28th October, 2014
KAZEEM UGBODAGA, EROMOSELE EBHOMELE & JAMIU YISA
As chairmen of the 20 Local Government Areas and the 37 Local Council Development Areas of Lagos State, western Nigeria, round off their three-year tenure in the state, some of them have reasons to explain why they performed poorly, according to findings by P.M. NEWS.
While some of them have been indicted in different reports including a report of the Auditor-General as well as the State House of Assembly, others spent time battling with the councillors in their councils over allegations of fraud, corruption and gross mismanagement of council funds.
Concerning the performance of the councils, the State House of Assembly Committee on Public Finance for Local Government is yet to submit its report to the House weeks after it reviewed the 2012 report of the State Auditor-General in relation to the local government councils’ capital expenditure, due to the refusal of some of the outgoing council chairmen to honour the House’s invitation to explain grey areas concerning their councils.
P.M.NEWS had earlier reported that while six of the affected councils were said to have stayed away from the House in spite of an invitation to appear, the other 10 were said to have appeared, but were asked to return with some documents that would assist in their explanations to the committee. They never did, two months after.
The six councils that outrightly refused to honour the House invitation include Mushin, Badagry West, Isolo, Lagos Island East, Olorunda and Badagry Central councils and those required to return with documents were listed as Apapa, Ibeju-Lekki, Oto-Awori, Epe, Lekki, Ikosi-Isheri, Oriade, Ikosi-Ejinrin, Amuwo-Odofin and Agege.
Some of these councils had been indicted in various aspects of the Auditor-General’s report for 2012, which exposed corruption in the local government system in the state and described how reckless some of the council officials are.
Among the councils indicted for squandering about N224 million on controversial spendings include Egbe-Idumu, Eredo, Iba, Ikosi-Isheri, Lagos Island East, Agbado Oke-odo, Surulere, and Coker-Aguda, while others including Eti-Osa East, Ikoyi-Obalende, Iru-Victoria Island, Eti-Osa, Lagos Mainland and Somolu, were part of the councils also indicted for accumulating a total of about N788.3 million debt and being unable to meet the internally generated revenue targets of their various councils.
According to the report for the year under review, Ikoyi-Obalende owes N220.3 million in debt, Lagos Mainland is indebted to the tune of N163.8 million, Somolu owes N147.5 million, Agbado Oke-Odo N79.6 million, Eti-Osa owes N52 million, Yaba owes N51.2 million, Iru-Victoria Island owes N50 million and Eti-Osa East owes N23.7 million.
Apart from this, the report highlighted that while Agbado Oke-Odo LCDA engaged in spurious financial spendings amounting to N11.5 million in salary advance for staff since 2010 that was not deducted from salaries of the affected workers, the council could not explain what happened to N40.9 million in deductions from awarded contracts.
Others indicted include Surulere, Egbe-Idimu, which the report said has N29.1 million hanging on the neck of the council among sundry allegations, Eredo LCDA with an alleged excess expenditure spending in the sum of N15 million with another 52 vouchers totalling N30.2 million that were audited.
Ikosi-Isheri LCDA where an alleged N100 million was obtained as loan from Fidelity Bank Plc just for the purchase of vehicles for council officials was also indicted, Iba LCDA with an excess security allowance of N2 million, Lagos Island East LCDA with an alleged N6.3 expenditure unaccounted for.
In Ojokoro LCDA, residents told P.M.NEWS that it is difficult to believe they have a council area because of the level of degradation in the LCDA.
“Our roads are all bad. We have had an administration headed by Benjamin Olabinjo for six years now, yet we have not seen much from the council. What we have witnessed so far are interventions by the State Government,” Sule Ahmed, a resident in the area told P.M. NEWS.
Roads on Aremu Lawal street, Ahmadiyya Crescent, Kehinde Lawrence street, Alhaji Lukman street, Raimi street, Paul street, Olorishade, Banjo street, and Aina street are among the worst roads in the area visited by our correspondent.
At Olorishade, our correspondent met heaps of sand which the residents said were poured on the roads for over two weeks with a promise that the council officials were coming to grade the road.
When contacted, Olabinjo said contrary to such claims, his administration had done a lot. “My brother, this is just an LCDA and whatever we get as allocation is from what gets to Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government Area from the Federal Government.
“Even with the small money we make, we have done a lot. We have provided 42 transformers, we bought two graders and rollers and have fixed 18 streets and many more in collaboration with the state government. We have also rehabilitated schools including Gbeleyi Primary School 1 and 2 as well as Ebenzer School,” he said. He also said the council had graded over 2,000 roads in the area but did not mention any of such roads.
