BY SAMUEL ODUOYE
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) from forcing states to stay off allocations meant for local government areas.
This was as the speakers of some state Houses of Assembly ask their governors to challenge the NFIU in court for meddling in states’ affairs.
Speaking with newsmen on Saturday, the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Speakers’ Forum, Mr John Gaul-Lebo, described the NFIU as “meddlesome interlopers”, adding that the federal agency was going into an area it had no jurisdiction over.
Gaul-Lebo said, “They are meddlesome interlopers. They are going into an area they have no jurisdiction over and my advice is that the Federal Government and the National Assembly should focus more on creating a true constitutional autonomy for local government areas.
“Under the constitution, enactment of laws for local governments is under the purview of the state government via the House of Assembly. On the June 1 deadline, I believe the governors will challenge this in court and declare it illegal.
“First, NFIU is not the National Assembly and, therefore, cannot make laws. They cannot give a deadline on such matter because the constitution does not recognise NFIU for that. They can only give deadlines if there is a delegated power or guidelines that are provided under a national Act.
“What they (NFIU) are doing is just advisory and it is persuasive, but they are coming with a punitive strategy. If they find anybody guilty of committing an offence, they can investigate for prosecution but they cannot give guidelines and direct how states/local government accounts should be controlled.
“I believe that the governors’ forum should go to court to challenge and set it aside. That is what I think the Nigeria Governors’ Forum should do and also the Speakers of Assembly Forum.”
Similarly, Equally, the Director-General of NGF, Mr Asishana Okauru, confirmed that the governors had forwarded a petition to the president on the matter. he also debunked the possibility of approaching the court.
Speaking to The Punch over the weekend, Okauru said ,“I can tell you on good authority that the governors are not going to approach the court. The governors, under the platform of the NGF, have had a wonderful and superb relationship with the Federal Government and this is a federal agency.
“This whole package of guidelines is strange but they studied it and came out with a position on it. They have written a formal letter to the President by way of petition and the relevant stakeholders have been copied. I can avail you that at some point.
“This is an issue of concern to all the governors and the best thing to do is to approach the President; they have access to him. The petition has stated what they feel.
“If the speakers are saying the NFIU has delved into an area it does not have authority on, we do not think that they are wrong.”