The Rivers State Gover
nor, Chief (Barrister) Nyesom Ezenwo Wike last week inaugurated 19 Local Government Council Caretaker Committee Chairmen.The ceremony took place after the 19 nominees of the chairmen were screened and confirmed by the Rivers State House of Assembly as stated by law.
This set of the local Government council executives are the fourth caretaker committee council since last year June 2015. Soon after the general elections in March, 2015,the past administration hurriedly conducted local government elections in 22 local government areas, but the 8th State House of Assembly was not happy with the maner in which the election was held, summoned the Rivers State INEC headed by Prof. Agustine Ahiauzu. Soon after the probe, the Assembly recommended the sack of the commission. Consequently the Governor, assented to appointed a new board.
The Local Government system is guaranteed under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, section 7 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution provides for the functions of a Local Government Council under its Fourth Schedule. This schedule tends to derive mainly from the Basic and Constitutional Transition Provisions (Decree 15 of 1987).
Thus, functions of Local Governments are categorised into The Exclusive list and the Concurrent list.
The exclusive list of functions are those functions that are solely performed by Local Governments, while the concurrent list of functions are those that the Local Government performs in collaboration with State and Federal Governments. The State and/or Federal Government can also perform these functions on behalf of local Governments until Local Governments are in a position to perform such functions.
According to the Fourth Schedule 1 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, the main functions of a Local Government Council are as follows: The consideration and the making of recommendations to a State commission on economic planning or any similar body on the economic development of the state, particularly in so far as the areas of authority of the council and of the State are affected, and proposals made by the said commission or body; Collection of rates, radio and television licences; Establishment and maintenance of cemetries, burial grounds and homes for the destitute or infirm and many other taxes and Licences.
As earlier indicated the executive arm of the Local Government is constituted by the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman elected with him, the Secretary and Supervisors appointed by the Chairman.
On the other hand, incompetent officers are either told to improve on their performance or are shown the way out of the service. Such an impartial procedure in the system makes for growth and viability of the entire system as dedicated workers are duly rewarded and conversely incompetent and dishonest officers earn their due punishments for their misdemeanor.
What is to be emphasised here is the need for officials to strive to be efficient and dedicated by acquiring the requisite education, training and retraining to enable them perform. Such knowledge needs to include the learning of the rules and regulations in the circumstance, officers should have and own copies of Financial Memoranda, the Nigerian Constitution, bye-laws and other extant rules and regulations. A deep mastery of such rules and procedures would facilitate their job delivery and performance. Furthermore, they can become aware of their entitlements, rights and privileges. The employers’ responsibilities are equally known to them. It makes for the good health and success of the service. It is expected that a corps of educated, trained and diligent staff would be in a position to advance the course and progress of development in the Local Governments.
While inaugurating the Caretaker Committee Chairmen, the State Government provided the necessary guidelines and structure in order to ensure effectiveness, efficiency, probity and accountability and some measures of control and monitoring.
Wike warned the Council executives of reckless spending and promised to withhold security votes of executives if they failed to perform and deliver what was expected of them.
The Governor regretted that some local government chairmen were owing workers many months of salaries, charged the new council executives to clear all workers salaries owed by their predecessors.
The Governor directed that the new Chairmen should ensure that this directive is followed to the letter as he called on the local Government Service Commission (LGSC) to ensure the payment of outstanding salaries owed to local government council workers.
The Governor said he will monitor the payment of workers salaries by first withholding the imprest and security votes to the council chiefs, stating that salaries must first be paid.
According to him, this government will monitor pattern of expenditure of the local government areas to ensure that funds are deployed to areas that will promote the interest of the people, adding that the chairmen must get approval before they could access their security votes and imprest.
‘’ All salaries owed local government workers must be settled before any security votes are released to the caretaker chairmen. We must uphold the welfares of workers at all levels’’, he said.
The Governor who had been a local government chairman aware of tricks played by some top officials of the local government also extended the warning to the Local Government Heads Personnel Management (LGHPM) and Treasures against colluding with caretaker committee chairmen to negatively manipulate financial process in the council.
‘’ Sanctions await any Local Government Head of Personnel Management or Treasurer who colludes with the chairman to release unauthorized funds’’.
While directing the local government caretaker committees to always remit taxes deducted after payment of salaries also advised that they should interface with security agencies to promote peace and order.
Meanwhile the chairman of the Port Harcourt City Local Government Council, Christian Chiokwa promised that apart from payment of salaries, he would ensure security by liaising with security agencies to create peaceful atmosphere for business and citizens. He also said he will focus on the sanitation of the state capital
Senate Sets Up Seven-Member Conference Committee On Electoral Act Amendment Bill
The Senate has set up a Conference Committee to harmonize positions on the Electoral Act Amendments Bill.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who announced this Wednesday during plenary, said that the conference Committee will work with that of the House of Representatives in order to be on the same page on Electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to Lawan, Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North will be the leader of the team.
Other members are Senators Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South to represent North West; Danjuma Goje, APC, Gombe Central for North East; Uche Ekwunife, PDP, Anambra Central for South East; Sani Mohammed Musa, APC, Niger East for North Central; Ajibola Basiru, APC, Osun Central for South West and Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South.
Recall that of the seven members for the Conference, while only Senator Urhoghide voted YES Electronic transmission of election results, Senator Ekwunife was absent during the voting time and the other five members who are of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC voted NO for electronic transmission of election results.
The Senate was before its annual recess thrown into confusion and uproar as Senators considered the Report of the Electoral Bill, 2021 which is a Bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections.
