PRESS BRIEFING BY THE BUREAU OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND CHIEFTAINCY AFFAIRS, MAKURDI, BENUE STATE BY HON. TITUS ZAM, SPECIAL ADVISER, BUREAU OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND CHIEFTAINCY AFFAIRS, MAKURDI, BENUE STATE.
It is with great pleasure and honour, I address you “soldiers of the pen” practicing in Benue State today on the activities and programmes of the Bureau since this administration of Samuel Ortom came to power on 29th May, 2015 to date.
Firstly, there is need for me to give you the basic background information relating to the structure, manpower strength and responsibilities of the Bureau before the details.
Since May, 2007, the Organization has operated as a Bureau instead of a Ministry as it used to be referred to. Today, by God’s grace, I Hon. Titus T. Zam is the Political Head while Mr. Emmanuel O. Ikpe is the Administrative Head and Chief Accounting officer.
The Bureau has six (6) departments with their heads as follows:
- Administration and Supply – Mr. Kegh Gabriel
- Finance and Accounts – Mr. Gbagyo Emmanuel
- Planning, Research and Statistics – Mr. Gabriel Tese
- Monitoring and Inspection – Mr. Geoffery Iorhemba
- Local Government Affairs – Mrs. Juliana Or
- Chieftaincy Affairs – Mrs. Racheal Chia
The Bureau also maintains three zonal offices located at Gboko, Katsina-Ala Otukpo with the aim of supervising and monitoring projects and programmes of the Local Government Councils within their zones.
In addition to this, the Bureau has offices in the 23 Local Government Councils. These offices monitor activities of the individual Local Governments where they are located.
The Bureau has a total of one hundred and ninety (190) permanent staff shared into the various departments as follows:
|1||Administration and Supply||22|
|2||Finance and Accounts||32|
|3||Planning, Research and Statistics||23|
|4||Monitoring and Inspecting||92|
|5||Local Government Affairs||23|
The Bureau also has a total of 50 casual staff.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE BUREAU
The Bureau is charged with the following responsibilities:
- General administration.
- Issuance of guidelines and rendering of assistance to Local Governments in the State to operate within the laid down rules and regulations.
- Giving guidelines for the preparation of development plans and annual estimates of Local Governments in conformity with national development objectives.
- Assisting Local Governments in the preparation of development plans and annual estimates in line with Federal/State Policies.
- Monitoring and ensuring the implementation of guidelines from state and federal governments.
- The Bureau also ensures the treasury records are properly maintained.
- Coordinate matters of common interest to local governments.
- Lays down conditions for safe custody of cash and prevention of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds in the local governments.
- Explores new revenue sources for Local Government and ensures that fair percentages of their estimated revenues within the financial year are collected.
- Enhances the procurement of revenue earnings receipts for Local Government Councils.
- Relating with Local Government Service Commission, Local Government Pension Board, Office of the Auditor – General for Local Government as well as State and Local Government Affairs Department in the Presidency, Abuja.
- Ensures that Local Government Councils spend their Federal Allocations and internally generated revenues in accordance with laid down guidelines issued by Federal and State Governments.
- Providing the Secretariats for State Joint Account Committee meeting of the Local Governments in the State of which the Special Adviser is the Chairman and that of the meeting of sole administrators of Local Government with the Executive Governor.
- Monitoring and ensuring the implementation of ancillary guidelines from higher levels of government.
- Coordinating matters relating to Local Government Reforms.
- Advises the Government on matters relating to the creating of new development areas for Local Government as and when necessary;
- Advises on issues of boundary disputes among Local Governments;
- Ensures that quarterly returns of the actual income and expenditure of Local Governments in the state are promptly rendered to the Presidency with a copy forwarded to the Bank of Nigeria; advises government on all chieftaincy matters generally.
- Serves as the Secretariat for State Council of Chiefs.
- Reviews of guidelines of selection of Traditional Rulers in the State.
ACTIVITIES OF THE BUREAU
- Expansion of membership of the Joint Account and Allocation Committee
In the spirit of transparency of the Ortom administration, the membership of the JAAC meeting has been expanded to include Labour leaders namely: State President, National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Chairman, Nigerian Union of Teachers. The essence is for the labour leaders to know what comes into the state in terms of Federal Allocation and how it is shared. This has greatly helped to maintain relative peace in Government – Labour relationship in the state.
- Introduction of e-payment payroll system for the Local Governments
It may be recalled that attempts were made in 2013, 2014 and early part of 2015 by the immediate past administration to introduce the e-payment payroll system but it was abandoned. The present administration felt it was a good programme and continued with it so that the actual number of staff of the third tier of Government could be ascertained. A complaint Verification Committee with membership drawn from the Bureau of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Local Government Service Commission, Auditor-General Local Government and Office of the Accountant General was set u.
