-performance at the grassroots, the President told members of the Senior Executive Course 44 (2022) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Citing a personal experience involving a governor who misappropriated funds meant for local governments in his state, Buhari said it beats anyone’s imagination how some governors would collect money on behalf of local councils in their states, only to remit just half of such allocation to the Chairmen.
He said the chairmen would further deplete the remittances by pilfering the public resources, thereby stifling development at the grassroots.
Buhari spoke against the backdrop of remarks by some members of the Federal Executive Council on the Course 44 presentation with the theme: “Strengthening Local Governance in Nigeria: Challenges, Options and Opportunities.”
Persecondnews reports that the comments of the ministers favoured autonomy of local governments in the country away from their current “appendage status” under the states.
Efforts by the President and the National Assembly to amendment the 1999 Constitution to grant the 774 councils autonomy had been frustrated by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum under the leadership of ex-Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, who is of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Incensed by the governors’ spirit of graft, Buhari blamed it on lack of integrity in the character of many of those holding such offices, describing such actions as despicable and speak of the height of corruption.
Calling such theft as terrible, the President said:“I found it necessary to digress after reading my speech and this digression is a result of my personal experience.
“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 council chairman must see to how he will pay salaries and say to hell with development. When he pays salaries, 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 is doing this is not educated. He is a qualified lawyer, experienced and yet he participated in this type of corruption.”
“So, it’s a matter of conscience, whichever level we found ourselves. As a leader, you sit here, with all the sacrifices the country is making by putting you through institutions and getting you ready to lead.
“The fundamental thing is personal integrity. May God help us,” Persecondnews quotes Buhari as saying.
He, however, promised that his government would “painstakingly” consider the recommendations contained in the paper presented by the SEC 44 to implement them.
“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.”
He expressed delight that the Institute has been exceptional in handling several assignments, and the current submission is a commendable improvement on the existing standards.
Speaking earlier, the Director-General of NIPSS, Prof. Ayo Omotayo, said the Course participants undertook study tours of 14 states, 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.”
Persecondnews recalls that on Wednesday, the Federal Government had blamed the rising level of poverty in the country to the attitude of some governors who focus more on building flyovers, airports and other bogus projects instead of investing in the improvement of lives of the people particularly those in the rural areas.
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mr Clement Agba, told a media briefing at the Presidential Villa after the Federal Executive Council meeting that 72 per cent of poverty in Nigeria was in the rural areas which he accused the governors of neglecting.
Another spank also came from the Buhari administration on Thursday
when the National Security Adviser, retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno said security agencies would soon descend on governors deploying thugs to prevent members of the opposition parties from mounting campaign materials in their states ahead of the 2023 national elections.