Prior to the January 13 local government election in Kano State, the people of Nasarawa Local Government—the largest local government in the state — had suffered from lack of portable water, insecurity caused by armed robbery and an unhygienic environment, among others.
While on the campaign trail, Auwal Aramposu, who was later elected executive chairman of the local government, promised to address the issues as soon as he gets into office. But nearly a year after his election, the problems have worsened.
A jerrycan of water that used to sell for N20 now costs N40; armed robbers break into people’s homes at will while clearing of the environment has been left to the people. THE WHISTLER saw drainages in different parts of the local government blocked with dirt, leading to flooding of homes whenever it rained.
The problem of drug abuse has also grown from bad to worse without the local government coming up with any programmes to engage idle youths. The residents are further frustrated by the inaccessibility of the elected officials who have not been accountable to the people that elected them. They seemed to have turned their backs on the people.
“They came to us and promised to give us water, electricity, roads, security and others, but we didn’t get anything,” said 35-year-old Ibrahim Abdulhamed, a resident of Gama ward in Gwagwarwa area of the local government. “For me, I will not vote again,” he declared while walking away with his electrician’s tool bag strapped to his back.
Gama ward is where the local government chairman comes from and the evidence of the rot surrounds his father’s house. The house, painted in immaculate white colour, is surrounded by gutters filled with smelly water and dirt.
The 2021 capital expenditure estimates for the local government seen by THE WHISTLER shows an allocation of over N750 million to the “Environmental and Area Development Sector.” Items under the sector include water supply, environmental sewage and drainage and community development.
According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics(NBS), in the first two months that Aramposu came into office as chairman, a total of N566, 716, 626.50 was paid to Nasarawa LG from the Federation Accounts, representing January and February allocations of N280,191, 565.21 and N286,525, 063.29, respectively. Details of FAAC allocations to LGs from Federation Acounts have not been provided since after the February release.
But the figures for 2020 give a clear idea of how much fund has been given to local governments in the state from the federation account. From January to December 2020, a total of N3, 464, 950, 095.18 was the share of the LG from FAAC allocation. After the challenges of the covid-19 pandemic last year, allocations have steadily increased and it is believed that over N4 billion would have accrued to the LG by end of November this year.
Since January this year, all the 44 LGs have continued to share over N7 billion monthly allocations from FAAC, and by the end of November, a total of N73.3 billion had been given to all the LGs in the state. This is certainly enough for Aramposu and his colleagues to execute some of the critical capital projects for their local governments.
But the Kano State Government has continued to swindle local governments out of their fund allocations for years through the Ministry for Local Government Affairs. The LGs in the state operate three different accounts namely: Project Account, LG Account and Revenue Account. The first two accounts are supervised by the ministry and only the revenue account (where the LG internally generated revenue is domiciled) is managed by the local government.
Giving an insight into the financial process in the state under Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, a deputy chairman in one of the LGs revealed that LGs do not have control of their allocations which are distributed into the project and LG accounts from the State Joint Local Government Account, in compliance with Section 162 (6), (7) and (8) of the 1999 Constitution.
But while the monies are shared into the two accounts, they are not spent by the LGs. Each local government is asked to submit a list of projects they would like to execute and most LGs submit at least five. The ministry will decide which projects to be done in each of the local governments. Sometimes the ministry approves two or one of the projects. There are no comprehensive budgets for LGs.
The state awards the contracts but the LGs will pay the contractors. In the case of state projects, LGs where the projects are sited are made to finance it from their project account. Again, the state government awards the contracts, but the LGs sign the cheques.
But since Aramposu was elected chairman, no capital project has been executed. His Facebook page was last updated in April when he shared a photo of his birthday cake. The only picture of a public event shared on the Facebook page is a photo of the chairman casting his vote during the LG election. It was posted on January 30.
Aramposu refused to speak to THE WHISTLER when the reporter visited the local government secretariat. The LG spokesperson, Mohammad Kabir, said Aramposu did not wish to speak on the issues.
“The chairman has said he will not grant any interview. He said he doesn’t want to speak with any journalist,” said Kabir.
But Ibrahim Garba Maryam, a member of the Kano Civil Society Forum, told this website in an interview that local governments in the state are being run by the state government. He claimed that there was neither transparency nor accountability in the running of the affairs of LGs as their budgets are shrouded in secrecy.
Maryam, who is also a steering committee member of the Kano State Open Governance Partnership, said he had tried unsuccessfully (including writing a Freedom of Information Act request) to get his LG budget in the last seven years.
He said, “The LG chairmen are not and cannot do any project for the people because their funds are not given to them. The state does whatever it likes with the State Joint Local Government Account. The LGs don’t even have budgets you can see. There’s no transparency and accountability and inclusive participation at the local governments anymore.
“We did a survey with councilors in the state and most of them had never seen their local government budget. In my own local government of Nasarawa, I did a Freedom of Information request for the budget but I couldn’t get it for seven years.
“As a budget tracker, I can confirm that most of the road projects being done by the state are 95 percent LG fund. So you ask yourself, what is the state government doing with its own allocation?”