At the end of the exercise the staff strength of Local Government Councils came down from 29,000 to 22,501.
This also translated to reduction in salary payment of both Local Government staff and primary school teachers when a similar exercise was carried out by the State Executive Council Committee.
Before the exercise, the primary school teachers in the state were taking N1,994,862,716.23 but now N1,877,021,386.37 while the Local Government staff collet about N1,600,378,360.12 instead of N1,756,323,109.98.
This has brought the wage bill of both LG staff and primary school teachers to N3,477,399,746.49; besides other statutory payments like pension and Tor Tiv/Ochi Idoma allocations etc.
- Payment of bailout funds
Ladies and gentlemen, I know some of you had interacted with me directly or other officials of the Bureau on this matter in the past. However, I wish to put the records straight as shown in the tables below for everybody to see.
SUMMARY OF BAIL-OUT FUNDS RECEIVED AND DISBURSED TO LGAS AND LGEAS IN BENUE STATE AS AT 6TH MARCH, 2017
|S/NO||LGA||NO. OF STAFF||LGA STAFF AMT||NO. OF TEACHERS||LGEA TEACHERS AMT.||BAILOUT RECEIVED|
|BALANCE AT BANK||1,087,062,625.29|
|ADD: FAILED TRANSACTION||273,335,843.20|
|BALANCE AT BANK||1,360,398,468.49|
SUMMARY OF BAIL-OUT DISBURSED THROUGH THE E-PAYMENT SYSTEM AND APPROVAL OF EXCO FAST TRACK COMMITTEE TO LG STAFF AND TEACHERS IN THE BAILOUT MONTHS OF JANUARY, FEBRUARY, MARCH AND APRIL 2015 A BACKWARDS
|S/NO||BENEFICIARY||AMOUNT DISBURSED||AMOUNT RECEIVED|
|BAIL-OUT FUNDS RECEIVED||15,509,000,0000.00|
|1||BAIL OUT TO LG STAFF – EXCO FAST TRACK COMMITTEE||1,382,682,142.77|
|2||BAIL-OUT TO TEACHERS – EXCO FAST TRACK COMMITTEE||1,285,371,859.33|
|3||BAIL-OUT TO LG STAFF – E-PAYMENT SYSTEM||3,779,628,525.45|
|4||BAIL-OUT TO TEACHERS – E-PAYMENT SYSTEM||7,063,323,272.15|
|6||LOCAL GOVERNMENT STAFF PAYE TO BIRS||210,259,113.00|
|7||MEDICAL AND HEALTH WORKERS UNION OF NIG. (MHWUN) DUES||74,327,019.92|
|11||NIGERIAN CIVIL SERVICE UNION (NCSU)||12,414,836.00|
|12||TEACHERS & NON TEACHING STAFF PAYE TO BIRS||320,900,692.53|
|BAIL-OUT BALANCE AS AT 6TH MARCH, 2016||1,087,062,625.29|
|Add: Failed Transactions Reversed||273,335,843.20|
|BAIL-OUT BALANCE AS AT 6TH MARCH, 2016||1,360,398,468.49|
Today, I wish to state that the balance of N1,360,398,468.49 at the Bank, the Bureau cannot access it because of garnishee orders from many court judgements. You may not know this fact that former workers of Taraku Mills Ltd. took the State Government to court and the case was decided in their favour and the Bureau’s Account got garnisheed to the tune of N995,272,521.89 among other cases.
- Expenditure of Paris – London Funds
The share of the fund to the Local Government was N5,500,000,000.00 and below is the expenditure outlay for you to see.
AGGREGATED SUMMARY OF TRANSACTIONS FROM PARIS – LONDON CLUB FUND
|20/12/2016||PARIS-LONDON CLUB REFUND||5,500,000,000.00|
|19/12/2016||LOCAL GOVT. PENSION BOARD FOR 2 MONTHS||234,000,000.00||4.25|
|19/12/2016||SUBEB PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERS SALARY FOR APRIL AND MAY 2016||3,723,883,939.20||67.71|
|21/12/2016 & 30/12/2016||CAPITAL EXPENDITURE (PURCHASE OF INNOSON VEHICLES FOR 14 LGC’S CONSTRUCTION OF TOR-TIV PLACE ETC.)||418,000,000.00||7.60|
|19/12/2016||SALARIES OF LGCS STAFF (2 MONTHS SALARY OF LGC STAFF I.E. MAY, JUNE AND 3 MONTHS SALARIES OF PAST CARETAKER COUNCILS)||476,174,718.48||8.66|
|19/12/2016||ADMIN RUNNING COST FOR 23 LGC’S JUDGMENT DEBT, SECURITY COST, ETC.||647,941,342.32||11.78|
- Chieftaincy Issues
- Re-instatement of Chief Daniel Abomtse, Ter Tyoshin II: The previous administration deposed Chief Daniel Abomtse based on political sentiments, having been alleged that he was romancing with APC (opposition) party. On assumption of duty Governor Samuel Ortom directed investigation into the matter and thereafter, he was reinstated. This was one gesture he did to restore dignity to our traditional rulers, whom he considered should not be hired and fired like commoners.
