From Timothy Olanrewaju (Maiduguri), Scholastica Onyeka (Makurdi), Chijioke Agwu (Abakaliki), Abel Leonard (Lafia), Judex Okoro (Calabar), Noah Ebije (Kaduna), Olanrewanu Lawal (Birnin Kebbi), Femi Folaranmi (Yenagoa), John Adams (Minna), Emmanuel Adeyemi (Lokoja), Tony John (Port Harcourt), Gyang Bere (Jos), Paul Osuyi (Asaba) and Tony Osauzo (Benin)
When the defunct military regime in 1976 created local governments across the country, the intent was to bring development closer to the people through the third tier of governance.
The local governments were adequately catered for in the sharing of funds from the Federation Account. Similarly, the Constitution mandated the states to also give part of their internally generated revenue to the local governments, hence the Joint State and Local Governments Account that was enshrined in the Constitution.
But several state governors have used every means, trick and outright compulsion to arm-twist the council chairmen and take over control of local government allocations.
In this special report, Sunday Sun presents a panoramic view of how LG funds are being managed in the various states of the federation.
As obtains in several other states, the Borno State government still controls the statutory allocations to local governments in the state. The state held its local government election, the first in 12 years, in late November 2020, amid uncertainties of the security situation in the 27 council areas. Barely a month later, the state governor, Prof Babagana Zulum while presenting his 2021 budget to the House of Assembly, the first after his election, directed the then newly elected council leaders to submit their financial proposals to his office for vetting.
It was not clear if the governor was speaking against the backdrop of the fact that local government allocations from the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) were believed to be under the control of previous governors in the state, who used the fund as they desired, some state officials claimed.
Sunday Sun could not establish if the governor’s directive in 2020 still subsists even as the state prepares for another local government election next year.
Investigations by Sunday Sun revealed that funds released to the local government authorities from the State and Local Government Joint Account can only pay workers’ salaries and allowances while the state handles capital projects, including rebuilding of infrastructure damaged in the course of the Boko Haram insurgency, which has lasted for more than a decade.
A local government official disclosed that “local government funds are still controlled by the governor.”
The state Commissioner for Local Government and Emirate Affairs, Alhaji Mele Sugum Mele, was unavailable to comment on the issue of disbursement of funds to local governments in the state.
However, more than half of the council leaders and officials, especially in the northern and central parts of the state, still operate mostly in Maiduguri, the state capital, despite the government’s efforts to resettle people in their ancestral communities and restore civil authority in the local government areas.
For a very long time, chairmen of the 23 local government councils in Benue State have been elected. The most recent was conducted by the Benue State Independent Electoral Commission (BSIEC), on April 30, 2022.
Also, in accordance with the law, statutory allocations accruing to the local governments go straight to their accounts.
A source in the state’s Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs explained how the funds disbursement process happens in the state: “For us in Benue, once the money comes, it goes straight to the accounts of local governments. It is the local government chairmen that will now cut the statutory allocations that meant for us and others like the State Emergency Management Agency, (SEMA), Pension and others and give back to us.”
The source noted that like the FAAC, where the Federal Government cuts what the states are owing them during the sitting, “here too, we have some deductions and we sit with the LG chairmen at a Joint Account Committee (JAC) meeting and bring those issues to the table and approve that those funds should be paid for such issues.
“When they approve, their treasurers will bring the cheques, the DGSA and the chairmen will sign and the money will be paid. At the meeting, we also look into what they are owing the state and what they have to contribute to the state for elite projects.”
Citing an example, the source said: “After the state government inaugurated the Livestock Guards, we sat with the LG chairmen and said government is paying a percentage and the LGs are to pay this percentage. Do you agree and they agreed and it became a JAC approval.”
He also stated that when the LG chairmen were elected and vehicles were to be purchased for them, the state government also sat with the chairmen and invited the contractors to present their quotations after which one was selected based on agreement between the LG chairmen and the state government.
Reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s accusation that state governors “misappropriate” local government statutory allocations from the Federation Account, he said: “Our governor is not involved. Let them come and check anything they want, they cannot see where we are using local government money. What is just given to us is statutory and any other deduction is agreed by all and for a purpose.”
Ebonyi is among the states in the Southeast where the third tier of government, the local governments, are governed according to law, in that the chairmen of the councils are elected.
The last local government elections where chairmen and councilors were elected in the 13 local government areas of the state was conducted on July 30, 2022.
