At last, the Kaduna State Government has implemented the recommendations of the committee to review the number of district and village heads in the state it set up. State commissioner for local governments and chieftaincy affairs, Jafaru Ibrahim Sani, who made this known at a press conference at the Government House Kaduna, said the restructuring is to reduce the burden that a bloated payroll imposes on local government councils to enable  the councils  undertake capital projects and deliver public goods.

The restructuring has therefore reverted to the 77 districts and 1,429 village units that existed prior to 2001 when the number of districts in the state increased to 390 with the 313 created while village units increased to 5,882 from 1,429‎. The government said it has consulted the state Council of Chiefs which has endorsed the restructuring of districts, which along with personnel in the district office, added more than 2700 employees to the payroll of the local government councils.

The commissioner observed that while the state government is comfortably discharging its obligations to the 32 chiefs, the local government councils are not able to do the same for their district heads. By the provision of the Local Government Administration Law (2012), it is the responsibility of the local government councils to cater for the 390 district heads.

Sani said it is the duty of the state government to pay the salaries and allowances of all the 32 chiefs. “The state government is happily and conscientiously supporting all the 32 emirs and chiefs in Kaduna State. And the state government shall continue to be responsible for all our graded chiefs.”

The commissioner explained that this support includes providing official vehicles which have now been purchased for distribution to the third-class chiefs and the maintenance of palaces, ten of which have recently been renovated.

“One of the problems this government inherited is the practical insolvency of many local government councils. Some local government councils are unable to pay their bills, especially salaries, without support from the state government. The bloated wage bills of these councils indicate that they are carrying more than they can bear. That is why for two years many local government councils were unable for two years to pay their district and village heads. Due to the Governor’s kind intervention, at least 85% of these district and village heads have now being paid two years’ salary en bloc,” he said.

According to the commissioner, with the creation of 313 additional districts in 2001, the state now had 390 districts and 5,882 village units. This more than tripled and also meant that the cost to the local government councils of maintaining the district heads automatically tripled as well, adding that all the 23 local government councils have since then had to bear this imposed burden.

He said: “Zazzau Emirate alone has 86 districts. But Kano State, with a much larger population, has only 44 districts. Katsina State too has only 33 districts. What accounts for this proliferation in the number of district heads appears to be nothing other than political expediency. Government have not seen any objective criteria or a strategic consideration that concluded that the proliferation of districts was either sustainable or crucial to delivering public goods or promoting harmony at the grassroots.

“This government has decided to resolve the situation in the longer-term interest of the state. Our local governments must be freed from the stranglehold of bloated payrolls so that they can devote more of their resources to providing public goods.

“On April 24, 2017, the report of the committee on restructuring district and village administration in Kaduna State was considered by the Kaduna State Executive Council.

“The resolutions of the Executive Council were discussed with our Emirs and Chiefs at an emergency meeting on Tuesday, 25th April 2017. The chiefs requested for two weeks to discuss the matter and avail the state government of their recommendations. Our State Council of Chiefs has since forwarded to government its acceptance of the decision to restructure the districts and village units, with their own additional suggestions.

“All the current District and Village heads that will be disengaged are to be paid three months’ salary in lieu of notice. Our Royal Fathers shall nominate three persons for appointment as district heads for the 77 districts from within the current 390 and from without, at their discretion. The process of nominating the heads of the 77 restored districts is being opened up and will be initiated by the Emirs and Chiefs to enhance the prospects of selecting persons that best fit the criteria.

“In a 14th February 1991 circular, the then government of Kaduna State directed the Local Government Service Commission to advise ‘all Emirate and Traditional Councils that the appointments of District Heads is not hereditary’ which means that whenever the post becomes vacant, all persons within the district will be eligible to contest.

“As we have often said, this government was elected to make the tough, but necessary, decisions to cut waste, promote efficiency and empower the institutions that facilitate governance at all levels.

“Government believes that its decision in this regard will boost the functioning and performance of our local government system. Let us all support this decision, devoid of unwarranted sentiments, baseless speculations and outright lies. We thank the Kaduna State Council of Chiefs for supporting this decision and for responding promptly to consultation by the government.”