- Resuscitation of Benue State Council of Chiefs Forum: In order to ensure that our traditional rulers have a place and say in his administration, the Governor, directed his Special Adviser on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Titus T. Zam, who controls the Secretariat of the Forum to convene a resuscitation meeting which took place sometime in September, 2015. The essence of this was to revive the hitherto moribund council, to pave way for the Chiefs to also actively participate in governance as an advisory body to the government.
- Sponsorship of Executive Bill to Address Chieftaincy Issues in the State: It was not quite long after taking oath of office that the Samuel Ortom led EXCO sponsored a bill to address a lot of lapses that were hitherto observed in our Chieftaincy Laws, without being addressed properly. For example, it is only in the new law (Benue State Council of Chiefs and Traditional Council Law) signed by the incumbent Governor that one can find Code of Conduct for Traditional Rulers. This will ensure that our Royal Fathers behave orderly thereby restoring the lost glory of the Traditional Institution.
The befitting burial of the Late Tor Tiv, Ters Ukum, Tarka and Vandeikya.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is with heavy heart that I wish to inform you that these traditional rulers passed on in the life of our administration and they were all given befitting burials. The Tor Tiv’s burial was a carnival of some sort.
- Creation of ten (10) First Class and Forty six (46) Third Class Stools across Benue State
Today, I stand tall to say that the selection exercises had been carried out in the Tiv land of the six First Class Chiefs and 28 Third Class Chiefs. And by the grace of God on the 9th and 10th March, similar exercises will take place in Idoma land for the remaining 4 First Class Chiefs and 18 Third Class Chiefs.
- Successful Selection and Coronation of Tor-Tiv V:
Gentlemen of the Press, the state hosted a mammoth crowd of visitors who came for the coronation ceremony of the Tor Tiv V, HRM Orchivirigh Prof. James Ayatse who was selected on 20th December, 2016 without rancor. The unprecedented manner in which the selection exercise was transparently handled left no one in doubt about the Governor’s commitment to maintaining a dignified Traditional Institution in the state. His Excellency vowed not to interfere with the selection process and that paved way for huge success recorded.
- Reconstruction of the Tor Tiv Palace: The reconstruction of the Tor Tiv’s palace has reached an advanced stage amidst all financial challenges today in the land. This again is a show of serious commitment on the part of this administration to accord respect to the traditional institutions.
- Reduction in Communal and Chieftaincy Crisis: The present administration, though relatively new, has accomplished so much for the Traditional Institution in the State and one wonders what would happen if the present pace is kept for the remaining years ahead. At the moment, the interest shown by this Government in Chieftaincy matters has drastically reduced communal crises that relate to Chieftaincy issues. For instance, the Otse-Etulo crisis that destroyed lives and properties in Buruku LGA was waded into by the Governor, who constituted a committee to find ways of making peace in spite of the fact that the matter is in court. As a result of his intervention efforts, peace has already returned to the land.
- Issuance and Enforcement of Guidelines: As a supervising authority, the Bureau has continued to issue operational guidelines for the operation of all the Local Governments according to the Local Government Law (2010) as amended. The 2016 October Revised Guidelines are the current ones in force which have spelt out the functions of the sole administrators, general administration of local government, expenditure control, remuneration and other allowances.
- Capacity Building of Sole Administrators: The Bureau in conjunction with other Government bodies organized short training to sensitize sole administrators on their roles and responsibilities. Due to paucity of funds, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and Special Adviser to the Governor on Security have done a lot of in-housing trainings for sole administrators.
- Sponsorship of Pilgrimage: Due to economic recession in the State and the country in general, the Local Governments sponsored 100 Christian Pilgrims to Israel in 2016 with beneficiaries drawn from the 23 Local Government Areas. We intend to improve on the number if funding improves.
- Project Implementation: There has been tremendous improvement in the Local Government Councils. Most of the Local Government Councils have constructed drainages, feeder roads, culverts, grading of feeder roads, renovation of building etc.
- Verification Exercise and Nominal Roll for Local Government Staff: During the course of the verification exercises carried out by the State Government in the middle of 2015 and 2016, the following conclusions were arrived at for non-verification of some staff which include:
- Backdated appointments
- Non-availability of credentials
- Under aged staff
- Retirement and non-appearance for the verification exercise.
The Bureau sieved such from the nominal roll and came up with authentic nominal roll for the 23 Local Government Councils. The Bureau is currently waiting for the report of another verification exercise being carried out by the Local Government Civil Service Commission to ascertain the genuine staff of Local Government Councils.
