LG funds: After meeting with Buhari, governors may sue NFIU

Governors of the 36 states under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, may take the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit to court over its directive that they should not tamper with funds accruing to local government areas from the Federation Accounts, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.

The decision to approach the court may, however, wait until the governors exploit their option to use dialogue to resolve the issue.

Our correspondent learnt that one of the means of dialogue reached at the meeting of the NGF in Abuja on Wednesday was for its leadership to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari over the NFIU directive.

The NGF, it was also learnt, discussed the possibility of meeting with the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to inform him about what they considered as the illegality of the NFIU’s directive.

The new Chairman of the NGF, who is also the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, told our correspondent that the possibility of approaching the court had not been ruled out on the matter.

But he added that the forum would explore all avenues before considering legal option.

“The possibility of approaching the court on the issue is high and has not been ruled out. But we will explore all the avenues for dialogue first. June 1, which the agency gave as the date for implementation of the directive to banks and the local government areas, is fast approaching,” Fayemi added.

Under Nigeria’s revenue sharing formula, the Federal Government takes 52.68 per cent from the federation account, the 36 states 26.72 per cent, while 20.60 per cent is handed to the 774 councils.

However, governors created a join account with local governments in their states through which they control what comes to the local government areas.

The NFIU, on May 1 issued a guideline to reduce vulnerabilities created by cash withdrawals from local government funds throughout the country.

The guideline, amongst others, seek to systematically restore councils financial autonomy.

It also limited the cash amount that could be withdrawn from any local government to N500,000 a day.

But the outgoing chairman of the NGF, who is also the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, maintained that the NFIU order issued  governors not to touch revenues disbursed to local governments every month from the federation account, was unconstitutional.

He said they would take the matter to Buhari to let him know the agency constitutionally lacks power to issue such orders.

He had said after the NGF meeting on Wednesday, “The Forum is concerned with recent guidelines of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit which seeks to impose restriction on the powers of states and local governments to operate within constitutionally approved parameters.

“The new guidelines have no legal basis under the NFIU Act and are contrary to constitutional provisions which put the State Joint Local Government Account under the legislation of the state Houses of Assembly.

“The guidelines will also be detrimental to the interest of the states and local governments by crippling programmes such as the Universal Basic Education programme, Primary Health Care Under One Roof as well as the payment of the salaries of teachers, medical doctors and health workers among others which are primarily funded by state governments.”

 

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