A pro-democracy group in Nigeria, the Center for Human Rights and Accountability Network (CHRAN), has decried the dearth of governance and decayed public infrastructures across the 774 local government areas of Nigeria due to the diversion of council funds by the state governors.
The human rights body made the assertion through a press statement signed by its Director, Otuekong Franklyn Isong and Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Comrade Vincent Aluu and made available to newsmen in Uyo on Monday, 24th July 2023.
The CHRAN’s statement which was in reaction to the directive of the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno, to the 31 council chairmen and vice chairmen in the state to reside in their respective local government areas, commended the governor, noting that the directive came at a time when the tenure of the current council chairmen and their vice chairmen in Akwa Ibom state will soon end, and election of a new set of council officials takes place.
Governor Eno had given the directive last week in Uyo during the inauguration of the Council Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of Nsit Ibom and Urue Offong/Oruko Local Government Councils, saying he will send Executive Bill to the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly for enactment that will enforce the directive.
The CHRAN, however, said it welcomes the directive as it will enhance the growth of the local government administration in the state, calling on the state government to allow the local government councils to have full access to their funds as allocated to them by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) in Abuja, and ten per cent (10%) of the state internally generated revenue as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution.
The CHRAN condemned the continuous use of the “State Joint Local Government Account” created by Section 162(6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), by State Governors in the country to syphon funds meant for the local government councils which have rendered the 774 local government areas completely under-developed since 1999 to date.
The CHRAN, however, urged Umo Eno to change the narrative and be an exemplary public servant, by ensuring that the 31 local government councils in Akwa Ibom are adequately funded to carry out their constitutionally assigned functions, adding that development and performance at the third tier of government have remained abyssal due to state interference with funds meant for the local governments.
The civil society group wondered why the local government administration, an important sector in the overall development of Akwa Ibom state was not properly captured in Governor Umo Eno’s ARISE Agenda, adding that the rural development component of the ARISE Agenda will make more meaning if the local government councils are fully incorporated into the agenda and made operational financially and administratively.
The CHRAN bemoaned the level of infrastructural decay and poor state of affairs in the council areas due to poor funding and/or diversion of council funds, calling on the State Governor to embark on a tour of the 31 local government councils in order to have firsthand information about the level of under-development at the local government areas of the State.
The CHRAN urged Pastor Eno to revisit the Security Village Estates project conceptualized by the administration of Senator Godswill Akpabio, saying that the Estates were built with taxpayers’ money to provide accommodation for the council chairmen, vice chairmen, Divisional Police Officers (DPO), among others in the 31 councils, but regretted that the Estates had been abandoned by the 31 Council Chairmen, and vice chairmen who preferred to reside in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital.