Former President Buhari had on Friday, May 23, 2020, signed an Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislative and the judicial arms od government across the 36 states as well as the local government councils, as the third tier of government. This has remained one of the landmark achievements of Buhari’s administration on policy paradigm shift towards a more people-friendly leadership structure of the long-running dysfunctional polity.
In a subsequent editorial by the Guardian Newspaper, it states that “Worthy of note is that it runs in tandem with Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution which clearly spells out the functions of the local government. These include the provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocation education, the development of agricultural and natural resources other than the exploitation of minerals”
The prevailing experience with local government administration in present Abia State can only be rightly described as an unfortunate decay into abyss as the situation is continuously deteriorating daily thereby conveying a sense of hopelessness to those operating within the 3rd tier of government.
I listened to some senior officers of three local Government areas yesterday and in their separate accounts, they confirmed local government workers are presently doing nothing. No local government council in Abia State has received any money as impress for running operations as simple as cleaning their offices as they now solely depend on the accountant general of the State for funds for general upkeep of the local government. It is the Accountant General (AG) of Abia State that now releases funds for buying of fuel, sweeping of compounds, cutting of grasses etc. Assuming the AG fails to release money directly to get fuel, the local government will remain in darkness, dirty and generally inactive.
The treasurers of different councils are mandated to attend Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) after which their respective duties are suspended. In other words, after their JAAC meeting, Mr Otti takes over the remaining aspect of salary payments and other local government functions.
As at today, no local government has any cash left in their respective council’s account and they don’t know the whereabout of statutory inflows from the federation account either. They don’t equally receive alert on any income or expenses. As unprecedented as it seem, the treasurers and head of service of the Local councils have become figureheads stationed to only attend to complaints. Immediately their money lands into their councils, Mr Otti’s government will take over and divert to another account they are yet to find out. Mr Otti is presently the Chairmen, Treasurers and head of service of all local governments in Abia State.
On the issue of salaries, they said that claim that State Government has paid all of them since May is a big fat lie. According to some of the senior and junior officers, the State has been selective in their mode of payment. Number of those who have not received salaries since the inception of Mr Otti’s regime, is more than those they claimed to have paid. Accordingly, there is an alleged directive not to pay some persons fingered to be anti Otti including those at different state ministries. A state civil servant in the ministry of finance who criticized Otti at social media has not received salary for 3 months at least.
From credible intelligence, Local government staff including primary school teachers and primary health workers are currently mobilizing for a protest.
It is shameful that Otti who campaigned on autonomy of local government and transparency has championed the greatest impunity ever recorded in the history of public service in Abia State and Nigeria.
How he intends to continue in this impunity and totally muzzle the media in the state and Nigeria as well as NULGE to stay mute is something that we are waiting to see.