Gyang Bere, Jos
The political son of the Pioneer National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Chairman of Langtang North Local Government Council, Dr. Joshua Laven Ubandoma has praised the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong for treating Local Government Chairmen in the state fairly with monthly subvention from the Federation Account. Ubandoma who is the only surviving PDP Local Government Chairman in the state said that despite his travails at the tribunal that culminated in his victory at the Appeal court, he has enjoyed cordial working relationship with Governor Simon Lalong. In this interview, he vowed to remain in PDP to protect the party’s legacies left behind by the founding fathers including late Chief Solomon Lar.
As the only surviving Local Government Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Plateau State, what will you say has been your experience in the last 100 days in office?
I believe you all know my travail very well and the crisis that I went through but to God be the glory that at the end of the day, I became victorious at the Appeal Court after the tribunal. Governor Simon Bako Lalong, who truly has a reputation already and a Lawyer who respects the rule of Law, swore me into office on October 9, 2019 and January 2020 was my 100 days in office which coincided with his election victory at the Supreme Court; that is how significant that day is for him and me. My 100 days in office was a day of his Judgement at the Supreme Court and to a very large extent, we have enjoyed a working relationship with him despite the fact I am from the opposition PDP. What I thought he is, is not what I am seeing; to some extent, he gave us a free hand to run the administration of the Local Government; he is not too concerned about the local government; he allowed us to use whatever comes for the development of the people apart from the frontline charges that are statutory deductions to finance the state and local government projects like Universal Basic Education, Primary Health Care and most projects that the state and local government are enjoying. These are the projects that the state and local government will co-sponsor, but like our capital projects, money for VAT, no local government Chairman will say the governor has anything to do with our VAT. These VATs that are coming are strictly in our hands and we used it for the projects that benefit our people. The Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs only guide us on how to spend the money because most Local Government Chairmen could be reckless if allowed not to be scrutinised by the Ministry, therefore you must write a project and how you are going to spend the money. The zonal inspector must be in the picture and your Director of Finance and Director of Personnel Management must sign and then you must go to tender board before the money is released. The zonal Inspector will be the one to finally sign because that is the eye of the Ministry but not that he will stop you from doing what you want. It has to be a project, you cannot use that money for anything apart from projects. As the only opposition in the Plateau State Executive Council, and the only surviving PDP Local Government Chairman in the state, I will say there is a level of transparency in the activities of the governor. I score him when it comes to that, he is doing well. But in my achievement for 100 days in office, I first of all ran into crisis with Military men who were supposed to come to Langtang to take over because of the crises in Wase Local Government Area axis where the militia attacked Chief Lot, the Second Class Chief of Kadarko. Some militia men came there around August/ September, 2019 and a lot of Tarok people where killed, and you could remember that crisis. The Military took over that environment for a while, and someone was caught which created a lot of crises. The Tarok people that were displaced came to Langtang immediately and there was this order that came from above that the Military should come and ransack every where, but we got intervention with my counterparts from Langtang South and we were able to meet with Major General Agundu, the Commander of the Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) and we saw the Chief of Defense Staff, and we told them to give us the benefits of doubt that we will recover illegal weapons in Langtang land.
Were you able to recover the illegal weapons?
Yes, that is one of my achievements because before Christmas period in Tarok land, people used to go to bed around 7pm to 8pm but now, people stay awake till the next day; they can sleep with their eyes closed now. The criminality in Langtang is no more and before I came in, there was no water in the local government Secretariat; they used to buy water and today, there is a solar power borehole where there was no water, there are running taps within Langtang Local Government. There is another solar power borehole across the Secretariat where people fetch their water without hardship. When I came, I remodeled the Council Secretariat, particularly the office of the Chairman and I think we have one of the best office now in Plateau. In all the wards in Langtang North, I was able to construct and drill about 20 hand pump boreholes. I have been able to pay the arrears of local government staff promotion together for 7 years. When I came in, I made sure that everybody is happy doing his work. The people are enjoying synergy and freedom among themselves, I think that calls for celebration, and a lot of investors are coming in within the short period of time; everybody is happy.
How have you fared in terms of running the local government council?
Everything has been smooth except in December where we had a short fall in our allocation which affected the salary of political appointees, especially; the Chairman and the Councilors were not paid their salaries, I struggled to see that done but last week, we were able to clear that. To God be the glory, this month, the subvention is a little better but it is not enough to pay salary of political office holders and my appointees but with little effort to put one thing and the other together, it will be fair to say that the governor don’t interfere with the local government finances; there is a free hand because I am willing and ready to say it the way it is because I am in the opposition and I have nothing to hide. But in as much as I have control over my VAT since I came into office, nobody has told me that I must use the money for this, apart from statutory deduction which we are still appealing that the state government should take responsibility of that or better still, they should pay more so that the local government will pay less so that there will be more development in the grassroots. There must be collaboration between the two tiers of Government but there are some of those deductions that can be waved because they are just unnecessary deductions. Like the cost of servicing the Local Government Service Commission, Local Government Ministry, Universal Basic Education, contribution to Operation Rainbow, a security outfit.
Are you satisfied with the leadership style of Governor Simon Lalong?
I am encouraging him to do the right thing because we in the Southern zone are calling him to give us attention too to work on our roads and schools; we need his attention now, he has done enough for the Northern zone; it is the turn of Southern zone, he should come back home and link our roads so that Langtang-Shendam and Ajikamai road will be relieved.
Bandits are attacking people on the road now because of their bad nature. If those roads are fixed, our security will be able to check mate criminality. Northern Zone was absolutely developed by former Governor Jonah and he has equally done a lot. In fact, the Solar light everywhere now in Jos is commendable; we need a replacement of same in the Northern zone too; I am not being sentimental about that. Also, in the Central zone, the road that links from Du to Mangu Halle should be given due attention because that is the only road now people from Central and Southern zone ply mostly and the quality of the road needs to be improved upon. Generally, I think his administration has done fairly good and now that his victory has been affirmed, I think he should concentrate now that he is free of litigation. We can now see signs that the potholes that we have been complaining about in Jos has been fixed. We can see some changes now, the administration has picked up very well.