Hon. Micah Jiba
Thing are no longer the same in the Abuja Municipal Council (AMAC), writes Onyebuchi Ezigbo, who was recently on a project tour with chairman of the council, Hon. Micah Jiba
The story of the development challenges facing the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) may be similar to most other local councils in country. But the approach in dealing with such challenges as well as the results differs.
With AMAC elections fixed for March 16, there is probably no better time to showcase achievements than now. However, for Chairman of AMAC, Hon. Micah Jiba, it is better to use the election period to showcase his achievements and tangible efforts of his administration to the people and then, leave them to make their conclusions.
Jiba, therefore, took journalists with him on a three-day project inspection of the various communities within the AMAC. The chairman followed up by conveying a Town Hall meeting where residents from all the communities came to share their opinion on the activities of the council. The tour proved a rewarding one as many were marveled at what seemed a harvest of projects and development interventions that litter the communities.
Before now, what was common in most of the rural suburbs around the FCT were yawning gaps in basic infrastructure- a sharp contrast to the situation in the main city centre. There were clear absence of good road network, properly equipped schools and healthcare facilities, in areas where they existed all. The people living in these suburbs after years of high expectations and unfulfilled promises could not hide their joy at the present switch of fate.
Since his administration started in May, 2010, Jiba has displayed an uncommon passion to execute projects that touch on the lives of rural dwellers within the Area council.
Out of the six area councils that make-up the FCT, AMAC is the largest. Indeed, it is the host area council for the nation's capital, Abuja, where the seat of the Federal Government is domiciled. Due its population, AMAC could perhaps be counted along some states, but its monthly allocation can hardly exceed an impress for state governors.
In terms of development index, the council is believed to rank above other local government councils in the country. One of the major challenges in AMAC is the issue of financial limitations, which is
The dream to transform Abuja into becoming one of the most beautiful cities in the world has driven Jiba into undertaking tours of prominent cities in South Africa, Malaysia and Kenya where he was able to understudy what it takes to run a big city.
"My honest prayer is that AMAC will be like any of these city councils or even better," he said.
In the area of development and project execution, Jiba told the people on assumption of office that having received their mandate, there would be no excuse for non-performance. "I have assured the people that I will never be a political speculator or a 'JJC' in office. My two-point agenda is education and empowerment."
During an assessment tour, a lot of on-going and completed projects were seen dotting the various communities in AMAC. Education has received a big boost as the Chairman reeled out long list of interventions in the sector. For example, he said the council has been able to establish over 10 new primary schools, paid scholarships to over 800 students valued at over N27 million.
Also, the scorecard showed that the council has produced and distributed 1,625 classroom desks, given 4,600 free school uniforms to pupils in primary schools as well as provided 100, 000 to the school children. In his first tenure in office, Jiba saw that most of the rural communities under the Area council were literarily in darkness, and he moved to correct the anomaly by connecting electricity to 42 of communities with periodic supply of transformers to shore-up power supply to beneficiary communities.
For the council chairman, there is no segregation or barrier to the issue development, even as those living in the so-called city centre, in Wuse and Abuja central areas still have challenges of poor power supply which was urgently attended.
Another area of intervention was in Jikwoyi, where the council administration tried to provide access roads and drainages for the people. Until now, the road used to be a nightmare for residence of Jikwoyi as they meander through the bad roads that dotted the largely unplanned neighborhood. In all, 10 road networks were constructed for the AMAC-ACO Housing Estate and communities of Jikwoyi and Kabusa.
Water supply is another critical need that had dogged most parts of the adjoining Abuja suburbs where water wells have become the main source of water for drinking and cooking. However, the AMAC council appeared to have taken the bull by the horn and from drilling just bore holes, the council has commenced the process of linking these communities to good drinking pipe-borne water.
For the authorities at AMAC, the task of getting rid of the mounting refuse around the neighborhood on a sustainable basis was indeed a major challenge until the chairman took the initiative to procure modern refuse dispensing trucks, bulldozer and pick-up van. Apart from acquiring sanitation equipment, AMAC has gone ahead to recruit special sanitation marshals who help in no small measure to rid satellite towns of refuse.
Ahead of the FCT council election coming on March 16, the Town Hall meeting summoned by Jiba provided an appropriate opportunity for the residents to bring his administration to account and pass assessment on the council performance in the three years.
Jiba said he choose to adopt the platform of town hall meeting in order to address development issues and receive meaningful advices or knocks from the people. "I must confess that within the short period of my stewardship, I have benefited immensely from advices from people which had served to ginger my administration towards performing better".
Jiba also believed that the clamour for financial autonomy for local councils is necessary to further improve their performance. According to him, a lot could be achieved when the councils have guaranteed and unfettered access to funds allocated to it.
In his contributions at the forum, a former Chairman of AMAC, Ambassador Jacob Ayuba, set the ball rolling by tasking the chairman on the need to empower rural farmers so that they can improve on their farming skills. He proffered some of the lessons and ideas the chairman should imbibe to enhance his performance.
Commending the chairman, traditional rulers and district heads of communities noted that the task of administering a heterogeneous council like AMAC is not an easy one. Of particular interest to the chiefs was the novel idea of offering scholarship to school children.
A women activist, Hajia Halimatu Jumare, appealed to the Chairman to take women issues seriously by establishing women and youths skill acquisition centres in various zones to help empower women and improve the lot of the youths. Jumare observed that there were a lot of funds being made available by FG which the people can benefit from by coming together as cooperatives to access the funds to pursue their endeavors.
On the whole, the verdict of the people who thronged the Apo Community Hall was that there is a lot of room for improvement, especially in the area of education to raise the level of manpower of the indigenes. They suggested the setting of an Education Trust Fund by the council to help train indigenes and support them in acquiring the best quality education abroad.
Although, Jiba refused to openly admit that the project tour was a subtle campaign tactics ahead of the council election in the FCT, but as a politician, he could not hide his excitement at the seeming vote of confidence passed on his administration at every stop during the tour.