The Senate has thrown its weight behind Financial regulations released by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and urged relevant stakeholders like State Houses of Assembly and the Presidency to accelerate action on the actualisation of local government reform, including financial autonomy.
The Senate position comes two days after NFIU rolled out guidelines on management of local government funds, effectively abolishing Joint States and Local Government Accounts under which state governors had deprived the third tier of government access to statutorily allocated funds from the Federation Account.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, during deliberations on a motion called on State Houses of Assembly to urgently attend to the Constitution Amendment Bill on local government reform before the expiration of the current Assemblies.
He made the call while contributing to the debate on the Motion on entitled “Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU and Local Government Finances”, which was sponsored by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North).
He said: “Today, we have lying in all the states, the National Assembly Bill on the reform of the local government system, which was part of the last efforts by this National Assembly to amend the constitution. Now some states have been sitting on it.
“So, I want to use this opportunity to appeal to those states where the Bill is still hanging to allow the State Assemblies to look into those Bill and take a decision one way or the other. If we are able to do that, it will be one of the best legacies this Assembly would give to Nigerians”.
Supporting the motion, the lawmaker pointed out that since the issue of management of states, federal, and local government allocations was spelt out in iSection 162 of the Constitution, the Senate should liaise with the NFIU to ensure that Guidelines did not provoke litigations.
“I remember that many years ago, when the Federal Government started saving money through the Excess Crude Accounts, governors went to court to challenge it. So, I suggest that our relevant Committees sit down with the NFIU to ensure that whatever Guidelines they come up with that we do not engage ourselves in unnecessary litigations”, he said.
He also suggested that the Committees and NFIU take a second look at the N500,000 flat daily withdrawal limit for local governments to determine the appropriate amount that would support daily operations of local governments, depending on needs, especially for those in urban areas.
The Deputy President of the Senate was however full of praise for former governors in the Senate for their rethink on local government reform.
“I want to commend the Senate branch of the Governors Forum for now being born again. After sometime, it is better to have a reflection on a system and even if you’ve been making a mistake, we must find a way of doing the right thing”, he added.