Many of the LG chairmen in the state were also unwilling to speak to THE WHISTLER when contacted. But the chairman of Ungongo Local Government, Engineer Abdullahi Garba Ramat, who was persuaded to grant an interview by a mutual friend, admitted that LGs in the state do not have control of their funds but rationalized it as a strategy to prevent local government officials from embezzling the funds.
He said, “We have a joint account with the state government but you don’t have control of your funds. Joint account is controlled by the state government but all the funds coming to the account belong to the LGs. You know the state governments have staff that are more experienced and the governor is also very experienced and knows what the state wants much more than the LG elected officials.
“So instead of giving the money to the LGs for them to embezzle, the state government will establish scale of preference. So, the state would ask the LG chairmen to submit three or five projects they want and they will select from it. But if our funds are with us as LG, we may know better what we need.”
But when asked how many capital projects he had executed since coming to office, he mentioned renovation of schools, hospitals and building of a “smart new police station’ to protect the community. But there were no evidence of this on ground except the newly constructed police station which was awarded by the state government and paid for by the LG.He however disclosed that his administration is able to execute projects by partnering with private investors.
As a way out of their financial predicament due to the state capture of their funds, many of the local governments are stepping up the collection of taxes and levies to boost their internally generated revenue. The taxes and levies they collect are the only independent sources of revenue for the LGs because those are paid into their revenue account.
In Oyo State, local governments are not faring any better as the case of Ido Local Government Area, one of the 33 LGs in the state, shows. Ido LG, regarded as the new face of Ibadan because of its proximity to the state capital, is a predominantly farming community. The rural folks have for years lamented the lack of link roads and bridges to facilitate the transportation of food items.
Sheriff Adeojo, son of the popular politician Yekin Adeoja, emerged the chairman after an election in May this year. He told the people during his pre-election campaign he would fix the roads; provide water, electricity transformers and public toilets.
After five months in office, Adeojo has not been able to keep any of his promises. Residents of Omi Adio, where the local government headquarters is located, took the reporter to at least ten roads the chairman promised to rehabilitate but on which nothing had been done. They include the road to Olorieran Powerline, Iyana Abiogun to Dagi Onidoko and the slippery Alakaso road where motorcycle crashes occur daily.
At the Omi Adio main market where there are at least 600 shops and sheds, traders told THE WHISTLER that the LG did not put any public toilet in place. Traders and customers defecate at any corner in the market and dispose them into the nearby bush.
Pa Samsom Ogunpolu, a 68-year-old tailor who also engaged in farming, pointing at a dilapidated bridge residents use when going to the farm, told THE WHISTLER: “They promised to do this bridge and roads, that’s why we voted for them. But they have not done anything. We have health centres but they do not have any medicine and if we’re sick, we have to go to Akpata General Hospital.”
Yet, an estimated N1. 648,536,234.23 have accrued to the local government from the federation account since January this year. Last year, according to the NBS data, the LG received a total of N1. 586, 956,483.94 from FAAC. All the 33 LGs have shared over N5 billion every month since January this year, totalling over N54.7 billion from January to November. Where have all the money gone?
Chairman of the LG, Adeojo, could not provide the answers when THE WHISTLER met him for an interview. He admitted he had not done much on the roads issue because he met “all the heavy machines grounded” when he took over as chairman. “So I had to go out and seek help. I’ve been able to get some colleagues to help me. So, we’re trying to fix the heavy machines—the bulldozers, excavators, tractors and graders,” he said.
Asked whether his LG gets all its allocations regularly as due, he said, “ Well, that’s going to be a story for another day!” And when asked why, he said, “You know, because it’s governance and in government, there are some things you don’t say openly.”
THE WHISTLER found out that Adeojo broke the unwritten regulation put in place for LG administrators since Governor Seyi Makinde came into office in May 2019 by talking to a journalist without clearance from the Head of Service. Adejare Kayode, Information Officer for Ibadan South West Local Government, told this reporter when he visited the LG Secretariat the procedure for interviewing an LG chairman.
He said, “You have to write a letter to the Head of Service stating why you want the interview and what information you want. It is the HoS that will authorize the chairman to speak.” He insisted that the reporter could not get any access to the chairman until I followed the stated procedure.
The situation is similar to Kano State where LG chairmen are under the Ministry of Local Governments and councils have to inform the commissioner about their needs or when there are emergencies such as an epidemic or natural disaster. The ministry is said to be the most lucrative among the Ministries, Agencies and Departments of government. The wife of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, Hafsat, was seen in a video campaigning for him to succeed her husband as governor in 2023.
Efforts to speak with the commissioner for information, Mohammed Garba, were unsuccessful as he did not answer his calls. When THE WHISTLER requested details of capital expenditures for all the 44 LGs in Kano from the ministry of local government, a director asked for a letter of request, saying “it’s a very sensitive document.”
The reporter wrote an FOI request and submitted it to the commissioner’s office on October 21. But no response was received up to the time of publishing this report.
– This report was produced in partnership with the Civic Media Lab under its Grass-roots News Project.