As Court Restrains FG from Remitting Anambra LG Funds to Soludo…

After a huge outcry over the use of appointees to run the local government system in Anambra state, David-Chyddy Eleke reports that hammer may have fallen on Governor Charles Soludo as court restrains the federal government from remitting allocations meant for the 21 local government councils in the state to him.

A forthnight ago, Anambra State governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo circulated a letter to all transition committee chairmen of local government councils in the state to immediately hand over to heads of local government administration in their council areas. Ordinarily, the termination of the appointment of the caretaker committee chairmen of the local government should elicit happiness among the people of the state, especially as many have been yearning for local government election, but that was not to be.

The reason was that even though the appointees were sacked, there were doubts that Soludo was ready to conduct local government elections yet, instead, he is set to make another set of appointments to run the 21 local government councils.

Reacting to the non conduct of elections in the state, the member representing Ogbaru Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Afam Ogene condemned any plans to appoint a new set of administrators. Ogene, who is the Labour Party’s House of Representatives Caucus Leader in a press statement said: “Records show that Governor Soludo changes LGA Transition Committee members every three months, and has therefore, made these curious changes seven times since assumption of office in 2022.  By the time he makes another of such change this month, that would be the 8th time within two years in office.

 “That to me, would be an inglorious record by a democratically elected governor. This puppeteering style of leadership, which toys with the destiny, aspiration and desires of the grassroots, must be resisted and not allowed to continue to shrink the development potential of the LGAs. The local government ought to be the most important tier of government, as envisaged by the Nigerian Constitution, because it’s not only the tier that is closest to the people, it is also the obvious foundation of both the subnational and the federal government. And should not be at the whims of state governors.

 “Such undemocratic practice of appointing LGA administrators, rather that democratic election, is an enabler of impunity and lack of democratic accountability and also hurts transparency in the local governments and the state as a whole, as those so appointed would only scramble for personal interests during the three months of their stay in office. This does not help the management of scarce resources or the development of the LGAs.

“What manner of meaningful development plan would a TC chairman articulate and execute within a period of three months? Isn’t it troubling that Governor Soludo, a prominent economist, is promoting this charade? What really is Governor Soludo afraid of in conducting elections in the LGAs, in line with his campaign promises and the desires of the people in the grassroots and provisions of the Constitution?” The lawmaker queried.

In what may seem a relief to those advocating  for conduct of local government election in Anambra state, an Abuja High Court last week issued an order, restraining the Accountant General of the Federation and the Federal Ministry of Finance from further remitting funds due to the 21 Local Government Areas of Anambra State to the Soludo-led State Government. The Court ordered that these funds be deposited into an interest-bearing account managed by the Chief Registrar of the FCT High Court until the Court hears the substantive Motion on Notice.

Furthermore, the Court directed the anti-graft commission, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to invite and interrogate the relevant officers of the Anambra State Government regarding the deployment of funds received between March 22, 2022, and April 30, 2024.

The EFCC is expected to file an Affidavit of compliance, including the investigation report, within 30 days. The order was pursuant to a suit against the Anambra State governor, filled by a lawyer, Chukwuebuka Mmeni Esq.

Already, this news has generated happiness in some quarters. Reacting to the news, a former governorship candidate in the state and a chieftain of Labour Party, Mr Valentine Ozigbo said: “While this news is not entirely cheerful, given that it involves funds due to the local government areas of Anambra, it is a welcome development. The corruption-laden use of appointed Caretaker Committees to manage the affairs of Local Governments has been consistently deemed illegal.

“It is unfortunate that Anambra state Governor Chukwuma Soludo has continued this practice since his inauguration on March 17, 2022, despite promises to the contrary. The court documents highlight that N7,323,679,402.23 was allocated to the Anambra State Government in March 2024 for the benefit of the 21 Local Government Areas. Over the past two years, approximately N175 billion may have accrued to these local government councils.

“Now, imagine the impact this substantial sum could have had on schools, healthcare institutions, markets, and the lives of the people in LGAs like Ayamelum, Ogbaru, Idemili South, and Ekwusigo, which have felt little to no government presence.

“Consider that this approximated N175 billion is not part of the State Government’s allocation or the internally generated revenue in Anambra. Given the heightened insecurity that has plagued Anambra since this administration took office, continuing to remit these substantial funds without elected Local Government Councils is counterproductive.

“I applaud Chukwuebuka Mmeni Esq., the applicant who sought this order from the FCT High Court, for taking this step to expose the Anambra State Government’s malfeasance.

I also urge the Anambra State Government to avoid wasting resources on legal fees to overturn this order. The order clearly serves the interests of Ndi Anambra. The illegality of the Caretaker Committees cannot be overstated, and no sophistry-cloaked legal argument can defend the indefensible.

“Our state would benefit more if the State Government redirected funds towards conducting genuine Local Government Elections. Should the Governor persist in contesting the order without conducting these elections, I advise my party, the Labour Party, to join the suit to ensure that the right thing is done,” Ozigbo stated.

Soludo’s refusal to conduct local government election since he assumed office two years ago has been severally condemned. The governor had during his campaigns in 2021 promised to conduct the election. Also, during his swearing in, he reiterated same promise. He said: “We will conduct local government election. No doubt, the uniform local government system as the third federating unit is one of the contesting features of our federalism, but we must make the best of a bad system by unleashing the potential of governance at a lower level. Within two years we shall review and amend the relevant system, restructure and strengthen the Anambra State electoral system. We will cooperate and ensure synergy within the local government system,” he said during his swearing in on March 17, 2022, but has so far failed to do so.

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