AGENE GODWIN, Benin
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has further explained reasons for the recent suspension of four local government chairmen in the state, saying their suspension had nothing to do with politics ahead of the 2016 gubernatorial elections in the state.
Speaking, Monday, at the swearing-in of Prince Joe Okojie as a Commissioner in the state Executive Council and Mr. Busari Yesufu as Chairman, Etsako West Local Government Area of the state, Oshiomhole said: “Today, we have ensured that with all the crisis in Nigeria, when many State Governments are unable to pay salaries, I am proud to say that in Edo we are paying. However, some of these local governments, for some reasons were not able to pay salaries as and when due and we have looked at some of their books, we have received some petitions, it is true that finances are low but even if your finances are low, you also need to cut your wastages.
“We looked at the locally generated revenue, in many cases, these locally generated revenue are never reflected in the books of the local government. It’s just generated and paid directly to some of the local government chairmen. There have been several other abuses and I am proud to say that when the new local government chairmen were sworn in, I made sure all the revenue accruing to local governments before we conducted elections, were left in the treasury of the Local Government so the local governments could use them judiciously to develop their various localities.
“I know for example in Akoko Edo, we had more than N560 million that they inherited because I directed the Heads of Service of the Local Governments not to spend the money of the Local Government. Some inherited N600 million, N400 million accruing from previous years and of course, all the debts which their predecessor incurred, we made sure that all of those were paid. That is how far we have gone, whereas, in some states, the Local Government money comes and the Governor just spends it, in Edo State, we don’t do that and we will never do that and if any future governor wants to do that, I will expect the local government chairmen to react.
“Now if we give you so much free hand, and we help you to save so that you can use the resources to develop your area and in the end you put us in bad news, you are not able to pay salaries and while you are not paying salaries, you are employing your relatives, you are employing all kinds of characters and you are diverting resources to projects that are of no benefits to the people and at the same time, employees of the local government who are working for you for 2, 3, 4, 6 months, you are not paying them and we have evidence that you are still involve in some elements of mismanagement, we can’t continue like that.
“We needed to make a statement that all of us are accountable, that everyone is accountable and that was the reason we took those measures. Government will always be fair but we also have to be firm. We must ensure that Edo State must not join the club of states that over a period look back and they can’t see what difference they have made in the lives of their people.
“We are setting up enquiries to investigate all of these allegations and depending on the finding of the panels, we will know what to do next and I want to assure our people that we respect the autonomy of our local governments, we recognise the rights of an elected official to manage the resources of his governments but we also have a duty to ensure that public funds are not diverted by local governments or by any one for purpose other than what is good for the people of their locality.