Because of the privations to which Nigerians have been subjected over the years, there is a tendency in the land to assume the worst of leaders. Guilty or not, governors face the guillotine, condemned to hell by our elite commentariat. And that is why it is not surprising that in the latest scenario involving the recently suspended chairman of Ijebu East Local Government Area, Hon. Wale Adedayo and the Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun, the allegation by the latter that the former had been stealing and/or diverting local government (LG) funds are typically being treated as gospel truth while the rebuttals by the Ogun State Government and the constitutional organ responsible for disbursing the funds, the Ogun State Joint Account and Allocation Committee (JAAC), the chairmen of local councils and even the Federal Government are being shunned.
Some commentators are literally asking for the governor’s head on a charger, throwing rationality, the spirit of inquisitiveness, logic and fairness into the trashcan. Sadly, the piece, The wind that blew Dapo Abiodun’s rump, authored by the respected Sunday Tribune columnist, Dr. Festus Adedayo, falls into this category.
Essentially a rehash of the LG chairman’s claims (“Adedayo…alleged that this blind thievery began immediately Abiodun took over the reign of office in May, 2019, leading to “zero allocation” of funds to develop the councils,” etc), Dr. Adedayo’s piece deplores the alleged stealing of LG funds by governors, relying on a Premium Times report wherein the reporter was purportedly “told by sources among local government chairmen in Ogun State that monies enter council accounts in the morning, and they develop wings by evening.” This, Dr Adedayo asserts, “is a pattern adopted by many of the state governments.” Well, there is no thievery by Governor Abiodun in Ogun State. It is a terrible thing to hang an innocent person simply because of the office that he occupies. Just how can Governor Abiodun, who by law is not a signatory to the JAAC which disburses money to LGs, tamper with LG funds?
Because there is so much misconception about LG operations, media commentators often look at issues at face value and rush to judgment instead of doing a little investigation. The structure in LGs in Ogun State is not different from the one in other states. JAAC has its responsibilities as a constitutional provision, the organ that identifies and sorts out first line charges. It came about after long agitations by teachers and LG workers over the delay in the payment of their salaries and emoluments.
In the last 26 months that Wale Adedayo has been chairman, the records show that he attended JAAC meetings, where LG funds are disbursed after being received from the Federation Account, 15 times. His sudden claim of zero allocation to councils in Ogun State is therefore curious, to say the least. Records show that, like other LG chairmen, he has collected N3 million every month as imprest, while his council also shared from all the allocations given since 2019 when Governor Abiodun came on board, including the N5.2 billion allocation shared in August this year; the N4.4 billion shared in July, the 5.2bn shared in June and the N4.5 billion shared in May. So, where did he get his zero allocation from?
Last Friday, the Ogun State government established the fact that it had invested N1.8bn in executing projects in the councils. This was at a press conference addressed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Tokunbo Talabi, and the Economic Adviser and Commissioner-designate, Mr Dapo Okubadejo. Indeed, as the government argued, if the LGs had not been getting their allocations since 2019, how then had they been paying teachers, healthcare workers, members of traditional councils, pensioners and local government and security votes for the LG chairmen?
Rather than stealing the LG funds, the state government has actually been augmenting their allocations to enable them meet their obligations. It is a fact that in 2020, N43.121 billion was budgeted for first-line charges, while N34.750 billion was received from the federation account for the 20 LGs, leaving a deficit of N6.619 billion. The total allocation released for the LGs in 2021 was N38.723 billion, while payment for first-line charges was put at N47.845 billion. In 2022, the LGs got N48.074 billion from the Federation Account, whereas the actual amount needed to pay first line charges was N54.182 billion. As 2023 dawned, therefore, there was a deficit of almost N17.4 billion, paid for by the state government. It is not for nothing that members of the Ogun JAAC debunked Wale Adedayo’s slanderous and libellous proclamations, confirming that there were instances when the state government had to augment shortfalls to allow all the LGs to take care of all their first-line charges. For a chairman in office for more than two years to suddenly claim zero allocation to Ogun councils smacks of pure mischief. This is the same person who was collecting N3 million every month for imprest. He lied recklessly and shamelessly just to create mischief and stoke crisis in the state.
For those who do not know, money is paid directly to LG accounts and like governors, chairmen as CEOs of LGs do not issue cheques but only give approvals. Governor Abiodun is not a signatory to the LG accounts. LG funds are paid directly to their accounts, from which the civil servants disburse the money to the beneficiaries (emoluments, salaries). On the allegation of money disappearing, we need to ask questions, as no state government can take money from JAAC. During the COVID-19 crisis, most of the LGs did not pay PAYEE tax because of the shortfall in federal allocations. After the crisis, the Ogun State government then had to deduct this tax. But before then, the money had to get to their accounts first, and the civil servants in charge had to indicate the months for which the payee deductions were being made, because the law is that every taxable adult must pay tax. Strangely, these payee deductions were characterized as money disappearing from LG accounts, and our columnists did not even bother to investigate the matter properly. Rather, they resorted to character assassination just because, in the face of incontrovertible evidence, Wale Adedayo had said, “I know for a fact that my Ijebu East Local Government is not owing Abeokuta one naira!” Even Lucifer does not lie in this manner.
Yes, we all know that because of the suffering in the land, people are not happy with governors. However, we still cannot generalize. It is unfair to impugn the integrity and image of Governor Abiodun just because he is governor. He also deserves fair hearing.
Again, a lot of negativity has been ascribed to the Ogun LG chairmen’s meeting with Governor Abiodun, but it is important to make the following clarifications. First, the chairmen had met with the Ogun State SSG, Mr. Joseph Talabi, requesting a meeting with the governor to tender an apology over Adedayo’s fabrications, because they knew the facts of the case. During the meeting with the SSG, they, however, raised the issue of the Permanent Secretary to Ministry of Local Government Affairs who had issued a statement calling on them to utilise the funds released to their various councils judiciously, whereas the money was meant for the payment of salaries. The statement led to people harassing them in their LGs. The SSG apologized, acknowledging that the statement was misleading. Still, he pointed out that it was not an excuse for Wale Adedayo to fabricate falsehood against the governor. The chairmen apologized and said they needed to meet the governor. Adedayo was in both meetings, and the act of prostrating to the governor was spontaneous; he never demanded for it. It is therefore cheeky to call him an emperor.
Since Governor Abiodun came on board, Ogun State has been peaceful and calm. Unlike in the past, there has been no violence or political assassinations. Some people must not be allowed to throw the state into crisis.
The media should be interrogating, not venerating him.
Akinmade was two term Commissioner of Information in Ondo State and Consultant on Media to the Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun.