The Hard Facts, Truth And Reality About The Current Situation In Local Govt Councils In Kwara State By Abdulkarim Ayinde
The Hard Facts, Truth And Reality About The Current Situation In Local Government Councils In Kwara State By Engineer Abdulkarim Ayinde
The protest embarked upon on Wednesday, 29th June, 2015 by NULGE Exco Members along with some workers of Local Governments in the State, who were understood to have been probably infiltrated by some miscreants, which took them to the Kwara State Govt House, was not only done with bad intention but very unfortunate and uncalled for at this point in time, when the State Govt appears to have found realistic approach towards finding solution to the long lasting problems of unpaid outstanding salaries of Local Govt workers includingTeachers in Primary and Junior Secondary Schools, all of who are being paid from the Local Govts Federal Allocation Funds.
The hard fact that NULGE Exco and Local Govt employees that embarked on the protest must face, is the fact that the way and manner by which they conducted themselves and tried to present their case at the Govt House Gate, was rather confrontational and therefore short of yielding any positive and desirable result as would have been expected.
As aptly stated in the Press Statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Communications, the protesters over reached themselves when they insisted that the Governor must address them at the Gate of the Govt House, after he agreed to the options of meeting them and listened to their complaints and grievances in more suitable and condusive venues, which they refused out rightly.
This obviously smarked of element of arrogance on their part and also supported the belief that they came prepared to the Govt House, probably to act another script being promoted and dictated by some members of the Opposition Parties, who were ready to take undue advantage of the issues of the unpaid salaries of LG workers, to attack, castigate and condemn the Maigida’s administration as usual, and also to put the Governor in bad light to satisfy their negative whims and caprices about governance in Kwara State.
In the first place, the issue of unpaid salaries of workers and Teachers in Local Govts’ employment, is rightly neither the making of the Govt of Kwara State nor has been part its Constitutional responsibilities but rather an unfortunate situation that has been prevailent as a result of the dwindling revenues from Oil, which has always been the main source of funding being allocated to the three tiers of Govt during the monthly FAAC meetings.
Therefore, the Governor, who had in the past assisted the Local Govts to raise loans up to the tune of over N4 billion from Commercial Banks in the past, in order to augment the shortfalls in their previous allocations from the Federation Accounts, could no longer do so again immediately after his resumption of office on 29th May, 2016.
This has been as a result of the ban that was imposed on further borrowings by States and Local Govts from Commercial Banks in the Country, by the Federal Govt.
The Governor should be commended for his previous spirited efforts and interventions towards sustaining past payments of salaries of workers in the Local Govts, in spite of the obvious and progressive shortfalls in their allocations, which has been occurng for close to two years.
It should be appreciated that the funds used to augment the past payments of salaries to the workers, were loans that were obtained from the Commercial Banks, which was guaranteed by the State Govt and are expected to be repaid with interests by the Local Govts from their normal allocations from the Federation Accounts.
As it were, the Federal Allocations to LG Councils have consistently been dwindling considerably to such an extent that it is increasingly difficult for them, not only to perform their Constitutional responsibilities to the people by way of provisions of socio-economic services and developments to the people but also to raise necessary funds internally to defray the salaries owed to the workers, which are considered outstanding despite many months of the workers inactivities in the various LGAs across the State.
Consequently, the stark reality facing most of the LG Councils, particularly in Kwara State today, which both NULGE and Local Govt workers must have to contend with, is that the system could no longer operate effectively again with the large numbers of workers that have been engaged to work in the LGAs.
This is because the funds from the Federation Accounts Allocation, which majority of them normally relied and overdepended upon, would no longer be available to fund their affairs especially the sustainance of payment of salaries to mostly large unprodutive workers that are usually employed in the current system of operations in the Local Govts.
Before being accused of not being sympathetic to the the unfortunate plight of workers in the Local Govts employments, I would like to state that at various fora in the past, I have predicted that this current precarious situation of most Local Govts across the States shall become a reality unless they invest part of their usually allocated Capital and Excess Crude Funds, in areas or agriculture and other viable ventures that could provide them more revenues internally, to compliment what they usually receive from Federal Allocations.
However, all of them, apart from Kaiama LGA, did not see any merit in this laudable advice but rather, they continued to behave as if revenues from Oil would always be available to them forever to run their affairs.
I am sure that they should now be regretting their none challant attitudes to embrace my wise counselling because as things stand presently, they can no longer meet up with the execution of their Recurrent Expenditures due to continous reduction in their Federal Allocations, while they have since stopped funding or carrying out Capital Projects for close to two years now, except when the Kwara State Govt assisted the Sixteen LG Councils to secure a loan of N1.6 billion from the Commercial Bank, which was meant for specific Capital Projects across the LGAs.
However, only half of the loan eventually went into funding some of the Capital Projects originally proposed because the balance sum had to be used eventually to augment the payment of salaries of workers in the end, due to inadequacy in their allocations from the Federation Accounts.
There is no doubting the fact that the system of Local Govt in Kwara State and indeed in most other States in Nigeria, is tilting towards total failure and permanent shutdown unless their method of operations are changed towards operating lean Governments while more funding should be provided to them from the Federation Accounts, in order to enable them operate more efficiently and effectively to serve the people well.
Additionally, the system should be redesigned to enable them invest in areas of Agriculture, Solid Minerals and Tourism, in line with the new Federal and State Govt’s focus on promoting and boosting investments in those areas as sources of generating more revenues to replace the Country’s overdependence on Oil as our main source of generating revenues.
To that effect therefore, NULGE and Local Govt workers, must be ready to dialogue and negotiate with the Kwara State Govt on the most realistic way towards solving the current problems of unpaid workers salaries, which has definitely emanated from the sharp reduction in their Federal Allocations due to the dwindling revenues from Oil, rather than blame the Kwara State Govt unduly for their predicaments.
The State Govt, under the currently prevailing economic circumstances in the Country, may not be able to do better than its acceptance to offload the payment of salaries of the Junior Secondary School Teachers from the normal responsibilities of the Local Govts, unless the Federal Govt also comes to the aid of the Local Govts, like earlier suggested in another forum, by granting them Special Bailouts, to offset the outstanding balance of salaries to their workers.
However, the realistic solution towards the sustainance of regular salary payment in Local Govt Councils in the State, is for NULGE to agree to the redeployment of most of the current workers in the Local Govts in the State, to start new careers in engagements in areas of agriculture where they could easily become more prosperous, while only few deserving ones amongst them would be retained to render essential duties and socio-economic services in the Local Govt Areas.
This should be a wise option that I would like to advise them to adopt, under the prevailent harsh economic challenges currently being faced by the entire Nation, as against a situation whereby the workers continue to engage in protests or strike actions, which might eventually lead to their being disengaged outrightly from sevice because it is becoming increasingly impossible for the operations in Local Govt system to be sustained with the current largely unproductive workforce and also the dwindling revenues from the Federation Accounts whose end may not be in sight in a short while.
The arguments that Kwara State Govt should grant autonomy to Local Govts in the State, whatever this mean to them, as being canvased by those in the Opposition Parties as permanent solution to the current problems of the Local Govt Councils, is highly misplaced because the operations of the Local Govts in the State is in accordance with both the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, and also the Laws as had been passed by the Kwara State House Assembly, which is the authority empowered to make Laws on the existence, operations and finances of the Local Govt Councils in the State.
Therefore, any other type or form of autonomy for the Local Govts in the State, as may be desired by anybody or group, could only manifest through proper process of amendments of the present Constitution.
Engineer Abdulkarim Ayinde