“If anybody is complaining that we have not done enough, what about the ones we did in conjunction with the state government?” he asked.
At the Agbado-Okeodo LCDA, the story was the same with many residents raising concern that the administration had left them worse than it met them. “We only see him on television. Our roads are seriously in bad shape. Many of the roads have become impassable. It is so bad. Even where projects are executed, the cost of such projects are exorbitant that they become unbelievable,” one of the residents told P.M. NEWS.
In one of the documents made available to P.M.NEWS, one of such projects, a block of six classrooms, was said to have been built with over N20 million. Reacting, Dr. Augustine Adeoye Arogun, the chairman of Agbado Okeodo LCDA told P.M.NEWS that allegations that he had done poorly is fallacy.
He said his administration was the first since the creation of the LCDA to construct roads. He listed Kola Ogunjale and Sunday Oki, as some of the roads and added that he built a block of seven classrooms in the Anikole area of the LCDA, constructed health centres, a market on AIT Road, as well as a vocational training centre in the LCDA.
“Through assistance from the state, we have constructed many roads. Aje street is one of them. Drainages were also constructed. In the history of Agbado-Oke Odo, no government had tarred any road. We are the first to do it.”
Asked why the cost of some of the projects are very high, he said he was not the engineer and that “what is more important is that we have been working and we have worked. So if any person is saying we have not tried, then he has a political intention.”
In the case of councils in the Ikorodu zone, the three years period has been riddled with crisis of financial constraints making it very difficult for the councils to meet the expectations of the people of the zone.
There had been reports of some of the councils in the zone finding it very difficult to even pay staff salaries and allowances.
The complaint has been that the allocation to the originally recognised Ikorodu Local Government Area is being shared among the six councils that were created with the introduction of the LCDAs. The councils in the zone include Imota, Ikorodu West, Ikorodu North, Ijede, Igbogbo-Bayeku, and Ikorodu.
Surulere council, had right from the inception of the current council chairman, Tajudeen Ajide, faced crisis between the councillors and the chairman with a House of Assembly report by an ad-hoc committee headed by the Deputy Whip of the House, Rotimi Abiru, recommending that the chairman be suspended indefinitely among other suggestions.
The report which has been discussed by the Committee of the Whole House, is yet to be endorsed by the House.
Abiru also told reporters of the House in a recent interview that though the Assembly can bark and bite, it also recognises the influential roles played by the All Progressives Congress on issues relating to crises in the local councils.
One of such mediation was in the recent case of Mosan Okunola LCDA where the council chairman, Abiodun Mafe, was found guilty of high-handedness by the House in his official relationship with the councilllors resulting in the locking up of the council legislative chamber.
Abiru said the House was prepared to sanction anyone found culpable in the crisis in the council but that elders of the party waded in and said he should be allowed to complete the term that ends on 29 October.
The State Assembly Committee Chairman on Local Government Administration and Chieftaincy Affairs, Moshood Oshun, while defending the alleged poor performances of some of some of the councils, particularly in Ikorodu, noted that the councils in the state do not get the same allocations.
Some, he said, are richer than the others with some councils getting a monthly allocation that some other councils would get over a period of months.
He recalled that at a time in a local government council in Ikorodu the council was left with just N2 million after paying salaries, wondering what major projects such a council could execute.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has ordered outgoing council chairmen to hand over to their respective Council Managers as their three years tenure ends Wednesday.
The government said all council chairmen must vacate office at the close of today in line with the law of the land as they must not spend more than three years in office.
Lagos Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Aderemi Ibirogba in a statement said the three-year statutory tenure of all LG Chairmen and Councillors in Lagos State expired today and they must vacate office.
“Consequently, all affected officials, including supervisors, council secretaries and other political appointees are legally required to vacate their offices by close of business on the same day.
“Chairmen are hereby directed to co-ordinate the exercise and hand over to the Council Managers in their respective Local Governments who will take charge of the administration until further notice,” he said.
According to Ibirogba, it was expected that newly elected officials would resume office after the next local government elections to be scheduled and conducted by the State Independent Electoral Commission upon completion of the continuous voter registration, ward re-delineation and polling booth re-distribution exercise embarked upon by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
P.M.NEWS reports that in all the councils, the chairmen have begun to vacate their offices in line with the constitution.
There are reports that some of the chairmen have started lobbying to be made temporal heads of their councils pending the conduct of the council elections which may be after the conduct of the general elections next year.