The elected council leaders were subsequently sworn in on September 1, 2022. So far, they have only spent three months in office.
On the issue of the disbursement of their allocations, one of the chairmen who did not want his name in print told our correspondent that their allocations which have significantly increased were being remitted to their separate local government allocation accounts.
“Since we took over, our allocation, which has experienced significant increase when compared to what the former chairmen received, has always been remitted to our different council accounts,” he said.
On October 7, 2021, chairmen and councillors were elected into the 13 local government areas of Nasarawa State. Governor Abdullah Sule promptly swore them into office. In the state, disbursement of statutory allocations to the local councils is done by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs after the Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) meeting held with the 13 local government chairmen.
Disbursements from JAAC are then used by the councils to pay staff salaries, pensions, projects and other expenditures.
Sunday Sun can authouritatively reveal that in Cross River State, all the 18 local government chairmen have not been receiving their due statutory allocations since they came on board three years ago.
Investigations showed that all the council chairmen were allegedly forced by Governor Ben Ayade to sign “mandate forms” where they are made to surrender their monthly allocations to the state governement coffers.
To perfect the arrangement, a source in the Ministry of Local Governement revealed that during the state’s JAAC meeting the chairmen would sign mandate forms according to the amount due to each council.
The mandate forms would be evidence that they received the allocation due to them, but willingly handed it back to the state governement to manage on behalf of the 18 local government councils for development of the state. This mandate, therefore, empowers the governor to control and disburse the council funds at his discretion.
Besides, the council chairmen are also allegedly made to sign out huge sums of money from local governement account whenever the governor wants to execute some projects or host big events in the state.
It was learnt that one of the criteria for the present council chairmen to be cleared to contest for council election in July 2020 was that such a candidate had to sign an undertaking that he would willingly sign off the local government statutory allocations from the Federation Account.
Some of the council chairmen and the councillors also confided in Sunday Sun that they were equally forced to borrow money from one of the financial institutions in the state, allegedly under state governement guarrantee, and tied the payments and interests to their salaries and even local government funds.
The Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Dr Stella Odey, could not be reached as at the time of filing this report, but sources at the ministry confirmed that every month the 18 council chairmen would hold meeting at the ministry where the mandate forms would be signed just as any other deductions would be signed out.
Kaduna State held local government election in September 2021 for the 23 councils in the state. A competent source in the government told Sunday Sun: “The state Ministry of Finance is the custodian of the local government allocations. After the meeting of State Finance Allocation Committee, the Ministry for Local Government Affairs oversees the disbursement of the funds to each of the local councils in the state.
However, Chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Kaduna State chapter, Abubakar Buba, could not be reached for comment after several efforts.
Following the dissolution of the 21 local government administrations in the state on July 24, 2021, transition committees were appointed to oversee the councils while fresh elections were held to elect new chairmen who were sworn-in on February 9, 2022.
Currently, Kebbi State does not have a Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, who could speak on how much has been disbursed to the local councils over the last three years.
However, data available on the ALGON website shows that in the 2018, the 21 local councils got N43,406,102,642. In 2019, they received 42,729,444,515.12. The following year, 2020, N39, 339,972,226.39 and in 2021, the local councils got N126,025,519,383.7.
Sunday Sun learnt from sources that the councils have been getting their allocations directly and have been executing joint capital projects.
Against the backdrop of President Muhammadu Buhari’s accusation that state governors “misappropriate” funds meant for local government councils, investigations in Bayelsa revealed that there is no such funds available to be misappropriated in the eight local government councils in the state.
Checks indicated that aside Brass, Southern Ijaw and Nembe local government areas that generate internal revenue which when added to the statutory allocation are not even enough to meet their financial obligations; the remaining local government areas namely, Kolokuma/Opokuma, Ekeremor, Sagbama, Yenagoa and Ogbia are financially insolvent.
From August 2019 when elected chairmen were inaugurated for the eight councils, till their tenure expired in August 2022, the eight councils have been battling with payment of workers’ salaries, especially primary school teachers.
After series of verification exercises, the payment of staff salaries remains a huge burden as the state government has had no option than to continue supporting the councils monthly to enable them meet their financial obligation.
It is on record that when the Federal Government mooted the idea of budget support to state governments, Bayelsa State which had no problems paying civil servants secured the budget support for the eight councils to enable them discharge financial responsibilities.
Aside from that, to avoid industrial action on the part of workers, especially teachers, the state government supports the eight councils with N170 million every month to augment their finances so as to pay primary school teachers and the other staff.
