Stealing Ebonyi Local Governments’s Funds

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by Emma Igwe

In fairness to Her Excellency , the wife of State Executive
Governor, Mrs. Josephine Elechi . She is a rare gift to humanity and
EBONYIANS in particular . She is an icon per excellence , a virtuous
woman and a social political connoisseur who knows where and when it
is pinching her children . This commendation is a well deserved honour
, an unbiased appreciation of a woman after our heart , devoid of
sycophancy or any appendage to her status as the First Lady of the
State . I am not commending her Excellency’s laudable MCCI programme
which has not only revived the once hopeless VVF in this State but
united many homes that were hitherto broken by the menace . It speaks
for itself .This encomium has nothing to do with the first lady’s
sympathy and incurable love for widow hood and the indigent people in
the society .
This time, she has won my accolade for her immense concern and
solemn steadfastness to generate sense of belonging , safety and
satisfaction to the people at the grassroot which development and
political participation has continued to elude . She demonstrated
respect for the people of Ebonyi State and God recently when she
damned every consequence and publicly condemned the ineffectual and
inept performance of our some council Chairmen who vested with the
power to promote and co-ordinate development at that level of
government . She exemplified a rare sense of responsibility and
responsiveness to the hues and cry among the public over that tier of
government . She exhibited these starling qualities during her
official visit and project inspection tour to Ikwo Local Government .
She courageously unmasked Barr. Celestine Igberi Nweme ,the Algon
Chairman as a low performer whose insignificant development plan has
not touched the lives of those in the periphery of decision making
arrangement but has alienated the poor rural dwellers from government
. Her Excellency also rejected his gifts for abysmal infrastructural
facilities in his council area and ordered him to convert the gift into meaningful projects that will benefit the people at the grassroot.



The first lady while berating the ignoble action of the council
stated bitterly “that despite the allocation the local governments
receive like others, it was not utilized by the council chairman”
It was also pathetic to hear from Her Excellency that some local
governments and sister development centres could not even pay a common
counterpart fund to World Bank Agency to secure grant to embark on
grassroot projects in their various council areas . It can be deduced
from the anger of Her Excellency over this uncommon drama that there
is enormous fund available to the local governments but its economic
and financial profile is still very poor; relative to the
developmental programmes it is expected to carry out in their
locality.
It can also suggest that the council chairmen have failed to
exercise the certain powers and control over the affairs in their
domain. There seems to be some impediments that have been infringing
on the functions and duties of these council Chairmen who have
continued to live outlandish life style since they assume office at
the expense of the poor rural dwellers.
While some people might ascribe the political connotation and or
bitter personal rancour with the affected council chairman to the
action of the First Lady , I am of the view that the thing that made
a mother to publicly spank his lovely child is deeper in meaning than
what we think.The drama has summarily brought so many questions to my
mind. One , since the council areas have enough fund at their disposal
according to Mrs. Elechi why has local governments which are suppose
to serve as the basis for socio-economic development in their various
localities do not live up to their expectations . Two , what are the
causes of the apparent conspicuous under performance of local
government chairmen in the state . To diagnose the poor performances
of our council areas so many questions need to be answered .

One , did the council chairmen emerged on popular mandate of their people or
were they imposed on their people by Ikwo power brokers who merely see
the council areas located several kilometers away from Ikwo as
extension of their business enterprises that must make profit at the
end of every month.

Two ,how many times have the Governor visited
various council areas on projects inspection or do the Governor rely
on his brothers who are exploiting the inaccessibility of the
Governor to make various demands on the council chairmen since they
can never verify from his Excellency. In this regard the Governor
needs to tender apology to Ebonyi people for his docility on
monitoring our council areas and for his failure to caution his
brother who goes around giving various and unmerited awards to Council
Chairmen and Coordinators for a mere fact that they make a monthly
return of two million naira to the powerful Ikwo commissioner.

It is pertinent to raise this fear as every available
indications ,convictions and physical observation have shown that un
necessary interferences by a particular powerful commissioner of Ikwo
extraction and widescale embezzlement by officials at the local
government has made the needed development of the grass root a tall
dream and has rendered them financially incapable to discharge their
constitutionally assigned responsibilities.

Thirdly, what are the challenges of the local? Given the dismal performance of local
governments these days in the economic development process of local
areas which made the first Lady to fight in public , it is imperative
to know if local government is truly a third tier of government or an
agency under the ministry of local government and chieftaincy matters
headed by Mr. Celestine Nwali .

Can we posit now that section 7 of the 1999 constitution has lowered the status of local governments as a mere appendage of the state government . In practical terms, the first
Lady should be aware of existence of one unholy alliance between the
state and local councils called the JOINT ACCOUNT COMMITTEE (JAC)
constituted by the state government under the imperial leadership of
Mr. Celestine Nwali. The wife of the governor should equally know that
Ikwo people are responsible for the maladministration of our Council
areas in Ebonyi .

How come an Ikwo man is the commissioner for local
governments, Chairman, Association for Local Governments of
Nigeria(ALGON }, Ebonyi State Chapter, Chairman Coordinators Forum,
Chairman Local Governments pension board to mention but a few. Is
Mrs. Elechi not aware that unnecessary deductions are made to satisfy
the gluttonous tendencies of Ikwo political cabal?. Why come JAC will
never publish the allocations made available to local governments and
Development centres?
Madam Excellency ,are you not aware of several phony accounts created
for the purpose of diverting our collective wealth . The former beauty
goddess of Abakaliki land , if you can summon the courage to stop
this particular Ikwo from stealing our collective wealth , you will
register your name in the Guinness book of records . The to do good
may be there but the courage may be lacking in view of the prevailing
politics of sycophancy and clannishism as exemplified in the present
day government. All these incapacitate the council chairmen from
functioning effectively and further alienate grassroot people from
social services .
However, local governments in now considered as an extension of
the ALMIGHTY ministry of local government and chieftaincy matters ,
created as a subservient institution that have become a tool of
manipulation by the commissioner instead of the aspired status of
instruments of change and development at the grass root. The council
Chairmen awaits for next directives from the ministry before they
could think of paying their salaries let alone embarking on
development project.The degree of external influence and intrusion in
that level of government by the agent of the state is worrisome .
Recently , one hundred and forty million naira(#140m) was
withdrawn from the account of one Emeka Nwali, a close relative of the
Commissioner and shared among the council chairmen and some
coordinators. The money was withdrawn from Stanbic Ibtc bank Abakaliki
and presently, each council chairman, his or her relative presently
maintains an account with the bank for future deals. Her Excellency,
you may wish to probe into that transaction to know the real owner of
the account, how such among of money was sourced and the purpose of
bribing the council chairmen to open account with the bank.
Let it not be said that this account is been used to divert
public funds into private purse

I think her Excellency is right in tackling the issue of bad
governance at the local government level. But the crux of the matter
is that the ALMIGHTY power and misuse of the political control
enjoined by the State government over them is drastically affecting
the performance of the Councils’ chief executives.

It is no secret that most of the chairmen are handpicked by the Ikwo over lords since
the Governor himself don’t know much about the younger generation
while less than 20% are selected by few powers in the cabinet of His
Excellency during elections .The last clear case of who pays the piper
dictates the tune. These chairmen end up as bedroom or better still
errand boys for their political masters who sees the council as either
an avenue for baking their own proportion of national cake or as a
private property . As a consequence therefore underdevelopment will
continue to wage on at that level.


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