AK Local Councils Are Broke – Says Commissioner…. As State Govt Goes For FG Bail- Out Loan

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The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Victor Antai has said that against the numerous allegations that the state government is responsible for the financial crisis in the local government sector, it is rather the fall in the federal allocations to LGA’s and the inability of many LGA’s in the hinterlands to raise internally generated revenue to bolster their weak revenue base that is causing a lot of problems in the third tier of government

The Commissioner who was speaking at a joint press briefing facilitated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)for his Ministry and the   Ministry of Finance in Uyo to explain certain contentious issues in the public domain, announced for the umpteenth time that “ No state Governor can swindle the monies allocated to local government councils. It is the easiest route for any governor who wants to go to jail . I have been a council chairman for four years and I am now a Commissioner for local government and chieftancy affairs and I can tell you that every kobo given to the local government in the federation account has a sub-head and as a result nobody can take that money to do anything else. The problem you are seeing in the local governments with money is because their allocation has dropped and what comes in cannot even pay salary bills any longer”

Giving a brief analysis of the financial difficulties faced by the local government councils. Mr. Antai said in May 2016 like other months in the past one year, there has been a steady decline in the amount accruing to the local governments explaining that “ In May 2016 , the thirty-one  local government councils received  about N74 Billion and the salary bill for teachers and pensioners  is way above that amount. By the time the local governments add other obligations to this you will find that after the Joint State Account ,their balances are in the negative. Last month Etinan had a deficit of –N21 million, Abak-N 36mIllion, Ikot Ekpene N-47 Million. If you talk about their internally generated revenue, some of them cannot even raise the money that can be used for cutting the grass around the councils. The only local governments that have anything in terms of IGR are the Cosmopolitan LGA’s and they in fac t bear the brunt of paying pensions because a lot of people who could manage to work in rural LGA’s quickly transfer their services to cosmopolitan ones towards retirement because they have their houses in places like Uyo, Eket, Ikot Ekpene ,Abak and few other cosmopolitan LGA’s for ease of collecting their pension”:

Antai who praised Governor Udom Emmanuel for his financial re-engineering that makes it possible for salaries to be paid despite the bad outlook of the finances in the state and the local government councils said it is unfortunate that people who should be acting as statesmen in these challenging times by proffering solutions to the difficulties are rather fighting an election that has since been won on radio, by issuing false reports of how much the state gets from federation account”

Emphasizing that Governor Udom Emmanuel does not touch the funds of local government councils, Antai noted that the state government pays a percentage of the internally generated revenue to the joint allocation account and it is shared among the 31 local government councils

“ But for those who are very gullible in our state or choose to join the bandwagon of mischief makers , it is very easy to find out how much comes to the state and what happens at the state joint account. My office is always open and ready to take questions, the commissioner for finance will be ready to make all necessary clarifications, the commissioner for Information and communications is always on hand and the  PDP Publicity Secretary will be more than willing to offer necessary support in tern s of information required. Journalists should therefore crosscheck their facts with us before going to the press” he explained

The Commissioner added that there was indeed the possibility that wages may differ from time to time in the LGA’s saying “ You are aware that every month people retire and this adds to the pension bill. As things are now we won’t be able to pay arrears of promotion, leave grant and other fringe benefits but once allocation improves even the workers will know about it and agitation will begin . In that month when we pay people will see the wage bill and without asking questions will talk about how it is different  from the previous months”

On the challenge to conduct local government  election , Antai noted that the decision has to be well considered because of the current financial status of the state. Beside the fact that the current one month allocation of the state is not enough to conduct the election , he said that the payment of their emolument and severance benefits of political office holders will plunge the state into more difficult financial situation

Making clarifications on the state of  finances in Akwa Ibom state, the Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Akan Okon revealed that what the state now gets from the Federal Allocation Account has dropped sharply and this was making the delivery of services very challenging

“In May, 2016, the state received N5.3 billion and the salary bill is N4.8 billion. After paying the salaries what is left is N500 million. How can a government meet its obligation with that kind of finances. This has been the situation in the past few months, yet Governor Emmanuel does his best to keep the state moving. He is not owing salaries and other government obligations are being fulfilled. Yes there may be some challenges dealing with all the payment of pension at a time. Of course you know civil servants are retiring monthly and we have to properly work out the details but in all, government is doing its best to make everyone happy. Do not forget that in June last year once Governor Udom was in office he  paid pensioners ten years pension they were owed. So the Governor takes the issue of pensioners seriously” he stated

Although the  the state government did not take the initial bail-out given  by the federal government to states because the Governor said he  did not fully appreciate the condition and the state did not need it, Mr. Akan Okon noted that the government will participate in the N90 billion  funds the federal government is putting out to assist the states

Explaining that the funds is in categories, the Commissioner added that it is the federal government that will determine what a state can get based on a sustainability analysis

“The loan is in ranges, so based on a state’s sustainability analysis it can get., N2 Billion, N5 Billion Or N15.5 billion which is the ceiling. We will be willing to go for the ceiling. We have analyzed the loan and it is comfortable for the state”

At the interactive session , the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Ini Ememobong maintained that the party and the government will not be reactionary and this is why it put up the briefing to allow journalists ask the relevant authorities  questions for clarifications

He promised that such fora will be organized regularly for proper information dissemination on the activities of government.

 

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