Senate on Wednesday frowned at the various state governors on alleged mismanagement of the State/Local Government joint accounts.
The upper legislative chamber therefore urged the State Houses of Assembly and the Presidency to expedite action on the issue of granting financial autonomy to local government councils across the country.
This is even as the Deputy Senate President and chairman of Senate Committee on Constitution Review, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, advised the upper legislative chamber to liaise with the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU to ensure that the guidelines do not contradict with any part of the Constitution.
The Senate resolution was sequel to a motion, “Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU”, by Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, APC-Niger North during plenary following the new financial guidelines released by the NFIU.
Tagged “Guidelines to reduce vulnerabilities created by cash withdrawals from LG funds throughout Nigeria effective 1st June”, the new financial guidelines limit cash transactions in the accounts of local governments to a daily maximum of N500, 000.
The new guideline mandates financial institutions to distribute funds accruable to local governments among the local government councils of that state and not for other purposes.
“With effect from June 1, any bank that allows any transaction from any local government account without monies first reaching a particular local government account will be sanctioned 100 per cent, locally and internationally.
“In addition, a provision is also made to the effect that there shall be no cash withdrawal from any local government account for a cumulative amount exceeding N500,000 per day”.
The upper legislative chamber in the motion, observed that such measure would deepen democracy and good governance at the grassroot levels.
Presenting the motion, Senator Abdullahi, said issuance of the new guidelines was prompted by threats by international financial watchdogs to sanction Nigeria because of financial abuse.
According to him, the NFIU guidelines would reinforce the existence of Local Government as an independent government established by the Constitution at the grassroots level with sovereign and elected officials
“The Senate further agrees that the NFlU guidelines do not serve any purpose other than freeing the financial system from being flooded with cash which criminals use to escape transparency, accountability, and criminal investigation,” he said.
Contributing, Ekweremadu appealed to state assemblies to fast-track their work on pending constitutional amendments which would give legal backing to local government autonomy.
He, however, explained that position of the Senate that financial institutions should support the implementation of the new guidelines, contravenes Section 162 (6&7) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Ekweremadu advised that the position of the Senate must conform with what is permissible in the constitution.
He warned that if any section of the constitution is flouted, governors may challenge the move in court, saying the best option was to amend the various sections of the constitution to grant full autonomy to local governments.
Also contributing to debate, Deputy Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, said: “If we succeed in executing this, 60% of corruption in Nigeria will be resolved.This will be a major landmark if the Senate decides to follow through its resolutions.
“Let all financial institutions agree, and all of us agree that we must follow these guidelines and let the local governments be autonomous.”
Many former governors in the senate who supported the motion, said the reforms were overdue and will help free up funds for the development of local governments.
Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who presided, urged the standing committees on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes; State and Local Governments, to follow up and ensure that positions reached by the Senate are adhered to.
He said the local governments as currently constituted, can’t deliver dividends of democracy to the people as long as state governors are in charge of the funds.