By uzoukwuchidiadimiracle • 9 days ago • 122 views • 23 comments

The President Muhammadu Buhari administration, last

week, announced plans to begin direct allocation to local

governments from June 1 to stop state governors from

hijacking those funds through their Joint Account

Allocation Committees. In this interview, elder statesman

and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor

Attah described the Federal Government’s move as

unconstitutional, saying it is an attempt to “right a wrong

with another wrong.”

I Thought He Was Still A Gentleman

While he conceded that most state governments have

behaved less than honourably in administering the finances

of local governments, Attah who has been a consistent

advocate of true federalism, said the federal government

has no right to deal directly with the third tier of

government. He canvasses true federalism as the only way

out of Nigeria’s numerous challenges.

Obong Victor Attah

You have been a consistent advocate of true federalism,

what is your take on the decision of the Federal

Government to fund the local governments directly?

The issue is, for how long will we continue to operate a

system that forces us to compound one evil on another?

When you read this Vanguard headline ‘FG stops Govs from

seizing LG allocations’, it sounds fantastic because what

has been going on was solely evil. The governors would

receive money and yet starve the local governments. They

just treated them as if they did not exist; give the chairman

small pocket money and let him go and keep quiet. It is

completely and totally wrong because the local government

is the closest to the people. It has obligations and

responsibilities to the people and they were not being

allowed to perform their functions in any way because their

funds were being seized by the states.

But there is no where in the world where you have

federalism that the federal government relates directly with

the local governments. Local government administration is

purely and entirely the function of the state governments

and I am surprised because Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was the

Governor (of Lagos) with the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo

as the Attorney General when Obasanjo did that evil of

seizing Lagos state local governments funds. I joined them

in the fight because they had also joined me in the fight for

resource control.

All these things are wrong and they all come down to the

fact that we are not operating a proper federal system. So,

for how long will we persist in this attitude of placing one

wrong on another? Is it until the country explodes. Why

don’t we just stop, put a halt to all these evil and have a

rebirth, complete rebirth and a complete rethink of what

Nigeria should be and how its federalism should be


You were a state governor for eight years. How did you

relate with the LGs?

When I was in government, it was clear to everybody that

the local government in which the state capital is located

carries the highest burden of primary school teachers and

running of primary schools is the responsibility of local

governments. If the federal government sits and sends

money to my local government, that local government, Uyo

will not have the funds even to pay half the primary school

teachers in Uyo. While the others would be awash with

money, Uyo will not even have the money to pay all. You

can say up to 40 percent of the primary school teachers are

concentrated in Uyo and the other schools are redistributed

to the other 30 local governments.

This is just one aspect of the responsibility of a local

government not to mention in developing rural roads and

other things that local governments are supposed to do.

So, we took a decision that we are educating Akwa Ibom

children and so we cannot put the burden on Uyo local

government only simply because the capital is located in

Uyo, all the civil servants are in Uyo, businesses are in Uyo,

so Uyo carries, by far, the largest number of primary


What we did was to make salaries of primary school

teachers, first charge. We must take money and pay every

primary school before we redistribute it. But at least, we

honestly distributed the money even though I hear there

were complaints about what my Commissioner for Local

Government then was doing and the Economic and

Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, came and investigated,

and till today I do not know what the result of the

investigation is.

The allocation formula is there with all the other elements

but the one factor that clearly was lopsided was the issue

of primary school teachers. All the local governments

participated in designing the formula. They participated

fully in what we did.

It is so completely and totally wrong that in a federal

system, the central government should have direct

relationship with the local government. It should never

happen. It is the state governments that should even create

the local governments. It is the state governments that

administer the local governments. The laws for local

governments are made by the State Houses of Assembly.

So, we just take this federal idea and go halfway with this

and put another half….and we do not operate it properly as

it ought to be. We really must change this system. We must

agree and emphasize on a new arrangement that makes it

possible for local governments to be what they are, have

the correct relationship with the state governments and

then we will have a federal system that works for all of us.

How about the N500, 000 ceiling on daily withdrawal for

the LGs?

What I am telling you is, all those should be made by the

state assembly. The laws that states make for their local

governments should be respected. This shouldn’t be a

federal government law.

How about states that have refused to conduct LG

elections? Should they also benefit from this direct


It is illegal and it cannot happen in a proper federal system.

There are laws made that there should be an election and

the tenures are stated and you must obey. That is why I

tell you, that when you apply this federalism halfway and

stop, there will be issues. A governor that does that should

be impeached.

But the Houses of assembly are like rubber stamps. Would

you advocate financial autonomy to the Houses first before

the LGs?

They should not be rubber stamps if they were properly

elected by the people. What I would rather we have is true

federalism. We had it before under the parliamentary

system and the local governments were there under the

regions and we didn’t have these complaints because we

operated a proper federal system. When we turn something

upside down, we don’t know how to turn it back right up,

we just turn it halfway up and then we have hotch-potch of

nonsense. Total nonsense and more nonsense will come

out of more nonsense because we are not running a proper

system. Let Nigerians stop trying to think that we continue

to panel beat this system. Let us go for a proper federal

system and bring back the parliamentary system that we


This is like a fire brigade approach to just stop those evil

governors from seizing their local government funds but it

is wrong. That is why I said we are compounding wrong on

wrong, evil on evil and the only way to kill that is having a

proper system, properly enunciated and properly run. This is

trying to use wrong to right a wrong and it makes it very

faulty. Don’t try to use wrong to replace another wrong.

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