Governor Seriake Dickson
Spends N3.1bn on scholarships
The Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Seriake Dickson, Monday said he was not opposed to the proposed autonomy of the local government councils and state Houses of Assembly in the country.
Dickson’s endorsement of these two cardinal proposals in the ongoing constitution review came just as the state government doled out a whopping N3.1billion on scholarship awards to citizens of the state.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum had recently kicked against granting financial autonomy to the councils and was said to have been responsible for the rejection of autonomy for state legislature in the last review of the 1999 Constitution.
But at an interactive session with journalists yesterday, Governor Dickson said the autonomy being sought at the local government level was already being practiced in Bayelsa State.
According to him, the councils in Bayelsa have enjoyed financial autonomy since his assumption of office as the state does not make unnecessary deductions on allocations meant for the local councils.
He said that apart from the statutory deductions such as the funds meant for the payment of teachers salaries, the councils had been given a free hand to manage their finances as they deemed fit.
He, however, said that local government chairmen are not allowed to run the councils like sole administrators because that would be against the spirit of democracy.
“The councils are allowed to manage their finances as they deem fit but the council chairmen work with the legislative arms in their various councils just as we are working closely with the state legislature. We have nothing against autonomy,” he said.
Dickson said that Nigerians need to look beyond the agitation for the autonomy of the councils and seek a comprehensive reform of the system to situate the local councils properly in the governance and service delivery at the grassroots.
Dickson said that for proper management, the local councils should be delisted from the Constitution and made the business of individual states.
He said that his administration had awarded scholarships worth over N3.1 billion to 789 citizens of the state studying in various universities in 20 countries around the world.
The awardees, he said, included 137 PhD scholars, 260 post graduate scholarships, 142 undergraduates and 250 secondary school students studying in different institutions in Nigeria and abroad.
Dickson said his administration had also commenced the construction of 400 primary schools with living quarters for teachers.
According to him, the state was making such huge investments in education in order to improve the standard of education in the state.
He said these investments were in line with the desire of his administration to develop human capital and diversify the economic base of the state.