LGs lack capacity to manage funds – Dankwambo
By Moses John, Abuja and
Patrick Ahanor, Benin City
Local government workers have continued their advocacy for financial autonomy at the third tier of government, as their umbrella body- Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), yesterday rejected the payment of teachers’ salaries from the State and Local Government Joint Accounts.
Delta state Secretary of NULGE, Comrade Peter Ena, while reacting yesterday to statement credited to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa that the state government did not owe LG workers, said the governor was only being economical with the truth.
According to him, it is true that the funding of primary education vis-a-vis payment of LG staff salaries has been a debilitating issue over the years, leading to various policies evolved or adopted towards resolving this seeming imbroglio.
He said while most reasonable state government takes up, as it were, their responsibilities of funding primary school education, others resort to using the state joint account committee as a conduit pipe to siphoning LG statutory allocation under the guise of funding primary education.
Ena said: “The NULGE has viewed with utter dismay, the claims by the state government that it does not owe local government staff but can appropriate local government money to pay teachers first charge, and thus put the burden of payment of primary school teachers squarely on the local governments to the detriment of LG staff who are left with backlog arrears of salaries.
“In as much as we do not desire to join issues with the state government, the union considers this claim as a slight on the sensibilities of LG staff who have been made to pass though horrendous physical and mental tortures as a result of nonpayment of their salaries.”
The NULGE leader further said the situation in Delta state “is not too far from this trend,” adding that “the imposition of the burden of payment of primary school teachers squarely on LG, has crippled and paralysed the system such that LG staff are now owed backlog arrears of salaries ranging from 8-13 months.”
“The union consequently rejects totally the state government’s policy of piecemeal and percentage payment of LG staff, while primary school teachers go home with their 100% salaries deducted from LG funds.
“We condemn very strongly, the over deduction made from LG allocation from federation account for funding SUBEB at the detriment of the local system.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Supreme Court rulings of 2002 declared that “in so far as primary school education is concerned, a local government Council only participates with the state government in its provision and maintenance. The function obviously remains with the state government.
“The court declaration was further affirmed by the Secretary General of NUT, Mr. Ikpe Obong, when he appealed to the state government to pay adequate attention to funding primary education in the country.”
He clarified that the management of primary schools was purely the duty and responsibility of the state and not that of the local government administrators.
“Since the local governments are only playing a participatory role, they are not to be in complete control of the funding of primary schools, since the constitution only gives LG participatory role in payment of primary school teachers,” explained the union leader.
Meanwhile, Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwanbo of Gombe state, has said it would be unwise to release huge allocations directly to local governments coffers, declaring that they” lack capacity.”
He disclosed that the best strategy is to increase allocations to states along with new framework on how they will utilise the resources at the local government level and improve accountability.
Dankwanbo said this yesterday while delivering a paper titled: “The States in the Nigeria’s Federation” at the 18th Founders Day ceremony of Igbinedion University, Okada, in Edo state.
He said: “Presently, local governments in Nigeria have weak managerial and administrative capacity to effectively implement programmes and projects for the welfare and wellbeing of the people.
“This is because better educated people never think of working in the local government system. They search for jobs in the urban areas, be it in the public or private sector.”
Continuing, the governor, however, advocated for the capacity of local governments to be gradually strengthened by providing attractive remunerations and better conditions of service to attract better and well qualified manpower.”
He said, for instance, “Gombe state receives the least from the federation account allocations and raises relatively low internally generated revenue, but it has advanced faster and much better than even older states that receive five times more.”
The guest lecturer, therefore, noted that there “is over-centralisation of economic power at the centre,” adding that it “has affected effective and efficient development of the country and has become the source of dissention.
“To reduce the suffocation at the centre, aspects like agriculture, primary and secondary education/health care, roads should be handed over to states.”
According to him, the agitations against the federation are largely around revenue distribution, pointing out that the conditional burden on states is enormous.