#PHC4UHC: Lagos govt talks tough, says FG has no business dabbling in LG affairs

Secretary to Lagos state government, Tunji Bello.
Secretary to Lagos state government, Tunji Bello.

The federal government has no business allocating money to the local governments directly as such funds should be given to the states to determine how it would be disbursed, a top Lagos State official has said.

Tunji Bello, the Secretary to the Lagos State Government (SSG), said this on Monday while receiving Senior Executive Course participants of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, (NIPSS) in his Ikeja office.

“It’s not the business of federal governments to dabble into the affairs of the local governments,” the SSG said.

He was responding to a question by a NIPSS course participant on a recent plan by the federal government to allot funds to LGAs to cater for the Primary Health Centres.

The NIPPS delegation is in the state for a study tour of its health sector. The visit is coordinated by NIPSS in collaboration with the Development Research and Project Centre (DRPC) through PACFAH@Scale.

“The federation is between the federal and the states that is why the constitution must be amended to reflect that the federal and state should determine allocations. The money should be shared between federal and the state,” Mr Bello said.

Conundrum

Mr Bello’s comment is coming few days after PREMIUM TIMES reported that Nigeria’s 36 states and the federal capital territory, have in the last 12 years pocketed over N15 trillion federal allocation meant for local governments areas.

Although that amount was allocated to the 774 LGAs in the country, there is no public information on what portion each local government received, the data analysed by Dataphyte showed.

Based on analysis of the 12-year data, 13 out of the 20 top local governments ‘receiving’ the funds are from Lagos alone.

Mr Bello’s Monday comment is also coming a week after the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) issued a guideline stopping states from tampering with local government allocations.

Effective from June 1, the NFIU said the guideline will end the abuse of section 162 (6) (8) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution.

The section provided for State Joint Local Government Account into which shall be paid allocations to the local government councils of the state from the federation account and from the government of the state.

The issue of joint account of states and LGAs has been the bedrock of the debate over local government financial autonomy.

The practice allows state governments to receive monthly allocations from the federal government for onward disbursement to local governments.

Local government administrators have long complained that the practice was undemocratic and also prone to abuse by governors.

‘Not FG’s business’

However, Mr Bello said local governments are tied to the states and therefore states should decide how they (LGAs) should spend their money.

“Give the state the money, let them do whatever they want to do with it. If they want to create 100 or even 1000 LGAs, it’s their business. Federal should not jump the state and start dealing with LGAs directly.

“It is not right. That is one of the problems of Nigeria today…”

The official hinged his argument on true federalism, citing practices in countries such as Germany and the U.S.

He said the federal government is carrying some responsibilities it should have left for the states.

Many Nigerians have faulted the country’s federal system because power is mostly rested at the centre. This has resulted in calls for restructuring.

Mr Bello maintained that every state should tap its own resources “and now pay dues to the federal government.”

“We have several agencies that are not useful, while some which are supposed to be left for the states are overburdened.

“In agriculture, states like Kebbi and Katsina are not making the kind of money it should be making because of our kind of system,” the SSG noted.

Insecurity, Unemployment

Mr Bello also said it is better for states to manage all affairs within its territory than for “you to sit down in Abuja and say how the police commissioner should run a station in Ajah in Lagos.”

“That’s why we have security problems in Nigeria. Even the issue of policemen should be managed by the states. The Nigerian Army is overburdened already and the police cannot manage the security of Nigeria anymore because they are overstretched.

“We have enough unemployment in the country. Do you know the kind of employment Katsina, Benue and Kebbi can generate, the number of people we can employ in Lagos if states are allowed to fully manage its resources?”

Mr Bello’s views are similar to that of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who has called for state police and that states be allowed to administer their local governments the way they deem fit. The view, however, differs from that of President Muhammadu Buhari who has stated his opposition to state policing and wants total autonomy for local governments.

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