- Peace and Security: In ensuring peace and security, the Government of Dr. Samuel Ortom has done quite impressively. The incessant and sporadic attacks and reprisals between the Uvir Community of Guma Local Government and Tongov/Shitile, Mbakor communities of Tarka Local Government over the years had finally been resolved through the charismatic act of His Excellency. In where peace had been threatened in some of our Local Governments, such as Makurdi, Agatu, Guma, Gwer-West, Buruku, Logo, Okpokwu, Ohimini, Ado, Oju, Obi etc. by Fulani herdsmen, the Governor has not relented in calling meetings of stakeholders to resolve such problems.
His Excellency, the Executive Governor has interfaced with neighbouring states of Nassarawa and Taraba to curtail this menace of Fulani invasion. This has improved significantly the security situation in the affected Local Government Areas.
- Purchase of 23 Hilux Pick Up Vans for 23 Local Government Councils and other Security Agencies: Through the JAAC meeting approval, 23 Hilux Pick Up Vans were purchased and given to Local Government Councils and Security Agencies in the State.
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The Sustainable Development Goals is a programme in which State and Local Governments are availed the opportunity to access funds for various projects.
Presently, six local government councils in the state are benefitting. These include Ohimini, Tarka, Oju, Agatu, Gboko and Ushongo. They have concluded payment of counterpart funds and documentation.
- Internally Generated Revenue: The Bureau has built a synergy with the Benue State Internal Revenue Services to improve on internally generated revenue in the Local Government Councils. It has been a very fruitful exercise; it has strengthened the revenue generation mechanism through the use of POS though still far from expectation, we shall not relent in our efforts until satisfactory result is attained.
- The Bureau in collaboration with the Ministry of Health as funded:
- Maternal Newborn and Child Health Week (MNCHW)
- Immunization (NIPDS)
- State Child Right Implementation Committee (SCRIC)
- Immunization Programmes and other primary care health programmes
- Technical working group on orphans and vulnerable children
- Compiling the list and profiles of all the Traditional Rulers in the state: the Bureau has compiled the list and profiles of all the Traditional Rulers in the State.
- Court cases with their attendant problems: The Bureau has a plethora of court cases and judgments occasioned by the actions of the previous Local Government Councils and some quite unrelated to the Bureau directly. Like I had earlier highlighted Taraku Mills Ltd. does not have a direct link with the Bureau but the Bureau’s account has been garnisheed as a result of court action by the former employees of the Taraku Mills Ltd. Some past chairmen and councilors have dragged some Local Government Councils to court and joined the Bureau for non-payment of salaries or other entitlements.
Some of the cases border on Chieftaincy disputes among others. The Bureau is determined to end these cases shortly. Sometime we agree on out of court settlement to allow peace reign
- The economic recession has also greatly affected the statutory Federal Allocation to the Local Governments. The allocations have dwindled resulting in our inability to settle the salaries of both the Local Government Staff and Primary School teachers including pension/gratuity at the same time. The average monthly statutory allocation stands at about 2 billion naira, while the salary of both Local Government Staff and Primary School teachers including their pensions and gratuity stands at about N3.7 billion. We therefore alternate the payment of salaries between the Local Government staff and Primary School teachers every month.
- Inadequate office accommodation both at the headquarters and local government areas for resident local government inspectors.
- Inadequate official vehicles to facilitate the work of field inspectors.
- Security challenges in the Local Government Areas. No day passes in the state without the Bureau receiving one or more cases of conflicts between our farmers and Fulani herdsmen in the Local Governments. This is a drain on our lean financial resources.
- Inadequate representation at courts by the Local Government councils resulting in some of them losing cases at such courts.
- Poor Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) at the Local Government level.
THE WAY FORWARD
Having highlighted the challenges of the Bureau, I wish to suggest the way forward:
- As for the court cases/judgment debts; the Bureau through the JAAC meeting has hired some lawyers to handle them. We have explored the way out of court settlement in some of the cases.
- Local Government Councils are being educated on their sources if Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and it’s our hope that things will begin to improve with time.
- As for the security challenges in the Local Government Areas, the State Government has constituted Security Committees at Clan/Kindred, Ward/District and Local Government levels. Meetings are being held regularly so that some of these cases can be nipped in the bud.
- Some of the offices are being rehabilitated to create more office accommodation.
- Some of the Bureau’s vehicles are being repaired and there are plans to buy more when the financial situation improves.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have tried to give you a vivid insight to the activities of the Bureau since this regime came to power. We have nothing to hide and I wish to assure you that you go to the local government areas; you will appreciate what the state government is doing at that level. While I await your questions on some of the areas, I wish to appreciate you all for your apt attention. Thank you and God bless you all.