Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi yesterday faulted the new financial guidelines put in place for local government areas by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).
The guidelines banned governors from tampering with local government allocations under the guise of State Local Government Joint Account.
The new regulations also bar councils from spending above N500,000 daily.
But Fayemi said the guidelines are unconstitutional and unenforceable.
Describing the directive as playing to the gallery, Fayemi advised the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum ( NGF), Abdulaziz Yari to convene a meeting of the group to discuss the guidelines.
Fayemi, who spoke exclusively with our correspondent on the phone, urged the NFIU to discuss the new measures “exhaustively whilst engaging in extensive advocacy so that the intention is not misconstrued.”
He said the imposition of the guidelines on states amounted to a recourse to a unitary system.
The governor said: “It is a directive designed to play to the gallery, it is unconstitutional and unenforceable. I’m happy to be quoted. As I said on Sunrise programme on Channels Television on Friday, I have nothing to fear because during my first four years and now that I’m back, I acted only as a conduit for LG funds passed through us.
“ But the more fundamental issue is that NFIU just want to promote unitarism via the backdoor and undermine our two tier federalism.
“ I’m not suggesting that some governors don’t misbehave, neither am I saying your story of N100 billion is not true (even though I have my doubts), my own point is where there are infractions, it should be dealt with on a case by case basis and not tar everyone with the same brush.
“The truth is that most states subsidize their local government areas, rather than steal from them.
”In Ekiti, I can tell you that after meeting all the first line charge of salary payments the local government areas are hardly left with up to N50m on a good month to cover all other expenditure for all the 16 local government areas – security, running costs, capital development etc. The state is then left to carry the can of all additional expenditure – mend the roads, fix the drains, build the palaces, town halls, schools, health centre’s etc.
“I’m sure the same is true of many other states. So, really where is the N100 billion to steal out of local government funds in any state? I don’t believe it. It’s just a case of calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it and let NFIU provide Nigerians with independently verifiable evidence.”
Fayemi insisted that local governments are under the control of states by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
He added: “The Nigerian constitution only recognizes a Federation of two federating units – federal and state government and local government areas are under the supervision of states and my own personal campaign is that they should be expunged from the constitution because there is no reason to list local government in the constitution.
“ It should be the business of each state as a federating unit of coordinate jurisdiction to decide how many LGs to have and how to ensure they deliver services to their citizens.
“ And frankly, I think the Nigeria Governors’ Forum should be seeking legal counsel on this rather than leave the matter.
“ I’m speaking for myself, not the NGF. In my previous term in office, the local government has never witnessed the type of development experienced. Yet, we owed no worker and no single community was left untouched with roads constructed, town halls, civic centres, health centres, primary schools.
Fayemi urged his colleagues not to keep quiet on the guidelines.
He said: “Although the Forum has not discussed this with NFIU and I expect that our chairman will do so in due course, I think it is important we don’t keep quiet.
“I also know that Mr President, will not encourage NFIU or any other institution for that matter to indulge in any action that is manifestly unconstitutional.
“ My advice to NFIU is to discuss this exhaustively whilst engaging in extensive advocacy so that the intention is not misconstrued.
“Yet, the bulk of what we spent came from the state. The artificial distinction is a false dichotomy in most states. Take a state like Borno or Yobe that have been the victims of insurgency since 2009. How can anyone even talk about local government in such places when for the most part of Shettima time in office, only two local government were not under Boko Haram control. So the best a governor like that could do is warehouse the money and utilize for the good of all collectively and not on an local government basis.
“Even if the President did, he ought to be told the other side of the story too. I’m not a rogue and I won’t keep quiet if I’m being tarred with the brush of theft even if others are guilty.”