Osun State, no doubt, is one of the leading indebted states in the country. Arrears of unpaid salaries dating back to last year, 2015, are still owed workers in the state, especially the local government staff. This has made life unbearable for the affected staff.
However, indications are that with the meager monthly revenue allocation to the state from the federation account, there are no immediate signs that the backlog of salary arrears will be cleared.
From available reports, workers in the local governments are worst hit; their travails have become so devastating that majority of them are now dying of hunger and starvation.
Coming side by side this ugly development is a recent happening in the state bordering on alleged mismanagement of the state’s funds by the governor and some state officials in charge of local government administration.
According to media reports, a local civil society group, Civil Societies Coalition for the Emancipation of Osun state, CSCEOS, has dragged the state governor, Rauf Aregbesola and some officials of the administration to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over the unending diversion of local government funds. The move, according to many, appears to be a right step in the right direction. The group in a petition accused the governor of mismanaging public funds, especially diversion of local government funds.
Chairman of the civil society group, Comrade Adeniyi Alimi Sulaiman who spoke to newsmen shortly after appearing before the anti graft body, also noted that the governor lacks financial discipline in management of public funds.
The group therefore called on the anti graft agency to conduct a credible and unbiased investigation into alleged diversion of local funds by the governor from November 2010 to March 2016.
According to further reports, “The EFCC team which arrived the Ibadan zonal office of the anti graft body and endorsed all the contents in the petition with its attachment, described Aregbesola’s action on the alleged diversion of local government funds as illegal, undemocratic, ungodly, unconstitutional, anti masses, an abomination and a crime against humanity and God. Indeed these are weighty compliments and allegation which the body must probe and make public its findings irrespective of the personalities involved, whether it is an APC state or not.
“In addition, the EFCC action is novel and a good sign in the change mantra of the Buhari administration, which fighting corruption is essential.”
It is common place that the age-long allegation of diversion of local government funds by the respective state governors is rife and a protracted political cankerworm; that is why the CSCEOS petition against Osun government must be followed to its logical conclusion. The move is unequivocally endorsed by all and sundry. Following this revelation, we demand that the accounts of the774 local governments should be probed between 1999 till date. Being a prolonged national problem and concern, this is the right time using Osun State as a litmus case for such probe, since no such investigation of diverting local government funds has been carried out against any sitting governor by an anti graft agency.
This is the first and it is good, beginning with a state which the president’s party controls. Regrettably, there has been an age-long public outcry against this unfortunate act by state governors with no end in sight to the looting. The LGs are not developed, no basic amenities, the governors go at any length to protect the funds by ensuring that local governments are not made autonomous. They ensure the local administration councils are apron strings of the states so that through the ignoble and infamous joint accounts they continue to siphon the funds, while they also appoint errand boys and stooges as local government chairmen to solidify the illegality.
Truly speaking, we take cognisance of how the same chief executives of the states have frustrated efforts during previous constitution amendments to grant local governments autonomy, in order to hold on perpetually the control of this tier of government, even where there are no provisions in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) giving a leeway to any governor to divert allocations accruing to local governments from the federation accountant.
So, time is now to begin with Osun State. While digging the Osun case, EFCC must invite those mentioned on the list; they are numerous, including consultants and firms which carried out special intervention projects for the governor on behalf of the 30 local governments. This must also be extended to the other states after Osun, if Buhari must succeed in fighting corruption.