Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has accused most of the state governors of stealing funds allocated monthly to local government councils, which ought to be the third tier of the government of Nigeria.
He said that the governors have been siphoning the funds meant for the local government through what he called: “nebulous joint account,” thereby incapacitating them financially.
Obasanjo, who spoke today, Monday, when members of a Non-Governmental Organization, Friends of Democracy (FoD) visited him at his new residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, lamented that many of the third tier of government could not perform their statutory functions because they have been “incapacitated financially” by state governors.
According to Obasanjo, some of the state governments take from the joint account without contributing to it even as he recalled that the local government reforms which was carried out in 1976 was meant to give the third tier of government air of freedom and not be an appendage of the state governments.
He said that state governments which enjoy autonomy, are opposed to the agitation for measures granting autonomy to councils in Nigeria.
He called on the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) to persevere in the demand for the autonomy in the interest of the people at the grassroots.
“When in 1976, we brought in Local Government Reforms, it was meant to be a third tier of the government and not meant to be subjected to the whims and caprices of any other government. It is just the same way that the state government is autonomous from the Federal Government.
“Local Government is meant to be autonomous from the State Government, but from what we know, by design, most states have incapacitated the Local Governments. They have virtually stolen the Local Governments’ money in what they called Joint Account. They were to contribute 10 percent but they never contributed anything.
“So, what we have across the country are Local Government Areas that have functions, but cannot perform the functions. They have staff but most of them cannot pay the staff, and we keep getting excuses upon excuses.
“And I see no reason if the Federal Government allows the states to enjoy their autonomy except in the case of state of emergency.
“The Bill passed by the National Assembly which requires 24 State Houses of Assembly and like I am told only 9 States have signed it.
“I am proud of those states because they are what you will call progressive states that really believe in democracy.
“My own state (Ogun) is one of them. I will say kudos to Ogun State. In the South-South, only Bayelsa and Cross River States have signed it. Kudos to those two states. In the North-East, it’s only Bauchi. In the North-West, it’s only Sokoto. In the North-Central, we have four states, Kwara, Niger, Plateau and Benue. I will say kudos to the executives and the legislature of those states.
“But we must say those state executives and the legislatures that have prevented the bill from being passed, they must be taken as the enemy of the people and they should be treated as such. Because if you enjoy autonomy from the Federal Government why don’t you want Local Government to enjoy autonomy?
“Again, I will say leadership of NLC and NULGE who have always fought for the interest of the people should know that the interest of the people at the local government will be best served if the LG has autonomy which is meant that they should have.”