Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has disclosed that his government is probing an alleged N10bn debt burden incurred by the immediate past local government administration in the state.
The governor said his administration is committed to fixing the structural problems in the local councils to bring development closer to the people.
Obaseki said this during an enlarged meeting with leaders of Edo Central Senatorial District held at Irrua, the administrative headquarters of Esan Central Local Government Area of Edo State.
He said: “I am doing an audit of all the local governments. In addition to all the receipts, they incurred debt of more than N10 billion; I want to find out what happened.
“We are operating a system that is not working anymore and we all must agree to change it because we are all involved. We can only deliver services to our people only if we agree moving forward.
“We must clean up the local government system knowing that elections will soon take us back to the people who will ask us about our electoral promises. The clean-up is necessary to enable us to deliver services to our people.”
Obaseki continued: “It doesn’t matter how well we perform in the state, the local government is closest to the people. If the local government does not work, it will be difficult for us to show what we have achieved. What happens at the local government level affects the people.
“When the term of the past local government administration started, we knew that we had to undertake some changes. We sought people with integrity and experience to take charge of the local government. We know what happened during the political season.”
Hinting on his government’s backing for local government autonomy, the governor noted: “I have come to realise that there are structural problems in the local government. We don’t take money or touch the local government’s money. We are transparent and open as we don’t interfere in the local government’s finances.
“If you want me to publish the amount that accrues to local governments monthly, I will do that to ensure transparency in the incoming administration. Moving forward, I will hold local government leaders responsible for any mismanagement.
“We are looking forward to fulfilling our promises to the people of the state. We must fix the engine of government, make it work more effectively and ensure development in the local government areas,” he reassured.
The governor further charged local governments not to rely on monthly federal allocation but to be innovative and come up with better means of improving their revenue.
Obaseki stated: “The money is not there again as it used to be. The dependence of money from Abuja is not possible anymore, that is why I am insisting and emphasising local government reforms.
“70 to 80 percent of finance for local governments comes from Abuja and there will be problems if the money stops coming. We will not and can’t continue like this. You will help me to stop people from collecting revenue and putting it in their private pockets. We have enough resources to keep us going.
“We must bring the leadership together and agree on the way forward as this is the only way to solve the problem faced by the State,” he said.
A leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Igueben Local Government Area, Chief Felix Omi Imoisili said, “We will collaborate with you in the reforms you are embarking on at the local government level. We will support your administration to succeed in this direction.”