Chairmen of the 13 local government councils in Nasarawa State have dozens of political appointees despite lack of internally generated revenue (IGR) and the economic downturn of the state due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For instance, the chairman of Nasarawa Eggon has 120 appointees and is contemplating adding more.
This week, the chairman of Toto Local Government Area, Nuhu Dauda, sacked 69 out of his dozens of appointees.
The sack was contained in a statement he signed.
The affected appointees included all the 5 supervisory councillors, 5 special advisers, 5 senior special assistants and all the 52 special assistants and personal assistants.
Others are the chairman’s personal secretary and the council’s deputy clerk, the statement read.
The chairman thanked them for their contributions to the council.
He added that the action did not exclude his chief of staff, council’s secretary and clerk of the House.
The chairman of Nasarawa Eggon Local Government, Alhaji Danlami Idris Odasko said, “I have 120 political appointees.
“If I had more sources of revenue I would increase their number to 200 or 300.
“They are youths who need means of livelihood, so N10,000 to N20,000 monthly allowances are fair for them to remain within the ambit of the law.’’
Also, the chairman of Lafia Local Government, who is also the chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, (ALGON), Alhaji Aminu Muazu Maifata said, “I have 80 political appointees and I don’t have any problem with them.
“They assist in sensitising their peer groups on government policies.’’
The chairman of Karu Local Government, Mr. Samuel Gajere Akala said, “I have 36 political appointees who assist the local government and the Legislative Council of elected councillors.’’
The information officer of the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ibrahim Shigafatta Zunzurutu, said he would compile the list, but didn’t respond to calls on the matter.
The chairman of ALGON said the allowances of the political appointees depended largely on the peculiarities of a particular area council.
Notably, all the chairmen of the local governments in the state are members of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In his reaction, an official of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Baba Ayiwulu, a lawyer, said, “The chairmen have the right to hire and fire.”
Instructively, Governor Abdullahi Sule recently disclosed that 9 out of the 13 local government councils in the state could not pay salaries on time due to financial shortfall in revenue last year.
He made this disclosure in Maraba-Gongon in Wamba Local Government Area during the commissioning of an upgrade of a 50-year-old Maraba-Gongon Primary School to a model one, made possible through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
He said, “Nine out of the 13 local governments cannot pay salaries in time due to financial instability and revenue shortfall.
“That is why I am apologising over the delay in the payment of June salaries.’’
The governor said he would not grant the chairmen the permission to use money allocated for capital projects and pay salaries, adding that he does not touch their money as he would not want to break the law.
Sule said he was among the first governors to support local government autonomy as announced by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit.
“Although the state government was able to pay its workers and pensioners in full despite the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, some local government were only able to pay their workers in percentages because they lacked resources.
“And I didn’t say anything about it because the local government areas are autonomous.
“A lot of people didn’t get to understand what was happening,” he said.
He, however, said the state government had, for the past three or four months, been assisting the local governments to pay full salaries, but could not do so for the month of March because there were no additional resources to do so.
The governor promised to monitor the situation, with a view to finding out what actually happened.
He assured local government workers that government would look into the matter.
He further explained that following the outbreak of COVID-19, oil prices fell below $30 globally, which negatively affected the economy of the country and Nasarawa State in particular, leading to shortfall in revenue.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Nasarawa State has called on the government to rescind its decision to cut 25 per cent of salaries of local government workers in the state, with effect from March.
Chairman of the NLC in the state, Comrade Yusuf Iya had said, “The decision of the state government to cut down salaries of local government workers by 25 per cent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country is unacceptable.’’
He added that the action would inflict more pains on civil servants.
In his reaction, the public relations officer of the Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy Affairs and Community Development, Ibrahim Shigafatta said, “The ministry has met with the chairmen of the 13 local governments in the state and has given them their full salaries.
“My commissioner said the ministry was aware that local governments should pay their staff their full salaries without any deduction.’’
He denied that a decision to cut salaries of local government workers in Nasarawa State was announced at a meeting with the Joint Account Allocation Committee.
But a source in the ALGON said the salaries of workers in the 13 local governments amounted to N1.3billion monthly, but they received N1billion.
He said the shortfall may be because of the reduction of 25 per cent for March.
However, the chairman of Awe Local Government, Alhaji Adamu Adigizi had disclosed that, “Some local governments could not pay salaries because they have ghost workers.’’
The chairman of the ALGON and Lafia Local Government, Alhaji Aminu Muazu Maifata said, “What the chairman of Awe said is true.
“That is why all local government chairmen agreed with the executive and legislative arms to screen and verify all members of staff of local governments, and by extension, those in the development areas.
“We did this to ascertain those who were genuine and pay them.
“That will close many loopholes and make the councils buoyant.”
Meanwhile, the committee of the State House of Assembly investigating the non-payment of June 2019 salaries and unnecessary deductions said members of staff would enroll in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
They said this would help in curtailing ghost workers, corruption and illegal promotion of local government staff in the state.
Subsequently, the House called for a reduction in the cost of governance so that there would be improved welfare for members of staff.