The National Vice President of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Muhammad Mahmud-Aliyu, on Thursday said granting autonomy to local government councils will facilitate socio-economic development at the grassroots.
Mr Mahmud-Aliyu, who is also the current ALGON Chairman in Kaduna State, made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) at Maigana, headquarters of Soba Local Government.
Mr Mahmud-Aliyu is the current Council Chairman of Soba Local Government of Kaduna State.
He said: “The move by the Federal Government to ensure the autonomy of Local Government Councils in Nigeria is a welcome development.
“We have nothing to say but to thank Almighty God and also to thank the Federal Government for its gigantic effort toward actualising the lingering move.
“Local Government Councils and many other organisations have long before now been agitating for the autonomy of the third tier of government, now we are happy our dream is about to become a reality.”
He, however, said it “is not” a new thing in Kaduna State, because, local government councils have been enjoying such autonomy from Governor Nasir el-Rufa’i.
“This is not a new thing to us here in Kaduna State. Already, the state government had granted us financial autonomy because when we were elected into office, a guideline different from what was practised before was introduced by the state government.
“In the new system, the executive and legislative arms were reintroduced, while our grants come to us directly and I believe every resident of Kaduna State is a living witness that there are tremendous positive changes across the state.
“Here I mean changes in the area of projects execution at the grassroots levels. Taking myself as an example, I have awarded different contracts worth over N1 billion and I paid over 80 per cent in most of the contracts,” he said.
The ALGON vice president observed that the success story would not have been possible if the state government was tampering with the grants meant for the councils.
“I must seize this opportunity to appreciate our amiable governor for opening a new lease in the administration of local government councils in Nigeria. I am proud to say that by extension, we are the first state to enjoy this privilege.”
Mr Mahmud-Aliyu assured that the projects were being executed in all the 23 local government areas of the state depending on the grant received and the size of the workforce of each council.
He said in view of what was obtainable in Kaduna State; exercising similar gesture to others across the nation would definitely pave way for positive changes.
“Execution of projects across Nigeria will create job opportunities in all the 774 councils, the money will circulate among the people, it will boost different businesses and trades.
“This will reduce the scourge of poverty amongst the rural dwellers apart from keeping people especially the youths busy and more productive,” he said.
Mr Mahmud-Aliyu, however, cleared some misconceptions about grants, explaining that the huge amount of money going to each local government as grant was not all meant for projects execution.
He said there were some statutory spending such as payment of salaries for primary school teachers, health personnel at the primary healthcare centres and local government staff.
He said others are payment of pension of retired workers and deduction of one per cent of the total grant to take care of training and retraining of staff among others.
“For example, in Soba, we got N195 million last month but what remained after deductions is N93 million, we spent N102 million on these deductions.
“But to a lay man, when he/she got the information that Soba received N195 million as grant, they will start thinking that the entire money is kept in the account of the council mainly for projects, this is not true.
“We only make use of what remains after statutory deductions. Soba is even better off, because some local government with large staff strength suffer more,” Mr Mahmud-Aliyu said.
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