The decision by the Oyo state government to build a secretariat in Ibadan for the “grassroots system of government” in the state has added fuel to the crisis between the government and the elected local government chairpersons in the state.
The government directed the 33 local government caretaker committees to contribute N15 million each for the project, but the elected local government chairpersons have kicked against the project.
Governor Seyi Makinde had upon his inauguration in May last year dissolved the local government councils, sacking the chairpersons who were elected under the administration of his predecessor, Abiola Ajimobi. Later in December, Makinde appointed caretaker committees to run the councils.
But late last year, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, directed the state government to recall the chairpersons, based on a Supreme Court judgment that governors have no powers to suspend elected local government councils.
The chairpersons’ attempts to return to office were marred by violent protests until the state government obtained a court injunction barring them from forcibly taking over the councils.
Blueprint gathered that Governor Makinde had directed the 33 local government caretaker committees to raise N495 million for the construction of the “ultra-modern secretariat complex,” each of them contributing N15 million.
The directive was conveyed to the caretakers via a memo from the Permanent Secretary, Local Government Service Commission, Akin Funmilayo, dated February 20.
But the chairman of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye, on Thursday described the project as a fraud.
In a statement he made available to Blueprint Thursday, Abass-Aleshinloye said ALGON found out that “the directive was a fraudulent scheme to siphon council funds by using the illegal caretaker chairmen as pawns. It is a white elephant project designed to siphon money regularly from local government purse.
“The illegality becomes more pronounced when the huge fund is expected to be coughed out by illegal caretakers, who in principle and law, must not have access to local government account. This is also a breach of NFIU guideline on local government finances.
“Building an imaginary secretariat is not, cannot and must not be a priority of any serious people-focused, responsible local government administration in view of compelling needs to provide good roads, renovate dilapidated primary schools, primary health centres, provide water, markets, agricultural inputs, among others, for the grassroots.”