Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, on Monday, took a swipe at local government chairmen in the state and declared that they did not have capacity for autonomy but were only after money not the challenges.
The governor made the declaration at the Government House, Bauchi, during a meeting he held with the council bosses and other top government officials, including some selected commissioners on the deteriorating security in the state.
The governor said despite telling the chairmen to be holding regular security meetings with security agencies in their domains, they refused to do so but instead look up to him to tackle security challenges in their areas.
He declared that some council officials, including ministries’ officials, as well as traditional institutions connived with some bad elements to cause trouble in communities.
In his words: “We are going to discuss all these issues. Land speculation in the areas where our forest reserves are being destroyed. Bandits come and take territorial possessions after being provided right of way by you because the local authorities there are under you.
“All these are there. We are also going to discuss issues of your autonomy. It would appear you don’t even have capacity for the autonomy we are giving you.
“You are only after the money, not the challenges. You can see how we are using very small resources to do a lot of things. We have to do that in some cases. You say I have not been given money, the thing you have been given is what you have, that is what we have been given too at the state level.
“The commissioners responsible for all these are here, especially local government and housing and environment, and culture and tourism, it’s unacceptable. Even if the commissioners were not there, the permanent secretaries were there. That is why the head of service is here.”
Governor Mohammed told the meeting that he wanted to know the people behind the restriction of forest reserves in the state, particularly in Ningi and Toro Local Government Areas.
According to him, “I want to know who are those behind the destruction of our forest reserves, especially in Ningi and Toro Local Governments. They must be fished out immediately.”
While saying that Nigeria belongs to everyone, the governor declared that people could not just come to the state and started felling trees indiscriminately.
“And those settlers that came without authority, I’m not saying people cannot come and settle, but we must know, we cannot destroy the forest.
“Nigeria is for everybody, people can come, but you cannot come and be falling trees. In between them, there are criminals, hooligans and charlatans,” Governor Mohammed declared.
He informed that the meeting would discuss, apart from security issues, projects and programmes the state government would implement in conjunction with the local governments.
He declared that from the way he was seeing things, the council chairmen did not have the capacity.
“We are going to discuss these three major issues with you and of course some of the projects and programmes that we are going to do with you because we have freed some resources which you are going to do.
“From the way local government chairmen are behaving, it would appear that they don’t have the capacity to do it. Unless they give me assurances the money I am taking I will return it back. It is not just the goody goody.
“You must take the gauntlet of responsibility. The meeting is just going to discuss the issue of insecurity, land speculation, of course projects and programmes in the local governments including the issue of autonomy and the joint projects that you are doing, which is exclusively yours and then to see the specifics of those projects.”
He directed that local government councils should henceforth start paying their workers’ salary, adding that the state government could not continue to augment their salaries for them any longer.
“From this time on, I want you to start paying your salaries. I am tired of the treasury micro managing your salaries and you are blaming them for ghost workers.
“You will take responsibility for your resources. What you don’t know, we augment salaries of certain local governments, whereas some have enough. We can not continue to take from Paul to pay Peter.
“We will be giving you your money and you should know how to utilize it. Where you cannot then you have to do away with the excesses of expenditure. The situation whereby Bauchi is spending about five hundred million naira on salaries a month is unacceptable.
“Three hundred million naira is not enough to pay salaries in Toro because there are dead people and the rest, people living in Abuja and collecting salaries and you know them and this should be stopped by the treasury, they have refused to do it, and you have given me assurances that you are going to do it.”