During the end of tenure commissioning of projects constructed by the outgoing council chairmen, Governor Douye Diri declared publicly that his administration has not been tampering with council funds.
According to him, the prudent management of funds under the strict supervision of his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo was pivotal to the execution of projects across the eight councils
““We are in full support of autonomy for the local government system. When we came in, we discovered that the system had a lot of challenges. Across the country, you are all aware that most state governments have been accused of dabbling into local government funds.
“But in our state, I like to put on record that this administration has never requested one naira from the local government system. The chairmen can attest to that. Rather the state government assists local governments when they have challenges.”
About 126 wards out of the 227 wards in the 25 local government areas in Niger State, are in the grip of insecurity due to the fact that bandits control 12 LGAs in the state.
Despite the absence of a legal local council administration, it has been business as usual regarding the control of statutory allocations to the LGAs by the state government. The state has adamantly ignored the directives of the Naional Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, regarding local government funds.
The government claimed that the inability of some councils in the state to meet up with their salary obligations is the reason for sticking to the operation of the joint account.
It is a situation of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” as some of the buoyant councils allocations are being used to argument for the others to enable them meet up with their salary obligations.
However, despite resistance by some affected local government councils on why their money should be used to argument the salary of others, the government has stuck to the practice, threatening suspension of any council chairman that dares to challenge the system.
All attempt to get the Commissioner for Local Government, Community Development and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mallam Kabiru Abbas to comment on this development and say how much has accrued to the 25 local government councils in the state could not yield any result as he did not pick his calls. He also did not respond to text messages sent to him.
The present crop of leaders at the 25 local government areas of Delta State were elected in 2021 following the expiration of the tenure of previous leaders who were also elected for a term of three years.
While some council chairmen were re-elected for a second term, a couple of others were not re-elected, even as there were some who had served out the stipulated two terms as at the 2021 council elections.
However, in the past three years, the councils have received their statutory allocations directly from the federation account.
Although the allocation is said to be inadequate to meet the obligations of the councils, the chairmen confirmed that the state government support them every month to enable them pay salaries.
Chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) in the state, Victor Ebonka, said the state government does no tamper with allocations to the councils from the federation account.
Ebonka who is the executive chairman of Ika Northeast, said rather the state government on a monthly basis augment the councils’ allocations.
Meanwhile, the state governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, has challenged President Buhari to name state governors stealing from the monthly allocations to councils in their states.
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Olisa Ifeajika, Okowa said he cannot be counted among governors pilfering council funds, noting that the state government, on a monthly basis, support councils in the state with N500 million to enable them pay salaries and stay afloat.
“He does this religiously. For a man who does that, how can he be among those stealing LG money? Our governor is not part of it.
“If a roll call is taken about the governors that fall in that bracket being referred to by Mr. President, certainly Okowa will not be there.
“He will be among those whose names will be written in gold for being very fair and magnanimous for councils in Delta State.
“You are also aware how the state government gave N5 billion out of which N2.5 billion was grant for council retirees.
“He makes sure that JAAC meets regularly to ensure that things don’t go wrong,” Ifeajika stated.
On how much has accrued to councils as federal allocations in the past three years, Ifeajika maintained that the state government did not disburse the funds to them, adding that the councils received their due directly from FAAC.
“The state government does not disburse to the councils, their allocation comes directly from FAAC. So the state government is not aware of the amount to the councils from FAAC. The state government has nothing to do with what comes to the councils from FAAC, it is exclusive to them,” he added.
According to him, before now, the state government used to support the councils with N300 million monthly, adding that the money has been increased to N500 million.
He also said that at the level of JAAC, the councils get their stipulated percentage of the total monthly IGR of the state government.
“The state declares its IGR for the month and at the level of JAAC, councils get their respective percentages as required by law. JAAC is the state equivalent of FAAC,” he explained.
In Edo, the 18 local government councils in the state are being administered by civil servants who are Heads of Administration of the Councils in the absence of elected Chairmen and Councillors to run the affairs of the councils.
The state government has scheduled local government election in the state for May next year.
Efforts to get the amount of allocation that accrued to the local government councils in the last three years did not yield result as the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, would not respond to enquiries on the subject matter.
Edo State is, however, one of the states that still has Joint Allocation Committee (JAC), as local government councils lack autonomy over their monthly Federal Allocation.
