By Mmaduabuchi Onwumelu
A 9- man committee for the State-Local Government Joint Account, JAAC, has been constituted by Governor Chukwuma Soludo with a call on them to brace up for challenges ahead.
The inauguration of the committee was done shortly after the State Executive Council Meeting at the Government House, Awka.
Members of the committee include the Commissioner for Local Government, Mr. Collins Nwabunwanne, who will serve as the Committee Chairman; Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Ifeatu Onejeme, Vice Chairman and Dr. Leopold Arinze Nwankwo-Ikwueto, Secretary.
Other members include Barr. Ifeatu Obi-Okoye, member representing Central Senatorial Zone; Dr. Nnamdi Nwadiogbu, member representing North Senatorial Zone; Sir Van George Ezeogudi, member representing South Senatorial Zone; Dr. Chibuike Ofobuike, member and transition committee chairman representing South Zone.
Others are Mrs. Obi Amaka Iyom, member and Transition Committee Chairman, representing Central Zone; Mr. Livinus Onyenwe, member and Transition Committee Chairman representing North Zone.
Speaking shortly after performing the inauguration, Governor Soludo appreciated them for accepting to serve and commiserated with them for coming to serve in some very difficult circumstances.
According to the governor; ‘The resources aren’t there. But at the same time, you are being called upon to do some very special disruptive function. It is going to be a lot of hard work. Why do I say that? Because you are being called upon to do very disruptive work at a time of major challenges in the country. Major challenges in the finances of the state and local government and you’ve been called upon to find the solution.
‘We are going to be employing over four thousand teachers. It’ll be charged to JAAC. Meanwhile, you have over fourteen billion Naira debt in terms of arrears of gratuity and pensions. Part of it we have started to pay and so on and so forth.’
The governor further explained that the local system was largely two fold, including its financing and its administration.
‘We are going to set up the local government administration. That’s definite. But the administration of the local government is a bit of a challenge; the infrastructure in the various local governments, including the ones that have been burnt down which need to be repaired; as well as the workload. Even staff (members) don’t go to work in the local governments. But we must eventually get the services down to the people,’ the governor said.
‘For us we have a vision to have responsibility devolve to base and to have local governments that are empowered from the base to deliver development to the grassroots. And consequently, the finances that are very limited will have to be run in a different way. We have a peculiar local government system where the staff and other obligations of the local government are pulled together,’ Soludo further stated.
On local government autonomy, the governor said, ‘I hear people talk about autonomy. If you want to implement a strict autonomy, it’ll mean that each local government will employ and pay its staff. That’s what it’ll mean, but this is not the case. That’s why you find someone in Idemili working in Ayamelum and someone from Ayamelum working in Nnewi South because they have a pool system.
Governor Soludo also took time to explain that resources accruable to the state governments from the federal were low because of NNPC’s inability to remit a kobo to the federation account, which, he said, they might not do again because it had become a limited liability company. He emphasized the need for having a competitive system in place for the various local governments.
Soludo said, ‘We are trying to devolve the responsibilities; waste management, security, because we are now doing security at the community level; issues of Environment and so on and so forth. My aspiration is that with you as the committee, we are going to work together so that they too can compete and have a lee way to raise their own revenues. They should become creative in generating revenue.
Of course, when that lingers, we also expect you together with the Service Commission, to have some thought about not just to run the account, but to also have a job to do to have a new local government system and the financing framework that will deliver development to the people.’
He said the state government was seeking to have a local government that truly worked.
The Governor pointed out that regarding the management of the JAAC, a lot of things would be done differently after careful thought process, especially in terms of financing options.
‘Some have got some assets that they can charge. Some have shops that they can premise, while some run mass transit systems and so on and so forth. With the wisdom and calibre of people that make up this commission, I’m sure you will deliver because our intention is to rejuvenate the local government system,’ concluded the governor.
Earlier while presenting the committee members for Inauguration, the Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Mr. Collins Nwabunwanne, described them as competent to deliver on the mandate.
In a vote of thanks, the chairman of Transition Committee Chairmen, Mr. Livinus Onyenwe, who spoke on behalf of other members of the committee, thanked the governor for finding them worthy to serve in that capacity, pledging to work round the clock to efficiently deliver service to Ndi Anambra.
The Secretary to the State Government, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu; Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Ernest Ezeajughi; Head of Service, Barrister Theodora Igwegbe; Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Ifeatu Onejeme; Special Adviser to the Governor on Local Government Affairs, Mr. Asha Nnabuife, among others, were present at the event.