The chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria,(ALGON), Kogi state chapter, Aloysius Okino has described as false, and malicious a publication in a National newspaper that claimed there was massive fraud in the local councils in Kogi state.
In a statement signed by the Special Adviser, Media and Strategy, to ALGON, Ibrahim Obansa, said that the hatchet job of the reporters has no value other than the sensation that it has created, adding that It is nothing but a fiction that has been presented as facts
For the avoidance of doubt, the crisis in the payment of salaries in the Local Government Councils pre-dates the current State and Local Government Administrations in the State.
The issue is an inherited problem which His Excellency, Capt. Idris Wada, in his characteristic manner has is tackling frontally with the active involvement of the council chairmen.
According to him, the imaginary people, Isaac Ibe and Mallam Hassan Otse which the reporters presented as staff of Igalamela/Odolu and Ijumu Local Government Areas respectively, are nothing but ghost names, not know to the councils, saying that the names were merely invented to buttress concocted lies and evidence.
The chairman further said that the claim by the authors of the ill conceived piece that allocations have quadrupled is illogical, noting that the writers had earlier admitted in the early part of their report that allocations to councils has dropped drastically in 2012 as a result of the fall in oil price.
“The above claim is not only contradictory, but a case of approbating and reprobating”, saying that allocation to Local Government Councils have not quadrupled, rather it has been dropping progressively.
While the duo of Theophilus Abbah and Usman Bello who wrote the report created the impression that Local Councils in Kogi State receive an average of N180 million per month, they presented a table showing many Local Government Areas receiving only about N120m.
He described this as an invented mathematics to mislead readers, saying that even if the average of the figures presented is calculated it will not add up to N180m, saying that the councils deals actual and not imaginary figures.
“For the avoidance of doubt, in the month of December, 2013, the total allocation from the federation account (FAAC) was N3,500,586,497.14 while the amount distributed and disbursed to Local governments stood at N 1,411,591,455.46, the total salary wage bill expenditure is N1,876,055,020.15. how can a council pay full salary in the circumstance” he said.
He noted that various statutory deduction had to be made from the same amount which includes remittance of N1.362 Billion for teachers salaries, 1% remitted to Local Government Service Commission, 1% remitted to Local Government Joint Accounts and 5% for traditional councils emoluments.
Others according to him include remittance to local Government pension Board, VAT charges, COT charges as well as 2.5% LGEA Administrative overhead cost, adding that there has not been any deductions in the last seven months outside the statutory ones in line with the governor’s directive.
Speaking further he said in the determined mind-set of the reporters to create a false impression and report unfairly, the reporters claimed to have approached the Chairman of Kogi State ALGON for an interview, saying that this is not true as no such overture was made by them, but a plan to work to a pre determined answer.
The writers of this piece have, as it is usual of many critics, done the easier part, but the commitment of Captain Idris Wada and the Local Government Chairmen in the State to the welfare of the people of Kogi State remains unwavering.
“I want to state categorically that the inability of councils to pay full salaries was occasioned by over staffing of Local Government Councils Recruitment of non-professional staff into professional departments, with their payment based on professional salary structures. This is in the Health and Agriculture Departments where this wrong placement of personnel impact negatively on the payroll of most Local Government Councils”
“Additionally, in one case, the Works Department of a particular Local Government has over 200 members of staff and not a single one of them is an Engineer or possesses any technical proficiency” he noted
He noted further that the declining revenue from the federation account, Implementation of the new minimum wage without a corresponding increase in the allocation to councils were also responsible for the non payment of full salaries.
According to him Some of the other claims in the story are too pedestrian to deserve any response from serious minded people, noting that If a bank manager made away with customer’s funds in a bank, it is the responsibility of the bank to provide answers, and so has no bearing with the councils, that is if it ever happened.
The chairman who noted that the issues have been slanted to cause odium and opprobrium to the State, cautioned that due caution be exercised in the conduct and deployment of the much avowed and time honoured press freedom.