By Mashe Umaru Gwana
Chairman of the six Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory have ignored the monthly meeting with the Minister of State FCT, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide.
The council chairmen stayed away from the Joint Account and Allocation Committee, JAAC, meeting scheduled for Monday over statutory deductions of councils’ funds in the area of primary school teachers, immunization against polio, and other sundry issues.
The JAAC meeting which was scheduled to commence at 3.00pm was abruptly called off at 5.36pm when the chairman of Abaji and Kwali Area Council waited in vain for their colleagues from the other area councils to show up.
Though both chairmen refused to speak on the sudden postponement of the JAAC meeting, our correspondent gathered that the chairmen of the councils are beginning to assert themselves over the way and manner the FCTA covertly starves the councils of funds through statutory deductions and interference on their internal revenue generation.
An official of one of the area council, who was present during the aborted JAAC meeting, said confidence that the councils are passing through difficult financial period, adding that the abolition of tenement rate by the administration has further crippled their financial base.
“There is no doubt the councils are in a financial mess and I know it will get to this level of subtle protest by the leadership of the area councils. Let us be honest, by the time the administration removes salaries of primary school teachers and other deductions, nothing is left for development.
“To worsen the situation, tenement rate which is the major source of revenue generation was recently abolished by the FCT Minister. How do the councils survive in this terrible financial situation?” He queried.
He tasked residents of the territory not to blame the area councils’ chairmen for non- performance, stressing that the councils are operating on zero budget.
When our correspondent contacted the Secretary in charge of Area Council Services Secretariat, Barrister Hassan Gwagwa for the official position on the postponement of the JAAC meeting, he said the meeting was postponed due to poor attendance of the council’s chairmen, even as he assured that the meeting will be reconvened the next day.
“We called off the meeting due to poor attendance on the part of the chairmen. I was told that the chairman of Abaji and Kwali were physically present while that of Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC later sent a representative. Even at that, the number is not encouraging for us to go ahead with the meeting. We have to reschedule for tomorrow,” he stated.
He was however silent on whether the chairmen were rebelling against the FCT Administration over allocation formula, even as our correspondent learnt that the JAAC meeting could not hold the next day as stated by the Area C However, the meeting finally held last Thursday, the chairmen of Bwari Area Council and Abuja Municipal Area Council, Hon. Peter Yohanna and Hon. Micah Jiba, were conspicuously absent.
At the pre-JAAC meeting, the FCT Permanent Secretary, Engr. John Chukwu tongue lashed the chairmen for what he described as lackadaisical attitude of the chairmen towards the JAAC and warned that the administration would not tolerate such behavior from the leadership of the councils.
“This very important meeting is once in a month and I don’t know what will be more important than this allocation of funds to your various councils. If you are not serious about it, we have to device another means of allocating the funds instead of coming here to waste our time,” he said.