Former Agriculture Minister Audu Ogbeh has called on the Federal Government to stop allocating monthly funds to states where governors have established illegal caretaker committees for local government (LG) administrations. Ogbeh’s remarks underscore the growing concerns over the lack of autonomy and mismanagement of LG resources by state governments.

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Speaking on a Channels Television program, Ogbeh emphasized that the Supreme Court has deemed the use of caretaker committees for LGs as unlawful. “Any governor who sets up a caretaker committee should not receive any funds because a caretaker is illegal, by the Supreme Court. Don’t send them cash, deduct their own and keep it,” the former minister stated.

Nigeria has a total of 774 local government areas, which are intended to be the third tier of government responsible for grassroots development. However, the effectiveness of LGs has been severely hampered by the control and interference of state governors, who have been accused of diverting funds meant for local administration.

Ogbeh’s call for action comes amid a growing push for LG autonomy in Nigeria. President Bola Tinubu has expressed support for this cause, and in May, the Federal Government initiated legal action against the 36 state governors for alleged misappropriation of local government funds.

Currently, the revenue allocation formula grants the Federal Government 52.68%, states 26.72%, and local governments 20.60% of the country’s monthly revenue. However, the practice of depositing LG funds into joint accounts managed by state governments has been widely criticized for enabling fund mismanagement.

Ogbeh suggested that the Federal Government should discontinue the payment of LG funds to these joint accounts and instead transfer the funds directly to accounts managed solely by local government administrations. “I can’t be sending you money that disappears. You don’t repair primary schools, you don’t do anything, the money vanishes, and they say they are paying workers. For which work?” the former minister lamented.

The ex-PDP national chairman accused some governors of appointing their loyalists as caretaker chairmen, providing them with minimal stipends while diverting the majority of the funds to dubious purposes. Ogbeh warned that these failures are “creating dangerous problems for the country.”

Ogbeh emphasized that a functional LG system could effectively address many of Nigeria’s social and environmental challenges, such as the provision of potable water, the prevention of infectious diseases, the maintenance of school infrastructure, and the availability of medical supplies in healthcare centers.

“Here you have a system which, unfortunately, is not working. If it were working, a lot of these problems would not be there,” Ogbeh said, suggesting that the LG system should be scrapped altogether if governors continue to impede its functionality.

The former minister’s call for the Federal Government to withhold funds from states undermining local governments underscores the urgent need for reforms to ensure the autonomy and effective operation of the third tier of government in Nigeria.