It is not in doubt that the Muhammadu Buhari administration is all out to give a new lease of life to Nigerians at the grassroots level. In addition to the SIP’s TraderMoni, special intervention for 2018 flood and violence victims and lots more, the PMB administration has through the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, scored a significant goal by granting all the 774 LGAs in the country financial autonomy. The autonomy provides that monthly statutory allocations due to them from the Federation Account must be credited to their accounts directly and expended appropriately to the last kobo by the LG authorities themselves. This is another fulfilled campaign promise of Candidate Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 election campaigns.
The action of the NFIU must be seen within the context of extant laws on local government funding as enshrined in Section 162 (6) and (8) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, without necessarily seeking for an amendment .
The impression about the Buhari administration most Nigerians and workers in particular have is that it is a “workers friendly government.” This is largely because of the numerous feelings, concerns and actions he had so far done to ameliorate the suffering of workers in the public and private employment over the years. Notable among such actions include providing conducive work place environment, financial support to states through Paris club refunds in three tranches amounting to $5.4 billion about, bailout funds amounting to $1.75 trillion also in three tranches to enable governments pay outstanding workers salaries and other welfare needs of the populace, a brand new national minimum wage of N30, 000 after several years of non negotiations with labour by government.
What makes this decision, which comes into effect from June 1, 2019, significant, is the fact the PMB administration has begun its restructuring of the country with the most important part of the three tiers of government, the local governments. Even the national president of NULGE, the umbrella body of LGs in the country, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, had recently opined that the nation’s quest for stability at all levels could not be achieved without strengthening the LGs as a critical tier of government.
Before this landmark decision, the state governments though a phony arrangement in the name of states and LGs joint accounts managed the allocations on behalf of the LGs with a chunk of it going to ‘joint projects’ while a pittance goes directly to the LGs for salaries and other overhead cost. Under this arrangement, most LGs hardly get up to 40% of their statutory funding annually. It is important to re state the fact that cash withdrawal and transactions from the joint accounts poses the biggest corruption, money laundering and security threats to the entire financial system and the country as a whole.
Praise the Lord. PMB is changing the narratives of local governments being used by governors for personal pecuniary gains. As the third tier of government, LGs will now serve the purpose for which they were created. That is to serve the grassroots in terms of provision of welfare, necessities of life like education, water supply, health needs and feeder roads, among others. Life for workers and citizens were at stand still since LG statutory funds were truncated by the state governors. It will now be a new lease of life for local government workers in particular.
One prays that this recent intervention by NFIU will not be flouted and abused through the usual scheming by the governors to retake the monies after they have been deposited in their accounts through some mysterious administrative means. Consolation lies in the fact that the NFIU has put in place strategic measures to secure and expend the LGs statutory allocations in their accounts. They have put in place punitive measures against violators of the order. The biggest beneficiaries of the new order are the local government system, workers and the entire communities residing within the catchment areas of the LGAs.
It is hoped that the measure will go a long way in restoring full autonomy for the LGs in the country and further restore the confidence in the system by the people. The larger implication of this is that Nigeria is gradually moving to the Next Level, which is the key slogan of the PMB 2019 Presidential campaign promises. More of such fulfillments will come the way of Nigerians as PMB gets sworn in on May 29, 2019, as Nigeria’s President for a second term in office.
Ilallah writes from Emeka Anyaoku Street, Abuja, via [email protected]