By G9ija

Igbawase Ukumba writes that Governor Abdullahi Sule is reviving the third tier of governance in Nasarawa State

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 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 out at Mararaba Gongon Village of Wamba Local Government Area of the state when the governor flagged off remodeling of an over 50-year old LGEA Primary School, Mararaba Gongon in Wamba Local Government Area of the state, executed by the Nasarawa State Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While flagging-off the remodeling of the Mararaba Gongon primary school, Governor Sule said: “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 independent of the local government and 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 they get 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,” the governor reechoed.

Despite expressing dissatisfaction with governance at the third tier of government in the state, Governor Sule did not hesitate to support local government areas in the state pay, at least, one month pension arrears to the pensioners. He gave the support recently during a meeting with 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.
Accordingly, 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 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 Sule 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.

According to the governor, “the local government election is expected to hold by February 2021, but there is need for me to meet with the council chairmen regarding the issue of funds to be used in conducting the election.”

As the state gears towards conducting local government election by February 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 reechoed 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 only competent candidates that will assist the administration by exploiting and harnessing abundant natural and human resources at the council areas.

He concluded: “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.”

Suffice to notice that people of Nasarawa State have been looking forward to the conduct of local government election by the Nasarawa State Independent Electoral Commission (NASIEC) this year with reservations. But chairman of the NASIEC, Ayuba Wande Usman, assured that the state electoral body has been planning to have local government election of the state conducted this year.

Speaking to THISDAY recently, Wande said: “Nasarawa State Independent Electoral Commission is planning to hold the next local government election in February, because the tenure of the present elected local government council officials will expire by May 2021.”

“We had some allocation to this commission in the last budget, and we are still awaiting the release of this fund from the state government because some segments of the preparation of the local government election is going to take place this year. We have also proposed some amount in the 2021 budget. But full force will be coming out in the 2021.”

He continued that NASIEC had N300 million meant for the local election captured in the 2020 budget, and also had N600 million captured in the 2021 budget.

“For us as a commission, we have a budget of N879 million for the conduct of the entire election. Legally from our law, there are only two factors that can make us either call off an election or postpone an election. The first one is insecurity and the second one is lack of fund,” Wande explained.

The state electoral boss said he has sworn an oath, and there was one basic thing he said on the day he was sworn in that with him as head of affairs in NASIEC, he was only going to announce results as they come from the field.

Acccording to him, “As a lawyer, you know I will never do anything that will be upturned by tribunal or by any court. And I will never do anything that someone will come and ask me questions and I will not be able to answer. So as results come from various polling unit, that is how it is going to be announced.”
However the Nasarawa State Inter-party Advisory Council had recently advised Governor Sule not to substitute elected officials as leaders at the third tier of government in the state. The Inter-party Advisory Council made the call in a communique it issued to journalists at the end of its extra-ordinary meeting held in Lafia recently.

The communique, which was jointly signed by Mr Cletus Ogah and Abraham Gyabo, chairman and secretary of the state council of IPAC respectively, noted that there was a substituting judgement of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on the illegality of any administrative contraption that may be used to substitute elected officials as leaders at the third tier of government.

The communique read: “Besides the Nasarawa State House of Assembly has since passed a resolution calling on the state government to conduct election into the local government councils at the expiration of the tenure of the present chairmen and councillors. Specifically, IPAC urge the state government to provide necessary funds for the Nasarawa State Independent Electoral Commission (NASIEC) to conduct chairmanship and councillorship election in all the 13 local government areas of the state.”

The communique concluded by calling on the state electoral umpire to as a matter of urgency and necessity come up with a time table preparatory to the conduct of election into the local government areas, taking into consideration that the tenure of the present local government elected officials expires in May, 2021.