President Muhammadu Buhari again came down hard on governors over what he said was their unbridled ill-treatment of the administration of resources at the local government levels, causing what he termed stunted development experienced at the third tier of government and unfair labelling of his administration at the grassroots.
The President bared his mind yesterday after he delivered a speech at an event hosted for members of the Senior Executive Course 44 (2022) of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Veering off his prepared address, the President cited a personal experience involving a governor he did not name, misappropriating funds meant for local government, thereby inhibiting development at the grassroots.
He said it beats anyone’s imagination how some governors would collect money on behalf of local councils in their states, only to remit just half of such allocation to the chairman, who would further deplete the remittance in further pilfering of public resources.
He, however, related the development to the question of lack of integrity in the character of many of those holding such offices, adding that such actions are rather despicable and speak of the height of corruption.
President Buhari’s comments followed remarks on the Course 44 presentation, with the theme: ‘Strengthening Local Governance in Nigeria: Challenges, Options and Opportunities’, by some members of the Federal Executive Council, who aired their personal views on enhancing the autonomy of local governments.
A baffled Buhari described as “terrible” the actions of some of the governors. He said: “I found it necessary to digress after reading my speech and this digression is a result of my personal experience.
“This is my personal experience. If the money from the Federation Account to the state is about N100 million, N50 million will be sent to the chairman, but he will sign that he received N100 million. The governor will pocket the balance and share it with whoever he wants to share it with.
“And then the council chairman must see to how he will pay salaries and say to hell with development. When he pays salaries, the balance he will put in his pocket.
“This is what’s happening. This is Nigeria. It’s a terrible thing; you cannot say the person who is doing this is not educated. He is a qualified lawyer, experienced and yet he participated in this type of corruption.
“So, it’s a matter of conscience, whichever level we found ourselves. As a leader, you sit here, with all the sacrifices the country is making by putting you through institutions and getting you ready to lead. The fundamental thing is personal integrity. May God help us.”
The President also pledged that his government would “painstakingly” consider the recommendations contained in the paper presented by the SEC 44 to implement them. “It is obvious that government cannot afford to pay lip service to the recommendations contained in this report. ‘I assure you that the report will be treated with the seriousness and urgency it deserves,’’ he said.
He expressed delight that the Institute has been exceptional in handling several assignments, and the current submission is a commendable improvement on the existing standards.
In his remarks, the Director-General of NIPSS, Prof Ayo Omotayo, said the Course participants undertook study tours of 14 states, six African countries and six countries outside Africa.
‘’This enabled them to have both local and international perspectives on local governance, how to overcome challenges in achieving it, identify the available opportunities to strengthen it and develop workable options to be considered by government in strengthening local governance,’’ he said.
On Wednesday, the Federal Government attributed the prevailing high level of poverty in the country to the attitude of some governors who focus more on building flyovers and airports rather than improving lives of citizens in rural areas.
Speaking after the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clement Agba, disclosed that 72 per cent of poverty in Nigeria was located in rural areas, which he said had been abandoned by governors.
ALSO, yesterday, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (retd), disclosed that security agencies were set to descend on governors deploying thugs to prevent members of the opposition from mounting campaign materials in their domains in the build up to 2023 general elections.
Monguno, who appeared on the weekly Ministerial Media Briefing anchored by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, warned that when the law enforcement agencies move, there would be no hiding place for the perpetrators.
The NSA, who was reacting to reports of some state executives implementing policies that prevent the presence of opposition campaign materials in their domain, described the action as a demonstration of inferiority complex.
He warned the governors to restrain their thugs as he said the President has already given the security hierarchy a clear directive to ensure that the 2023 election “must be free, fair and credible.”
The NSA further warned the governors to “call their Capo regime to order because when we move, there will be no hiding place.”
WHILE efforts to get governors to speak on several allegations through the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Northern Governors’ Forum, Southern Governors’ Forum and other platforms proved abortive at press time, last night. Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, yesterday, berated Agba for saying governors are causes of poverty because they focused on building flyovers.
Wike said the Minister exhibited lack of understanding on how governors plan development projects in their various states. He spoke at the inauguration of the 13.86km Rumuodogo 1 and 2 roads in Oluua-Rumuodogo community in Emohua Local Government Area.
The Rivers governor said Agba was wrong when he said governors are the cause of poverty because they focused on building flyovers, airports and other projects in the state capitals, while neglecting to invest in rural communities to directly uplift the living standard of the people.
“He said governors are the problem, they don’t do rural roads, and I ask him where and where have you been? You just sit there (Abuja), you’ve not been anywhere to check whether rural roads are being done or not.”
Wike pointed out that the development plan of his administration is holistic with critical infrastructure delivered not only in the state capital, but across the 23 Local Government Areas (LGAs).
He, therefore, advised the Minister to take time out, leave Abuja and visit states, particularly Rivers. Wike emphasised that there are quantum of projects in rural communities with the Rumuodogo road inclusive, which have improved the socioeconomic status of rural communities.
“Come to Rivers and see whether we are doing roads that will cause agricultural produce to be brought out to the cities or not, before you open your mouth. We are not doing roads in the city alone. We are doing roads in all LGAs of the state.”
Wike also challenged some South-South governors to stop hiding behind their attack dogs they have commissioned to insult him, but they should rather come to confront him personally.
He wondered why the faceless governors are picking offence with him because he thanked President Buhari for releasing the 13 per cent derivation arrears from 1999 to date.
Wike said even though he is not a fan of President Buhari, it does not stop him from expressing his gratitude to him for releasing the fund that has helped to finance several projects in Rivers.