By Kolade Larewaju
FOR Consultants, Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants and some other political functionaries in the twenty local government areas of Ogun State, these are not the best of times. Since September 2009, not a dime has been paid to them.
Their salaries and allowances was stopped vide a Circular No. CM 139/T/78 of 2nd September, 2009 from the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to that effect. The functionaries however are crying foul alleging underhand treatment in the action of the ministry. As a result, a crisis of some sort is now brewing in the council areas.
The ministry in the memo to all the Local Government Chairmen had said that apart from the salaries and allowances of Chairmen, Vice-Chairmen, Councilors, Secretary to the Local Government, Supervisors and Special Advisers which were statutorily fixed by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission [RMAFC], no provision has been made for other local government political functionaries.
The Ministry in the memo signed by the Director of Local Government Affairs, H O Adeniji said â€œarising from the foregoing and taking cognizance of the prevailing economic meltdown, Local Governments in the State are further advised to adhere to implement our earlier circular letter No. C/M.4/847 of February 6, 2008 for the salaries of other Local Government Political Functionaries not recommended by Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission but whose remuneration was approved by His Excellency, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Governor of Ogun Stateâ€
But the functionaries in a swift reaction pointed to a memo from the same ministry conveying the approval of the governor for each of the Local Governments to take on 6 Consultants each at N70, 000 monthly, 1 Senior Special Assistant each at N70, 000, 3 Special Assistants each at N48,000, 3 Chairman Liaison Officers each at N40,000 and 3 Community Relation Officers each at N35,000.
The functionaries said that the memo conveying the approval of the governor dated 6th February, 2008 was signed by the same Director, H O Adeniji and that it was sequel to the passing of a Bill by the House â€œto provide for the remuneration of certain public/political office holders in the Executive/Legislative arms of Local Government and other matters incidentalâ€ which was accented to by the governor.
The political functionaries therefore sent a petition to the Ministry of Justice prompting a memo by the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, O V Osunfisan to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government Affairs clarifying the issue.
The memo dated 30th October advised that the Circular of the ministry be quietly withdrawn as it was null and void
He said â€œa Circular issued by your ministry cannot supersede the clear provision of an extant law on the issue of emoluments. It should be emphasized that Circulars are classed as subsidiary legislations under the law. They are deemed inferior to principal legislations as they themselves derive their validity from principal legislations and operate, subject to the provisions of such principal legislations. Thus, Circulars cannot, under any guise, override the provisions of an existing principal legislation like the Statutory Offices Law.
â€œWhere economic imperatives dictate that remunerations already fixed by law should be reduced, the only option open to the government is to proceed to amend the relevant law in whatever way it deems appropriate.
â€œIn the light of all the foregoing, it is advised that the offending Circulars be quietly withdrawn as they are ultra vires the powers of your ministry and therefore null and voidâ€ Political functionaries are however still lamenting their plight as the ministry has refused to withdraw the circulars and as such they could not be paid by the Local Governments. They however look up to the governor and the House of Assembly to â€œsaveâ€ them from the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.