An advocacy-based Civil Society Organisation, Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption, has thrown its weight behind the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit on its recent directive on the management of Local Government funds.
In a letter dated May 22, 2019, signed by the group’s Executive Director, Dr. Walter Duru, MIIVOC urged President Buhari to ignore calls by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to compel the NFIU to rescind its decision on Local Government funds.
It said the only fear of the governors was their obvious loss of control of local government funds.
The letter reads in part: “We have observed with shock, the needless controversy over the recent directive by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) on the management of the accounts of Local Governments in Nigeria. We are aware that the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) says the effective date for the new regulations on local government funds remains June 1. The new guidelines would make the joint account system currently in use by state and local governments only exist for the receipt of allocations from the federation account but not for disbursement.
“With the guideline, governors may lose control of local government funds. The new guidelines make provision of a cumulative cash withdrawal not exceeding N500,000.00 per day. The new measures were introduced to restore LGA’s financial autonomy.
“We are not surprised at the outburst of some Governors in Nigeria over the latest development, particularly, as the new directive will take away control of the age-long mismanaged local government funds from them.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that Local Government funds in Nigeria have been mismanaged over the years by state governments/governors. This development has practically defeated the primary objective of creating the Local Government as the third tier of government- taking the government closer to the people.
“The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, no doubt provides for Joint account for State and Local Governments. However, it holds that NO DEBIT IS ALLOWED ON ANY LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDS UNLESS AND UNTIL THE FUNDS ARE CREDITED TO THE BANK ACCOUNT OF A LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
“The new NFIU directive does NOT in any way violate the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. It rather strengthens it. The receipt of allocations from the federation account has not been tampered with. The crux is disbursement.
“Successive state governments in Nigeria have continuously violated the provisions of the 1999 Constitution by not obeying the wordings of the Constitution to the latter.
“Ultimately, does the NFIU have the powers to do what it did? Yes! Indisputably, the NFIU Act 2018 expressly gives the Unit the powers to do so. Such powers and functions do not in any way violate any section or part of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
“Local Governments in Nigeria should be allowed to receive their allocations/funds in tact from the Federation account. This will enable the citizens at the grassroots level hold them to account and will entrench an era of transparency.
“Why do state governments want to continue to mismanage local government funds? We therefore advise that His Excellency ignores the calls by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum for the NFIU to rescind its decision. Nigerians now know their real enemies. Please, His Excellency, ignore them! Let the decision of NFIU stand!”