Barr Kolapo Alimi, is the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the State of Osun. In this encounter with TOBA ADEDEJI and UJU NOBEI, Alimi bears his mind on the monumental achievements of Governor Rauf Aregbesola-led administration, the reasons why the state does not support local government autonomy, and the forthcoming local government elections in the state among other issues. Excerpt:
Can you enumerate some of the achievements of this administration on Local government and Chieftaincy matter?
To God be the glory, our amiable governor is an achiever in relation to local government and chieftaincy matters, this ministry has two responsibilities; to supervise the affairs of local governments and coordinate the affairs to Chieftaincy posts. In relation to local government, we usually help the local government to get approval and fast-track project of local government some things that take months before but now within a week we can easily get approval which aide their work.
The concrete of the achievements, we conceived the idea of 10km roads in each of the local governments but eventually when we discovered we have to do a quality job and considering the capacity of each local government which varies. We have certain characteristics of the road, the first one is that it is stone base which will elongate the tenure of the road; the drainage we have before was brick drainage which deteriorates quickly but we decided to make it a concrete drainage and the thickness of the asphalt has never occurred in the history of Osun in local government level; the roads are massive, one because of the number of the kilometers. For instance, in Iwo local government, what we did there was about 8.6km and it covers 11 lots, this is not about propaganda, a project that EFCC has came to investigate. No government was successful about this kind project in Osun. The previous government tried 3 km but they failed even those that they did could not last for 6 months but ours is over four years now.
In the areas of welfare, we sponsored the local government staffs for various workshops including one which was very major in which we sponsored them to Ghana International workshop. It cuts across all local governments with at least 20 staff from each local government that has never happened in the history of local government service in this state, which is why their leaders can’t fight us. We increased car and housing loan by 100% for them in 2012.
We recruited about 1000 workers; 33 in each local government areas; we recruited with definite objective now in collaboration with the SUBEB, we recruited about 3000 teachers because this ministry is responsible for payment of local government teachers throughout the State.
We ensured prompt payment of salaries, allowances and leave bonus despite this economy quagmire. The modulated salaries agreed upon are being paid as at when due; we have paid up till September including leave bonuses.
So much had been done on road projects in the local government areas but some said some of these roads were over bloated?
The total number of kilometer of roads constructed in the local government area is about 267 KM and the total budget for it is about N21bn. To construct roads, it requires a lot of processes. If you remove all the roads we constructed in all the local government areas in the State you will realize that there won’t be any road again because what they do before is fixing flat rate for road which is not real; the topography will tell on the amount to be spent; some places are water lodged. Sometimes, when constructing those roads you will see need to build bridges and all sort of things. Before our administration constructed roads at the local government areas, they don’t last for 3 months because they give flat rate for construction which will amount to not constructing good roads at the end of the day.
Look at what government did to ‘Rasco bridge’, when you are constructing roads, you either do it well or do it the way it has been before that will makes you think you spend less which will later amount to wastage; but the quality of the road we have done before is reflecting across the state.
Those roads done will spend more ten years whereas other road constructed by the past administration can’t spend up to 3 years even that time span will only last for 6 months. There can’t be uniform amount spend on roads; it varies from one locality than others that is why we have.
What we met was as if there is no road at all. Our opposition that are saying that we bloated it they thought we can’t achieve construction and rehabilitation of road but by the time we finished to their astonishment they have to be saying something because they embark on similar thing which they fail.
We are in Nigeria where people don’t appreciate good governance by speaking badly of the government just because they want to grab power. Some mischief makers have written lots of petition to EFCC and ICPC that have even come here to investigate and they attested to it that nowhere in Nigeria had any government embarked on such good project and succeeded with it, especially in Osun. They picked their inspection of the roads at random. We started from the scratch which shows the decadence we met it was as if no government existed before because if you remove all the roads done by us, you will realize that there was no road again then what has the previous government had being doing with huge allocation.
What are the roles the Ministry is playing to foster mutual understanding in local areas on chieftaincy matters?
