JA Control Panle

Peoples Daily

Home News Interviews We'll achieve autonomy for councils —ALGON chair

We'll achieve autonomy for councils —ALGON chair

E-mail Print PDF

Hon. Nwabueze Okafor is the newly elected President of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON). In this interview with Augustine Aminu, he opens up on a number of contentious issues including the quest to achieve autonomy for councils

There is the agitation that the local government should be autonomous. What is your view on this?
There is a bill before the National Assembly on this. We are hoping to continue to talk to the National Assembly to pass the bill so that the local government can function better.  But I equally have a different approach and that is not to antagonize the governors but to engage them. We will try to engage the governors and not fight against the governors and tell them the benefit derivable from having a very robust and functional local government system. For instance, in Enugu state where I come from, the local government system is very robust because the present governor of the state created a siuation where the local government councils have administrative and financial autonomy. That is why I can stand here and boast of asphalt roads. In fact, by the end of the year, if you to go my local government in Enugu state; in my community, there will be no more earth roads because the local government have been autonomous.
I would want the constitution to be clearer on the relationship between the states and local governments. It should be clearer on the functions, duties, tax and levies. In some states, there have been conflicts between the states and local government councils on who should collect what. I think the constitution should be clearer in this regard.
As a tier of government, the local government council is supposed to be close to the people. It is supposed to be the most effective vehicle for carrying out development and for changing the lives of the people of Nigeria. But unfortunately,  government at this level has not been fully development. The local government system we have now started in the 1976 Local Government Reforms. And that is about the youngest in term of tiers of government. We have always had the federal and state governments in the early 60s. In any case, we are not doing badly and I believe if we will continue to strengthen the institution, we will get to the level where it will really serve as a vehicle for changing the lives of our people.
Most local governments in Nigeria today have financial problems. Many of them cannot even afford salaries. What will ALGON do to correct this situation?
We have our financial constraint, but it is not up to the extent of our not being able to pay salaries. I will advise my colleagues out there to be prudent in management of their resources. They should also look inwards and find means of generating revenue internally. We have resources at the local government areas everywhere in Nigeria. We are blessed with lots of resources both human and material,  so if we work very hard, we will be able to increase our revenue base. So as a tier of government, we will not only pay salaries, but make the people feel the impact of government and get connected to the government.
We have the problem of governors appointing caretaker chairmen in most local governments in the country. Only a few are elected. How do you hope to tackle this?
The constitution as it is today, has made the local government councils part of the state government. That is why there is the joint allocation account. That is why you have the local government sub-ordinate under the ministry of local government in different states. So while we are working on constitutional amendment that will grant autonomy to local government, I think it is wiser to equally engage the governors. Engaging the governors is yielding fruits. I know sometime in Nigeria, we had a situation where there was no elected local government council. Today we have about 20 per cent. I know of Kaduna and Akwa Ibom; so I believe we should continue to engage the governors because those who have not had elections are beginning to see the benefit of those who have had election.
What measures will you take to check corruption among council chairmen?
In ALGON, we have a committee that deals with such issues. We don’t come to the public to say we are taking these steps to call a chairman to order. We will continue to talk to ourselves. If some local government chairmen are not performing, it will affect the image of other local government chairmen. So we are sensitizing our colleagues on the need to deploy the resources available to them to development of their local government area.
Is ALGON really relevant?
Yes of course. The association has provided a platform for different local government councils in Nigeria to come together and muster a stronger voice. The association has been pushing for constitutional amendment that will grant greater financial autonomy to the local government. The association has created a platform for chairman to come together, look at their problems together and then form a united voice to ensure that these challenges are tackled.
Now that you have come on board, what are your plans for ALGON?
We are looking inward. We want to first of all strengthen the capacity of our secretariat to deliver. The secretariat should be able to develop a frame work. It should be able to assist the leadership of ALGON to develop an action plan. Plans that will dwell on those things that will help promote the image of ALGON.
Our watchword is service. We will work very hard to change things; to eliminate all the mistakes we might have made in the past that have probably affected the image of ALGON. The Nigerian peoples should expect the new leadership to work closely with the Federal Government. We will key into the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan so that the people of Nigeria will feel the impact of government and will always work with our governors through Nigeria Governors Forum.
What is your view on the current security challenges?
Every part of the country has its peculiar security challenges. However that of the North is more pronounce now because of recent attacks and bombings. We have challenges of security everywhere; the South east, you have kidnapping. Go to the South West; along Lagos-Ibadan expressway, you have incidents of armed robbery all the time. So one of the first things we did immediately we got elected into office was to discuss with the police on ways to find means of bringing an end to the insecurity. Local government chairmen are the chief security officers of their local government, so it is our desire to work together with the security agencies to tackle the insecurity in our country.
Can you share with us, the secret of how you got to this level at a very young age?
The secret that has taken me this far, is putting the people first. Because I believe our democracy will deepen if we can establish a connect between the government and the governed and the fastest way to establish that connect is to make sure that we carry out programmes that will impact on the lives of the people.
When you give electricity to someone who does not have electricity, the person is connecting to the government. When you ask the person to come and vote for you, the person will come and vote and our democracy will be getting richer. So we have tried to put the people first from all the positions we have held in the past. So I think that that is why my colleagues found me worthy to be their chairman, first in Enugu state and at the national level.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as one who served my people especially in my local government area. Right from the time I became chairman, I had my mind fixed on leaving a legacy in terms of projects. In ten to twenty years time, I want people to look at my children and say their father did these projects when he was at the saddle. At ALGON level, I will like to be remembered as someone who came and strengthened ALGON as a vehicle to help in developing the capacity of our local governments to perform optionally.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger



MUSINGS  ‘To Let’ sign up at SEC

FROM THE LIVE STAGE  In a season of drought

Find & Follows Us