APC govs, NASS leaders hold secret talks over LG funds

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All Progressives Congress governors have held a closed-door meeting with the leaders of the National Assembly over the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit’s guidelines barring governors from tampering with local government area funds.

Under the aegis of Progressives Governors’ Forum, the governors were seeking the support of the National Assembly over their objection to the guidelines released by the NFIU regarding the funds accruing to the councils from the federation account.

The NFIU on May 6 issued the ‘guidelines to reduce vulnerabilities created by cash withdrawals from local government funds throughout Nigeria’, which stopped governors from tampering with funds meant for the LGAs. The guidelines took effect from June 1.

The body said, “The Unit also maintains its understanding of the 1999 Constitution that no debit is allowed on any local government funds unless and until the funds are credited to and reach the bank accounts of a local government in any state of the federation.

“No transaction shall be permitted on a local government account until all salaries of local government staff, primary school teachers, traditional rulers and all other staff are removed.”

In a follow-up statement, the NFIU added, “The provision of the cumulative cash withdrawal not exceeding N500,000 per day is also firmly in place effective (from) June 1, 2019.”

It said  any other transaction must be done through valid cheques or electronic funds transfer.

The 36 governors, acting under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, had rejected the instructions, saying the agency was dabbling in a matter that was “beyond its mandate”.

In a letter to the President by then-NGF Chairman, Abdulaziz Yari, the governors said the NFIU’s action was a “brazen attempt to ridicule” their collective integrity and “show total disregard for the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended”.

The governors also approached the Federal High Court in Abuja for an order stopping the implementation of the NFIU’s instructions in furtherance to their efforts, arguing that the NFIU Act 2018 lacked the power to issue guidelines on council finances, especially imposition of sanctions.

However, Justice John Tsoho declined a request by counsel for a forum to restrain the NFIU from implementing the guidelines pending the determination of suit No. FHC/Abj/CS/563/19 before the Federal High Court 2, Abuja.

To fully implement the directive, the NFIU warned that any bank that allows any transaction from any council account without the money first reaching a particular LGA account would be sanctioned 100 percent, both locally and internationally.

The NFIU also said it was monitoring the implementation of the directive.

But at the closed-door meeting between the APC governors and the lawmakers, the source said the governors were passionate about the issue.

He said, “The governors lamented the lack of synergy and cooperation between them and the legislators and urged us to buy into their agenda for a smooth relationship between the two arms of government.

“Both parties deliberated on the report of the APC Governors Forum’s sub-committee on legislative matters, chaired by the Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Masari.

“The governors specifically urged the APC caucus in the National Assembly to cooperate with them on issues that touch on their constitutional roles.

“The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, took time to explain the issues relating to the NFIU financial regulations to the governors and the roles that the National Assembly could play on the issue.”

 


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