The Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) has petitioned the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, (NFIU) to investigate Lagos and Zamfara state governments over the violation of the new guidelines on the disbursement of funds belonging to local government.
HEDA stated that the two state governments had continued to violate the new NFIU guidelines by continuing to hijack and deduct from the council funds received from the federal government.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and NFIU had issued guidelines that all the 774 local government councils of Nigeria must get their statutory allocations as released by the Federal Ministry of Finance without the state governments tampering with them.
Citing data from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), HEDA said state governments continued their “serial rape on LG funds”.
Between 2010 and 2018 for instance, OAGF said state governments had unchecked access to about N14.71 trillion worth of funds meant for local councils between 2010 and 2018.
In the petition signed by Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, Chairman of HEDA, the group said that barely a month after the NFIU issued the guidelines, the Lagos State Government deducted hundreds of millions from local governments’ allocation for June 2019.
HEDA listed Alimosho Local Government as one of those affected. It said, “the council divided into six Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) were anticipating splitting the sum of N750 million but that the Lagos government left them with a little over N320 million.
“The Lagos State Government has not refuted media reports that Abimbola Umar, the state’s Accountant-General, had told the Joint Account and Allocations Committee in the state that a waiver had been obtained from the Financial Intelligence body, to make deductions from funds apportioned to the LGA, for the payment of the salaries, gratuities and pensions of local government staff. In the report, controversies are surrounding the alleged clearance from the NFIU to touch local government funds.”
HEDA added that a similar case was also reported on July 9, this year, when the Zamfara State chapter of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) said the state government, through its Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, hijacked the federal statutory allocation due to the 14 councils for June. The council chairmen were quoted to have said the state government only gave N5million to each local government from the allocation.
ALGON in Zamfara had equally called on the Federal Government, through the CBN and NFIU, to as a matter of urgency intervene in the matter so they could have access to their funds to enable them to meet the yearnings and aspirations of their people.
Justifying the urgent need for the probe, HEDA said, “The NFIU enforcement and guidelines to reduce crime vulnerability created by cash withdrawal from local government funds throughout Nigeria became effective on June 1, 2019, and these reports read July respectively.
“The reports alleged that both Lagos and Zamfara states breached the above-stated provisions of the guidelines. However, we believe in due process and due diligence as well as the presumption of innocence which is why our demand, hinged on our mandate to promote accountability and transparency in governance, is requesting for an urgent investigation into these allegations to possibly enforce the sanctions enshrined in the NFIU guidelines.”
SaharaReporters, New York