The Yahaya Bello administration in Kogi State was running a caretaker committee system since its inception on January 27, 2016 at the local government council until Dec 12, 2020 when a controversial council election was held which made the ruling party to ‘win’ the 21 local government chairmanship seats and all the 239 councillorship positions in the state
It is learnt that the local government councils in the state are groaning due to the current Joint Account system being operated as the monthly allocation goes directly to the state government’s account before it is shared.
The plight of the local government councils is said to be compounded as they cannot complain because all the elected council chairmen and council members are stooges of the state government who facilitated their elections or nominations into office
However, immediately the allocation is paid to the account of the state government, a meeting of the Joint Account Committee (JAC) is held at the Farec centre where the council chairmen and treasurers along with the Accountant General of the state with the Finance Commissioner and also the chairman and accountant of State Universal Basic Education Board ( SUBEB ) will be present for sharing of the fund.
It was learnt that some statutory deductions which are first line charges are made and most of the time SUBEB takes about 40-50 per cent of the total allocation which includes salaries and pensions of Basic Education teachers and primary school teachers and the salaries and allowances of staff of the board, including the running expenses of the office.
Also it was learnt that apart from this, there was a certain percentage of the local government allocation that is used to run the social interventions programme and part used in running the office of the First Lady.
It is also learnt that certain percentage of the LG fund are deducted monthly to run the state University Ayingba, Kogi State Polytechnic Lokoja, College of Education, Ankpa and some other tertiary institutions in the state.
The newly established Confluence University of Technology, Osara was said to be largely funded from the LG allocation while there is said to be a standing order that certain percentage must be deducted at source to run the university for some years before it is stabilized.
The state newspaper known as The Graphic was said also to be largely funded through the local government allocation as certain percentage were deducted during the Idris Wada administration.
With these deductions and many others, the remaining fund remaining to pay salaries of LG staff and even the primary school teachers in the state is said to be grossly insufficient as they are being paid 20- 30 per cent salaries every month while their gratuities and pensions are left unpaid for years
Local government council chairmen in Rivers Stste are in their second term in office.. From investigation, the council chairmen have been running and funding their councils uninterrupted by the state governor, Nyesom Wike.
That, perhaps, might be the reason the governor had at different fora reiterated that since he assumed office on May 29, 2015, he has not touched the funds meant for the local governments.
Recently, Governor Wike defended himself again when he reacted to the allegation by President Buhari, that some governors were pilfering the council funds. He denied ever taking funds meant for the local government since he assumed office as governor in 2015.
He challenged the president to name the governors that were doing that, as Buhari’s statement could be termed as class defamation.
Wike said: “I want to challenge Mr. President. Mr. President, you are a leader and we believe as leader, you must come out and tell Nigerians, who are those committing this offence? You said the governors are taking local government funds. I want to say in the name of Almighty God, I have never touched local government funds one day. I have never and I have no reason to do that.
“So, Mr. President, who are those people? You know them, tell us. It is not good to say what we call class defamation, you say, governors, please, I am not one of those governors.”
The governor added that, as a local government chairman under former Governor Peter Odili, his funds were never touched by the governor and, therefore, he has no reason to tamper with any money meant for local governments as governor.
In Plateau State, chairmen elected on October 9, 2021, are presiding over the affairs of the 17 local government areas in the state.
Although, Plateau State still has the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, where the 17 local government chairmen hold regular meetings with the commissioner to discuss issues that concern development at the third tier of government, most council chairmen who spoke to our correspondent, insisted that they enjoy full financial autonomy.
But residents of the state have bemoaned the level of underdevelopment at the grassroots with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) declaring five-day sit-at-home over unpaid four months salaries.
Bitrus Monday who spoke to our correspondent raised critical questions that if local government statutory allocations are disbursed directly to the council chairmen, there should be massive development at the grassroots to attest to that otherwise some individuals are playing trick or handkipanki pattern somewhere.
Meanwhile, Chairman, Association of Local Government of Nigeria and Chairman of Shendam Local Government Area, Hon. Alex Nantuam confirmed that Plateau State enjoys full local government financial autonomy.
He noted that the statutory allocations from the Federal Government are disbursed directly from the federation account to the elected local government councils without the interference of the state government.
“In Plateau, we enjoy full financial autonomy at the local government level because we receive our statutory allocations directly from the federation account. It is only when we have a need that we need to jointly fund that we direct the Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to deduct from source.”
Nantuam gave an instance where the local government collaborate with the state in funding Plateau State University and said it is only on account of such legitimate transactions that the local government councils give consent to the state for direct deductions from their allocations.