It is no longer news that the 13 Local Government Areas of Nasarawa State could not pay salaries of their workers, pensions and gratuities of their retired personnel following the implementation of the financial autonomy granted to local governments in the country by the federal government.
Consequently, it was reported that officials of the council areas in the state had wished the financial autonomy earlier granted to the third tier of government in the country by the federal government be broken by Governor Abdullahi Sule in Nasarawa State.
The scenario played back sometime when the governor flagged -off remodelling of the over 50 years old LGEA primary school, Mararaba Gongon in Wamba local government area of the state, being executed by the Nasarawa State Sustainable Development Goals.
“When I was coming to Wamba, I received battalion of messages that, please when I get there I should pay local government workers’ salaries. When federal government decided that there should be independence of the local government and they should receive their allocation directly, I was in support.”
Sule maintained that the situation where governors dominate finances of the local governments in the country was uncalled for, therefore people must elect local government officials that are competent to come out with initiatives, ideas that would generate revenues to supplement what is gotten from the federation account.
“Nasarawa State is rich and capable of generating its own revenues without going to the federal government. The idea is to get people who have the initiative, the capacity, the patriotism that would turn around the fortune of the state,” he re-echoed.
Despite expressing dissatisfaction with governance at the third tier of government in the state, the governor did not hesitate to support local government areas in the state to pay salaries and pension arrears to the pensioners.
He gave the support during a meeting with the outgone chairmen of the 13 local government areas, director general of Nasarawa State Pension Board, as well as leaders of the local government pension union at the Government House, Lafia.
Governor Sule said at the meeting that he was ready to redeem his earlier pledge to assist the LGAs from the second trench of SIFTAS Funds, so that the council areas could pay one month pension arrears to their retirees. He continued that hence the meeting was to map out modalities for the payment of the one month pension arrears for the local government pensioners.
This was even as he explained that his meeting with the council chairmen became necessary in order to deliberate on the way forward regarding the scheduled council election of the state.
The governor then used the opportunity to assure the council chairmen that he was not against them, stressing that his call for the ruling party to ensure only competent persons secure the ticket of the party in the forthcoming council poll was only predicated on the sincere desire to move the state ahead and to be less dependent on monthly subvention.
As the state gears towards conducting local government election probably this year, Governor Sule has continued with his sensitisation campaign to people of the state to ensure they elect only competent individuals to provide necessary leadership at the local government level of the state.
He re-echoed the need to elect only competent hands to manage affairs of the third tier of governance in the state, while hosting members of the Mada South Unity Forum at his private residence in Lafia recently.
“I will prefer to see the people elect chairmen who have the experience and capacity to exploit and harness resources found in each of the councils, rather than depending on monthly subvention just to pay salaries,” the governor maintained.
While stressing that his administration will be transparent and fair in the conduct of the forthcoming council election, the governor however appealed to people of the state to ensure that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), fields in only competent candidates that will assist the administration by exploiting and harnessing abundant natural and human resources at the council areas.
“I therefore urge the people of Akwanga local government area to select a chairmanship candidate who is competent enough to harness and exploit the abundant natural resources found in the area for the collective benefit of the people” He concluded.
He bade farewell to the former chairmen of the local government areas in the state, as well as overseers of development areas, whose tenure comes to an end on May, 28, 2021.
The governor while appreciating the outgone officials for supporting the All Progressives Congress (APC), as well as his administration, directed them to hand over to their respective director of Personnel Management, pending the constitution of a Transition Management Committee (TMC) to man the councils.
Engineer Sule specifically thanked the outgoing council officials for supporting his administration in the areas of security and governance, particularly in youth and women empowerment and their support towards curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor acknowledged that there had been challenges during the past two years of his administration, with the councils unable to pay staff salaries as well as pension of retirees.
He blamed the situation on dwindling resources from the federation account, as well as the inability of the councils to generate enough internal revenue, to support local government expenses.
The governor assured that his administration would continue to work towards resolving the lingering challenges in the councils, as it affects payment of workers salary and pension for retirees.
Sule assured that his administration would not hinder any of the outgoing council officials from contesting the forthcoming council election.
He however pointed out that some of the outgoing chairmen and overseers may be retained as TMCs in order to guide the state government.
The governor in a separate meeting with directors of Personnel Management (DPMs) of the 13 local government areas (LGAs), charged them to prioritise payment of staff salaries.
The governor advised the DPMs to be prudent in managing the affairs of their respective local councils in order to be able to offset outstanding pensions and salaries of workers.
He noted that the DPMs were an integral part of the system and better positioned to ensure the development of the local government.
“Those of you owing two months as well as 22 per cent of last month’s salary should be able to offset the 22 per cent from your first savings.
“Those owing only one month can offset from first savings and carryout some projects that will have a direct impact on the community,” Sule said.