PIA: Buhari’s Aide Tasks Southern Govs, Lawmakers On Amendments
The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, has asked the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) and members of the National Assembly to take advantage of the proposed amendment to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to change the Act on controversial issues of host communities development fund and the frontier basins exploration trust fund.
Mr Enang, a former senator, said members could propose amendments that could be consolidated with those proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He stated this while appearing on “Politics Today” a programme on Channels TV.
Mr Buhari had written the National Assembly on Tuesday seeking an amendment to the PIA on the administrative part of the law.
The letter dated September 16 was read by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives during plenary sessions on Tuesday.
The PIA, which was assented to by the president on August 16, was passed by the National Assembly under controversial circumstances in both chambers of the National Assembly in July.
The president seeks to increase the number of non-executive board members of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority and the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory commission from two to six, to ensure representation of all geopolitical zones.
The Nigerian Governors Forum had in a communique after its 35th teleconference meeting in July expressed dissatisfaction with the ownership of the NNPC Limited and the issues of host communities and the frontier exploration trust fund.
The NGF recommended that given that the corporation is owned by the three tiers of government, the newly incorporated entity (NNPC Limited) should be owned by a vehicle that “holds th.e interest of the three tiers of government” – the institution that is currently positioned to carry out this mandate is the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
The governors, in the communique, said they will address the issues using appropriate channels including the National Economic Council and the National Assembly.
Deepening Constitutional Democracy
One person who seems to be unhappy about the way the country runs its political parties is Mr Dan Nwanyanwu, the Chairman of Zenith Labour Party.
To him, funding of political parties should not be left at the whims and caprices of money bags, the president, governors or other elected officers of political parties.
He said that such would weaken the political system and make members mere spectators in their own affairs.
He recalled his experience when he gate-crashed in a meeting of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), presided over by the National Chairman, late Adisa Akinloye.
He noted that party supremacy was the in-thing, as the then President Shehu Shagari and his Deputy, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, sat where ordinary members of the party were all seated.
He stated that Akinloye, as the chairman and other party executives sat in a special seat provided for them.
Nwanyanwu said that in those days, there was equal ownership of the party, because members contributed and were unwaveringly committed to the party’s ideology.
The Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Leonard Nzenwa, stated that non-payment of party dues by party members, remained the core problem in deepening constitutional democracy in the country.
He said that political parties should be mass-owned, mass-oriented, mass funded and must be people-centred, stressing that it is the only way to ensure equality of members in any political party.
According to him, where it looks like few people put funds together to bankroll or fund any political party, such will remain a major problem to constitutional democracy.
Nzenwa who doubles as the Chairman of Action Alliance (AA), noted that funding of political parties by money-bags or few individuals, is a setback to constitutional democracy.
He observed that Nigeria is the only country where members of political parties would refuse to pay their party dues.
He said that in South Africa, the legendary Nelson Mandela, never claimed ownership of the African National Congress (ANC).
“Even in the days of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, they never claimed to own their party as members pay their dues as and when due,” he said
The IPAC boss said that if today promoters of political parties are laying claims to ownership of their respective political parties, it showed the sad reality of the time.
“Even in America where we borrowed our democracy, no one claimed to own the party even as rich as former President Donald Trump is, at no time did he claim to own the party unlike what is obtainable in Nigeria,” he said
He said that the idea of certain individuals claiming ownership of political parties should be stopped, adding that such people used it as a vehicle to blackmail others.
Nzenwa noted that such abuse must be addressed through party structure, commitment of members to the party and high sense of responsibility.
“Hardly do members pay party dues, including my political party and this is because of non-chalant attitude of members, so the money-bags hijack the parties.
“Political parties cannot survive if members refuse to pay, because why we have problem in political parties is that members do not want to make commitment and do not want to take responsibility.
“Members are not sincere and that is why we have this issue because people keep jumping from one political party to the other once they see that there are going to get money there, there is no ideology whatsoever,” he stated.
The Publicity Secretary of Young Peoples Party (YPP), Mr. Wale Martins, on his part said that YPP members pay their monthly dues, which according to him, is what has been keeping the party going.
He stated that donations are also welcomed from members and highly spirited Nigerians, but added that, that would not confer undue advantage on them.
“YPP members pay monthly dues which differ from state to state; for instance, in Lagos members pay N1000 monthly, while in some other states, they pay between N500 and N100, while party executives pay N3000,” he said
Martins stressed that payment of dues create a sense of belonging, adding that it would further help to promote accountability.
Martins said that members were reluctant to pay their dues because money-bags had hijacked the political structure and members had given tacit support to those willing to drop money in a bid to control the soul of the party and dictate the pace.
Martins said that vote-buying, manipulation and other shenanigans are fallout of this ugly development, especially during party primaries to elect candidate that would fly the flags of the parties.
He also said that government’s withdrawal of payment of subvention to parties was responsible for hijacking of the political process by powerful individuals.
“The government used to give political parties subvention, but the sudden withdrawal of such subvention eroded their confidence and left members with no choice than to embrace money-bags,’’ he said.
The Executive Director, Adopt A Goal For Development Initiative, Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, said that the country cannot deepen constitutional democracy without political party reformation.
He said that the reformation must guarantee internal party democracy and ensure that party members and officials adhere strictly to rules, guidelines and the constitution.
He noted that the products of political parties become the drivers of the nation’s democracy; hence, the country must focus on the basic foundation of ensuring the process of party membership conforms to best practices.
“We must ensure that few money bags and people in power do not undermine and appropriate the functions of political parties,” he said.
To get the best out of this democracy, Atoye stated that the country needs political parties that are funded by members and the public and not a few political merchants.
Ogunshola writes for News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
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