The Ogun State government has shed light on its approach to local government administration and financing, reaffirming its dedication to bolstering the third tier of government.
In a press conference held at the Olusegun Osoba Press Centre, Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Tokunbo Talabi, and the Economic Adviser and Commissioner-designate, Mr. Dapo Okubadejo, emphasized that the process of funding local governments in the state adheres to transparency and constitutional provisions through the Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC).
The government acknowledged its efforts to bridge funding gaps arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the nation’s economic downturn by supplementing allocations meant for local governments from the federal account.
Mr. Talabi refuted allegations of diverting statutory allocations or implementing zero allocations, asserting that the current administration has maintained transparency, accountability, and equitable distribution of development projects throughout the state, with substantial input from local government chairmen.
He revealed that the state government has injected over N1.8 billion into various independent projects across the local governments, in addition to federal and state government allocations, as well as deficit funding. This approach ensures that essential services such as teacher salaries, healthcare worker wages, pension payments, and local government staff salaries remain unaffected.
The SSG also highlighted the governor’s initiative to involve local government chairmen and stakeholders in prioritizing essential road projects for their respective regions, resulting in development projects being executed in all local government areas.
Providing insight into the workings of JAAC, the Economic Adviser, Mr. Dapo Okubadejo, emphasized that the monthly Joint Account Allocation meetings involve local government chairmen and stakeholders, where the allocation of federal funds to local governments is transparently discussed and distributed.
Mr. Okubadejo clarified that JAAC operates as a separate account from the state government’s finances and is managed by staff in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, distinct from the state’s treasury. Various bodies, including the Local Government Service Commission and SUBEB, prepare vouchers for salaries and allowances, ensuring that essential payments are made promptly.
Regarding the funding shortfall, Mr. Okubadejo noted that the state government has been supplementing federal allocations to local governments since 2019, given the economic challenges caused by COVID-19.
In 2020, there was a deficit of N6.619 billion despite a budgeted allocation of N43.121 billion for First Line Charges. In 2021, the state government allocated N38.723 billion, while First Line Charges amounted to N47.845 billion. In 2022, N48.074 billion was allocated, with N54.182 billion needed for First Line Charges.
The state government covered these deficits, amounting to almost N17.4 billion for the current administration alone. Mr. Okubadejo explained that the surplus in January 2023 temporarily offset this deficit.
He emphasized that allocations cannot be discussed without considering First Line Charges, which primarily affect salaries and pensions for local government staff, teachers, health workers, and traditional council members.
Responding to questions about the Ecological Fund, the Commissioner-designate clarified that this fund is periodically credited to the state and local government accounts through JAAC. It is closely monitored and intended for purposes such as flood control, afforestation, and drainage maintenance.