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.
Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel the president of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), eads his national Executive and members of local government councils in the South West Zone on a rally over local government autonomy today, Soji-Eze Fagbemi, looks at the position of NULGE and what the union would present to the leadership of the states House of Assembly and other issues surrounding the autonomy of local governments in the country.
Historically, Lagos has been seen as the center of Nigeria political agitation and especially the struggle for that which is right. Today, the members of Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), led by their National President, Comrade Ibrahim Khaleel, will storm Lagos in continuation of their protest rally and campaign for local government autonomy across the six geo-political zones of the country.
The South West rally is particularly important to the success of NULGE campaign in favour of Political, financial and administrative autonomy of local government areas, because most of the states from the zone voted against the idea during the seventh assembly, when it was time for state assemblies to vote of the amendment and bill to grant local government autonomy.
With another constitution amendment going on in the National Assembly, NULGE has took off where it stopped during the failed attempt to have local government autonomy. The difference this time is that NULGE has intensified its efforts. Part of its planned strategy to ensure that local council in Nigeria is granted autonomy in the present efforts to amend the 1999 Constitution is to Organize rally across the six geo-political zones where they will meet the members of the state house of assemblies on the imperative and need for them to support autonomy for local government and sensitize the generality of the people.
With successful rallies in Lafia, Nasarawa State and Calabar, Cross Rivers state for the North Central and South South zones respectively, NULGE is due for Lagos today.
NULGE President, Khaleel said the campaign, through the protest rally has become one of the most viable options left for Nigerians and especially the local government workers to draw attention to “what we can correctly describe as the re-colonisation of our people.”
Being the nucleus upon which the entire national political edifice of the country rests, he insisted that the workers in the local government system will be abdicating in their responsibilities if they are not in the frontline of the struggle to extricate the nation from the exploitation and vice grip of the political elites.
Today’s rally is expected to end with a meeting with the members of Lagos State House of Assembly, where the union will presents its position and makes submission to the Speaker. The union will be canvassing for major amendments to the constitution, which the union believes will rescue the local government from the state governors and underdevelopment.
NULGE wants all the contradictory provisions of the 1999 constitution (as amended) that allow for the confusion and manipulation of local government system by state governments erased. Citing example, Khaleel said in section 7 (1), all the phrasing appearing after the words “and accordingly” should be deleted. Instead the following should be inserted: “there shall be for the Local Government Council a Chairman.”
NULGE also insist on strict observance of the provision of section 7 especially the full observance of the provisions on democratically elected local councils. He said, “The constitution should be reviewed such that a provision caters for the areas of Structure, Functions, Composition, Establishment, Funding, Status and other matters that affect local governments, rather than delegating it to the state governments or Houses of Assembly.”
NULGE is also demanding that new provisions/amendments to Section 5(4) on Local Government Councils, which shall read thus: “The executive Powers of Local Government Councils shall be vested in the Chairman.” The NULGE president said Subsection (5) The Executive Powers vested in the Chairman in Subsection (5) shall not be exercised so as to impede or prejudice the exercise of the Executive power of the Federation or of the State in which the Local Government Area concerned is situated or to engender any asset or investment of the Government of the Federation or the state or of the Local Government Area;
He said: “Those other provisions that contradict full autonomy should be expunged from the constitution to avoid the serious contradictions. For instance the structure, finance, establishment, composition and functions of Local Government Councils should not be vested in the state governments or state Houses of Assembly but in the Constitution in view of section 5 that proposes vesting Executive Powers of the Local Government Council in the Chairman.
“The Constitutional provision on the existence and functions of the State Independent Electoral Commission should be expunged completely in the 1999 constitution because they have become the instruments of anti-democratic practices by the State government.
“In terms of Power and control over public Funds: The adoption and adaptation of section 120-124 (3) to Local Government Chairman, Vice Chairman, Auditor–General for Local Government and the Chairman and members of Local Government Service Commission (LGSC).”
The union also insists on full observance of fiscal Federalism as enshrined in the constitution, and proposes that the Local Government Service of each state should be represented by the most Senior Accountant deemed fit by the Local Government Service Commission at any meeting of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission called for the purpose of distributing money from the Federation Account to the Federal, State and Local governments.
Besides, he said that local government should retain functional and fiscal relations with the higher tiers of government, Mathis includes, the state allocation of 20% of its internally generated revenue to the local governments within the State and establishment of a joint Planning Board through a law enacted by the House of Assembly, to require each local government in the state participate in the economic planning and development of the local government areas.
NULGE is also advocating for regular auditing of the accounts of all the local governments within the state.
Khaleel said: “In terms of the funding of Primary Education, the level of participation by the local government councils shall be in accordance with an Act of the National Assembly. We also recommend that the payment of primary school teachers’ salaries should be the sole responsibility of the federal and state governments. Primary Education is a subsidiary function as per provision of the 4th schedule of the 1999 constitution and April 2002 Supreme judgment on funding of Primary Education.”
Khaleel told Nigeria Tribune that during the rally, the union will also be conveying the main content of their submission to the governor of Lagos State, for onward transmission to the President, Muhammadu Buhari, while the presentation to the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, is also for onward transmission to the leadership of the National Assembly, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.
Against the backdrop that local government lack capacity to govern themselves, Khaleel pointed out that up till this now, there are many, many committed and patriotic Nigerians in all the 773 local government across the country that, if allowed, will provide dedicated and committed service at this critical tier of government, which is closest to the people.
He stated that at the beginning of the current republic in 1999, many excelled themselves serving at the local government level before the systematic and complete negation of the local government system.
He said “You all must have witnessed the levels of instability in the administration of the local government system in the country. Local government administrations are either not allowed to function as state governments starve them through the operation of state-local government joint account; or they are prematurely terminated or dissolved and caretaker committees set up, made up of political cronies and rookies.
“Looking back since we embarked on the journey into the current democratic dispensation on May 29, 1999; it is clear that our ruling elite across the political divide, irrespective of party affiliation, see and indeed operate local governments as personal fiefdoms from which they exploit without being accountable to the people. This obviously goes against the intent and rationale for the creation of the local government system which was deliberately designed for inclusive development or to take development to the very base/grassroots of our society.”
The NULGE president blamed the state governors for the plight of local government people and the underdevelopment of the local areas. He, therefore, pleaded with the members of state house of assembly across the federation to free themselves from the claw of the state governors. To him, the present struggle is a twin-struggle and not for the freedom of local government alone but also a fight to free the state assemblies from the unconstitutional control of the state governors.
Khaleel said the campaign is simply target at political, financial and administrative autonomy of local government; abolition of State/local government joint account; payment of 10% internally generated revenue by State governments to local government,; stopping the deduction from local government’s’ federal revenue allocation by State governments; proposal for payment of teachers’ salaries to be on first line charge of FAAC, and abolition of State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) and reverting the conduct of local government elections to INEC,
It also includes the implementation of the ruling of Supreme Court judgment against appointment of caretaker committees for LGs and reckless dissolution of elected local government councils. He said: “Our daily experience as workers at the local government level shows that the most prevalent situation in local government administration is the perpetual encroachment of the financial and administrative powers of local councils by the state governments.”