Chieftaincy is a little bit traditional and troublesome issues. People want to get to be enthroned to be king by all means. Chieftaincy is regulated by Chief Law cap 25 Laws of Osun State. We used to follow due process because what we meet on ground our governor won’t allow any sort of hanky-panky to be played. If you look around some prominent kings we have installed in the State, you will see that we followed the due process.
But due to the troublesome nature of the chieftaincy matters, I introduced Alternative Dispute Resolution whereby we solve disputes pertaining to chieftaincy; instead of them going to court we help in solving issues and it works largely in some instances.
Unlike before, whenever there is an application for a new ruling house to be added to existing one, they use political influence and in order to prevent that, we have established a Commission of Inquiry on Chieftaincy Matters to prevent political maneuvering. Anybody can go before that commission of Inquiry to present application and memos; the commission is headed by High Court Judge, technocrats, and some lawyers just to show a level of transparency. What we met was a one man committee that will do things mischievously.
We have enthroned so many Obas starting from our Baba, the Ooni of Ife, Oluwo of Iwo and so many other kings, we did not influence it, we allowed the kingmakers to perform their role.
It was in the news that the 36 State Houses of Assembly unanimously endorsed LG autonomy following the conference of Speakers of state legislatures held in Yola. What is the position of Osun govt about this?
Local government autonomy means different things to many people, those who are agitating now they want local government to be having their allocation directly to their own account. What they are agitating for is an aberration to the system that Nigeria adopted which is a federation system of government.
In a federation system of government, we have the central government and the federating units; local governments are subsuming under the State, they are not separate tiers of government even that is theoretical. To be pragmatic, local government pay the salary of primary school teachers and local government staffs but unfortunately it is not the local government that employs the primary school teachers it is another body that employs and they don’t employ according to the capacity of local government to pay, they employ based on the needs of the schools. So I wouldn’t know how they will cope with a situation where a local government staff varied; some will have very high population staff based on needs while another will have small number of staff and the allocation will be the same thing.
All the allocation of Osogbo local government is not sufficient to pay the teachers working in the local government because there are concentrations of teachers in the area whereas some local government areas will have excessive allocation. Our role is to add all the allocations together; add the salaries of local government staff and primaries school teachers together, deduct and starting paying so that it will be evenly. It was after these deductions are made, what is left is what local government play around with because we don’t expect teachers to use their salaries to buy chalks and other things. Some of the money is used as grants to schools.
Was that the reason why the teachers (NUT) are not supporting the agitation?
Yes! Because immediately they adopt that system teachers in urban areas will not get salaries again. Our people in this country speak based on sentiments, some states might be tampering with the local government funds which they want to correct but mind you, you can’t correct a problem by creating another major problem. We have some armchair critics who don’t have knowledge about what we are saying about the autonomy. So on local government we don’t support it because it is an aberration.
Now that the date for local government elections has been fixed, what do people expect from government?
The election will hold January ending 2018; arrangements are on to ensure fair and itch free election. The former Osun State Independent Electoral Commission (OSIEC) was in Supreme Court that made it takes too long to conduct the election. The local government election we are adopting is the parliamentary system of government. So what aspirants fight for is Councilor which among them chairman will emerge and the reason we are doing that is to reduce cost of governance at the local government level.
We have mother councils which are 30 (no addition), 31 LCDA’s, 3 Area Councils and 2 Administrative offices though one LCDA and one Area office has been created but has not been consummated; everything making 66.
Is it true that the present Executive Secretaries in the local government areas can’t participate in the forthcoming local government elections?
That is not true! Nobody has restricted anybody to contest for the post.
Why do you want to practice parliamentary system of government at the local government level compared to what is obtainable in other states?
The basic law of this country is the 1999 constitution as amended and if you check section 7 it stated that “A system of democratically elected governor is guaranteed under the law of the house of assembly, the house of assembly can make law for establishment, finance and composition and structure’’. For you to know that local government is absolutely placed under the State, a provision of the constitution is in respect for the office of the President. The office of the Vice President is in the constitution, Minister, CJN, Governor, Deputy Governor and Commissioners are all in the constitution but when you get to the local government you can’t see where the Chairman and Councilor are mentioned but is the House of Assembly that will decide what happen at the local government areas.