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Kaduna State: Local Government Financial Autonomy, A Right Step

By Yusuf Ishaku Goje

Recently, the Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Uba Sani, charged the 23 Local Government Council Chairmen in the State to focus on developmental projects. The Governor further declared at the meeting that the era of buying items and distributing to the people is over. More so, the most exciting part of the statement as reported in the media is the Governor’s promise to grant the 23 Local Councils financial autonomy.

 

This is timely, even though it will not be as easy as the statement suggests. The immediate past administration, with support of the Partnership to Engage, Reform & Learn (PERL, with funding from Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office), did well in terms of initiating far-reaching reforms in Public Financial Management, Policy and Strategy, Public Service Management as well as Monitoring and Evaluation.

 

However, the statement by the Governor that the Local Government Councils have been enjoying financial autonomy in the past eight years is subject to empirical debate. To start with, the State Tax (codification and consolidation) law has removed the powers of Local Government Councils to collect independent revenue and vested it in the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service (KADIRS).

 

Challenges persist in terms of allegations of under-declaration of collection (even though no publicly available evidence to substantiate) as well as reconciliation and under-remittance of collected revenue to the 23 LGAs. During the last two LG Budget Defense at the Kaduna State House of Assembly, civil society representatives observed that many of the LG Councils presented independent revenue performance with follow-up comments that remittances were not made to them.

 

Similarly, the Audit reports show that the State government has been inconsistent in remitting the statutory 10% Internally Generated Revenue to the 23 LG Councils. For instance, the reports of 2019, 2020, 2021 showed zero percent remittance; while in 2022 the 23 LGAs only got a meager 1.10%.

 

In addition,the State laws such as the State Joint Local Government Account Allocation Committee Law, 2019, mandates that about eight payments should be made to the State from the statutory allocations, which shall be a first line charge on the account before disbursements of funds to the Local Government Councils. For instance, in the State’s 2023 approved budget, LG Councils are expected to contribute about N9.9 billion to internal grants.

 

The three points highlighted above leave little or no discretionary funds for the LG Councils to carry-out developmental projects, coupled with the fact that they need approval for expenditure from the Ministry for Local Government Affairs. Also, it will interest the Governor to note that under the Ministry for Local Government Affairs, budgetary provisions and cash-backed releases have been low for critical developmental projects such as rural roads, electrification, transformers and special intervention for Kaura LGA.

 

Nonetheless, it is good to note that in other fora the Governor had pledged his commitment to the prioritization of rural development. This is a departure from his predecessor and benefactor, who is a conspicuous proponent of urbanization. No doubt, public investment must be equitably distributed to ensure inclusive development with no one left behind.

 

It is commendable that the Kaduna State Government has commenced a stakeholder sensitisation for the development of Bills for the establishment of Rural Access Roads Agency (RARA) and State Road Fund (SRF). This, if passed into law and operationalized with the appropriate institutional and realistic funding framework, will boost rural economics and accelerate inclusive development.

 

As the Governor had already admonished the 23 LG Council Chairmen, indeed, the era of politics is over in the State. Truly, this is the time to eschew political, religious or ethnic sentiments in delivering the primary purpose of government, which is the security and welfare of the people, as captured in section 14(2,b) of the 1999 Constitution of the FRN (as amended).

 

Importantly, we call on the Governor to sustain ongoing local government administration reforms, while at the same time commission a review of the LG fiscal space as well as remit outstanding independent revenue and statutory 10% IGR to the 23 LG Councils.

 

On the other hand, social accountability platforms such as the Kaduna Local Government Accountability Mechanism (KAD-LGAM), championing the principles of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), are ready to engage, support where necessary and hold the government and the 23 LG Councils to account on the above issues.

 

Lets engage, ask the right questions and hold the government accountable.

 

Yusuf Ishaku Goje

Active Citizen

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