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Wike Orders Audit of 23 LG Councils In Rivers • As Governors Reject Financial Autonomy For LGs, Write Buhari

The Executive Governor of Rivers State, Chief (Barr.) Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has inaugurated a seven-man Committee to audit the financial transactions of the 23 Local Government Councils in Rivers State from May 2018 to May 2019.

The Membership of the Committee are: Her Excellency, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo (Chairman); Attorney General and Commissioner for Ministry of Justice, Dr. Zaccheus Adango, former Commissioner for Budget & Economic Planning, Hon. (Barr.) Isaac Kamalu.

Others are: Mrs Bunmi Akaakar, former Commissioner of Education, Rivers State, Prof. Kaniye Ebeku, former Commissioner for Social Works, Mrs Inime Aguma and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, Secretary.

Observes are of the view that the investigation by the Governor coming one year upon assumption of office by the chairmen would simply serve as peer review mechanism to assess and persuade chairmen who haven’t been able to carry out a single project in their locality to do so.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has written to President Muhmmadu Buhari over the released guidelines by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) on granting financial autonomy to Local Governments.

It would be recalled that the NFIU, which was excised from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), set June 1, 2019, as the takeoff date of the new order, making it compulsory for all local council allocations to go straight to their respective bank accounts.

Reacting, the NGF in a letter signed by its Chairman and Governor of Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari, expressed “dismay and angst” over the action describing it as an attempt to dabble into a matter that was beyond its mandate.

Yari in the letter, dated May 15, accused the NFIU of “stoking mischief and also deliberately seeking to cause disaffection, chaos and overheat the polity” adding that nothing in the NFIU Act 2018 gave it the powers that it sought to exercise in the recently released Guidelines.

He declared that the guidelinewas not only illegal but was also an attempt by the NFIU to show total disregard for the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.

He said Section 7 (6) (a) and (b) of the Constitution conferred on the National Assembly (NASS) and the Stale House of Assembly, the powers to make provisions for statutory allocation of public revenue to the local councils in the Federation and within the State, respectively.

“Similarly, Section 162 (6) of the Constitution expressly provides for the creation of the State Joint Local Government Account (SJLGA) into which shall be paid all allocations to the Local Government Councils of the State from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State.

“Section 162 (7) of the Constitution goes on to canter on the NASS the power to prescribe the terms and manners in which funds from the SJLGA may be disbursed and in Subsection (8), the Constitution empowers the State House of Assembly to prescribe the manner in which the amount standing to the credit of the Local councils in the State shall be distributed.

“The so-called Guidelines are in our view an exercised in mischief-stoking and one calculated to cause chaos and overheat the potty. The Guidelines have nine (9) provisions including two (2) sections covering sanction, penalties, powers that they clearly do not possess.

“The NFIU in proposing far reaching guidelines of this nature ought to have consulted widely and carried all stakeholders along.”

Yari urged Buhari to call to order, Director of the NFIU, saying such “reckless guidelines had the potential to cause disaffection in the country.

“We appeal to Mr President to direct that the said Guidelines be disregarded in view of its unconstitutionality and total disregard for due process,” the petition read in part.

The letter was copied the Attorney General of the Federation, acting EFCC Chairman, Governor of CBN, Director General of DSS and the 36 State Governors.

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