The National President of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria, Hon. Kolade David Alabi, has aid only true federalism and devolution of powers would guarantee the survival of the local government administration as a third tier of government in the country. Onyebuchi Ezigbo presents the excerpts:
What was the cause of the recent rancor in ALGON that led to an unsuccessful move to oust you from office?
Perhaps, your question is in reference to the mischiefmakers, who paraded themselves in the name of ALGON and who indeed were not members of our National Executive Council. It therefore becomes expedient for the body of ALGON to reaffirm the confidence vote on my leadership of the association.
There is an established procedure in our constitution that enables one to become a N.E.C member. I truly pity those uninformed, who are desperate non-members of NEC. States Representatives and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) thought it wise and expedient to reaffirm my leadership with total loyalty.
Do you think the objective of establishing the association for local government councils is being realised yet?
Yes, it is the springboard for propelling development at the grassroots. Second, the objective of the association is being pragmatically pursued with the best practices, mindful of the fact that our democracy is still passing through “the mill” and with time rest assured that we shall get there.
Considering the declining fortunes of local government administration in the country, what do you recommend as the best way to reform local government in Nigeria to ensure their survival?
On the average, the local government councils in Nigeria today are advancing towards higher grounds especially, since my assumption of duty as the National President ALGON. My leadership came in few months before the Executive Order that brought about the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU)’s intervention on direct disbursement of local government funds and for states, where democratically elected local government system is in operation like Lagos State.
We have enjoyed a very cordial fiscal relationship, which has now become a model to copy. I make bold to say that frantic efforts are being geared towards repositioning the local government council in our renewed advocacy appealing to the states to kindly save the local government councils through elections and I must say the state governors are trying. If not the pandemic, many elections would have been in place.
Indeed, efforts aimed at advancing grassroots development in the last one year of my administration has been a continuum, notwithstanding other noticeable economic setbacks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For ALGON as a body, devolution of power is the panacea to our survival. Local government administration is fully entrenched in the 1999 constitution (as amended) and there is every sense in embracing it holistically.
What would you want to be remembered for when leave office as ALGON president?
My tenure as the National President of ALGON is still on course. My passion and courage to change the narratives from the earlier unpleasant experience is by raising the bar for effective rural governance as a breeding ground and model for appreciating “Democracy in Action”.
I have strong optimism that moving forward, with time and programmes, which we have lined up, it will be tenure wrapped with numerous benefits. You will also agree with me that governance at the grassroots is pivotal to development as seen in some of my giant strides and accomplishment as the National President of ALGON for which posterity may be kind to my person.
Under my watch, we have advanced and maintained our follow-up on collaboration and synergy with the United Cities and Local Governments – Africa (UCLG – AFRICA) and that of the European Union. ALGON leadership has placed in the front burner of the central government for Local Councils to be treated as a worthy ally to the states and for the Federal Government to consider an upward review of our monthly revenue allocation.
We now have the unique opportunity to participate in the dialogue with the European Union Development (EUD) representatives in the formulation and execution of agreed programmes (2021 – 2027).
The recovery of our ALGON HOUSE in Maitama is an incredible and symbolic masterpiece of the association in Abuja and we have championed under my watch the refund of the $2.6 Billion unremitted Paris Club.
A trip to Morocco was embarked on with my Executive to learn how best the local authorities can work perfectly with the central government in Nigeria. We are presently harvesting its gains despite the ravaging pandemic across the rural areas. Presently, decorum has been restored. The staff of ALGON is now given a sense of belonging and much more.
Can you say the purpose of ALGON been achieved?
The objective includes but not limited to coordination, collaboration, alignment and development of synergy amongst the three tiers of governments viz the federal, state and local governments.
I haste to say that we are already moving in the trajectory of the anticipated goal of the Association and do not forget that the lack of consistency and short duration of service as National President were part of the policy shift/variation.
By and large, we should appreciate the journey so far! Some of the impending bottlenecks are being looked into with all intent and purposes to surmounting them both constitutionally and with applied wisdom where necessary.
Can you assess the security situation in Nigeria under the present administration?
Quite challenging but surmountable. It requires the absolute cooperation of the citizens to provide adequate information that will facilitate the nailing of dissidents and agents of destruction and instability. Permit to use the herdsmen/cattle rustling conflicts with their host communities.
We all know that the climatic/seasonal change is a major mitigating factor for animal breeding thereby forcing the herdsmen to migrate from the Northern parts of Nigeria Southwards with wholesome damages to farmlands. The consequence of such inordinate action is low yield of farm produce!
The panacea for this particular conflict is to create sectorial and dedicated ranches, thereby relieving the host communities of anger and hatred for unlawful takeover and wanton destruction of farmlands. In as much as we need food crops, we need dairy and meat but we advocate better understanding and that is why the recent approval and takeoff sum of the N13.6 Billion for community policing is a welcome development aimed at mitigating the skirmishes.
What have been the effects of Covid-19 on lives of rural communities and most especially, the ability of local government councils to perform their roles?
The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly exposed our inadequacies in the health care sector. In containing the Primary Health Issues, it has therefore become necessary and urgent, if you ask me, for us to quickly rise to the challenge and the need to fund the health needs! Apparently, the cardinal responsibility of governments is to save lives and property.
In this regard, ALGON is assiduously pursuing the bottom-top approach from local authorities apparatus through the states and to the central government rather than the top-down approach as presently practiced.