President Muhammadu Buhari has commenced a silent restructuring of the polity with the tacit enforcement of financial autonomy for local governments by the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has said.
This according to the group will invariably pave way for full autonomy of the third tier of government and ensure that more power is devolved to the grassroots.
BMO said in a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke that this is in line with one of the electoral promises of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the run up to the 2015 elections.
“President Buhari is quietly embarking on a step that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) does not have proper clarity on but mouthed as a gambit to win the 2019 election which it eventually lost with the largest margin known in Nigeria’s recent political history.
“We at BMO, like many Nigerians, know that local government funds have over the years been hijacked by some state governors through the State/Local Government Joint Accounts so much so that the council authorities had been reduced to appendages of the Government House in many states.
“It’s no surprise therefore that the NFIU said in a report that the accounts posed ‘the biggest corruption, money laundering and security threats at the grassroots and to the entire financial system and the country.’
“And what the Buhari administration has now done is to simply take steps to ensure the enforcement of extant laws on local government funding as enshrined in section 162 (6) and (8) of the 1999 constitution without necessarily pushing for an amendment,” it said.
The group noted that it was the second time in as many weeks that a government agency would announce the use of existing laws by the President Buhari-led administration to further its quest for restructuring.
BMO said: “The first one was the announcement by Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu of the President’s approval of a Community Policing initiative which would give local communities a larger say in their own security structure.
“He had explained at a forum of Traditional Rulers in Northern Nigeria that it would involve the establishment and utilisation of Special Constables, as provided for in Section 50 (1) of the Police Act Cap P19 LFN 2004 but would be modelled after the Police Community Support Officers standard in the United Kingdom Policing Architecture and tailored to align with the existing traditional security structure in the northern part of the country.
“If this is not devolving of powers using existing laws, then we wonder what this concept of community policing in which police functions are citizen-centred and driven by the local community is?
“So while the PDP could not take a singular step tilting towards restructuring in 16 years but suddenly decided to make it a campaign mantra to sneak back into power, the President has twice within two weeks creatively used extant laws to put the country on the path of restructuring without shouting to the rooftops.
“What Buhari has done is a tidy reminder of that profound Professor Wole Soyinka quote: A Tiger does not proclaim his Tigritude, he pounces! This is a subtle reminder that Nigeria is indeed on the path to the Next Level that the President promised. And the second term has not even began”
The pro-Buhari group said the onus would now be on the NFIU to ensure full compliance with the letters of the law on the joint account as well as its directives to banks on illegal withdrawal from local government accounts from June 1 2019.
“There would certainly be a need to pay close attention to a number of the state governors especially those who have their cronies installed as caretaker heads of local government councils.
“This is because they may still look for ways to circumvent the new guidelines so we expect that any erring council head or politician would be made to face the full wrath of the once the policy goes into effect in the next few weeks.
“ As we look forward to the enforcement, we assured Nigerians that more powers would be devolved to the people on President Buhari’s watch and also hope that the 9th National Assembly under the leadership of a more conscionable leadership would live up to expectations when required to do what is needed,” it added.