Fred Ezeh, Abuja
National President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Kolawole David Alabi is this interview spoke on various issues including the need for the autonomy of Local Governments.
What informed the recent rancour in ALGON, that culminated in your Presidency being given a clean bill of health?
I wish to categorically state that there was never any rancour in ALGON. Perhaps, your question is in reference to the activities of mischief makers who, indeed, were not members of our National Executive Council (NEC). It therefore became expedient for the body of ALGON to reaffirm the confidence vote in my leadership of the Association. There is an established procedure in our Constitution that enables one to become a NEC member. I truly seek the pity of those uninformed who are desperate non-members of NEC. So, State representatives and FCT taught it wise and expedient to reaffirm my leadership with total loyalty.
Has the purpose of ALGON been achieved yet since 1999?
Remember that ALGON is not a government. It’s umbrella body of 774 LGs and Area Councils. The objective includes but not limited to coordination, collaboration, alignment and development of synergy amongst the three tiers of governments, namely; the Federal, State and Local Governments. I can say that we are already moving in the trajectory of the anticipated goal of ALGON. And do not forget that 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 with a view to surmounting them both constitutionally and with applied wisdom where necessary.
Considering the declining fortunes of LGAs in Nigeria, what is the panacea for the survival of LGA’s in Nigeria?
LGAs in Nigeria are, obviously, advancing towards higher grounds especially since my assumption of duty as the National President. I came into office few months before the Executive Order that brought about the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU’s) intervention on direct disbursement of Local Government funds. We have enjoyed a very fiscal cordial relationship which has now become a model to copy. I make bold to say that frantic efforts are being geared towards repositioning the LGAs in our renewed advocacy, with an appeal to states to kindly save the LGAs through elections. I must openly commend some state governors. If not for COVID-19 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 going on, notwithstanding other noticeable economic setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the panacea for survival of LGAs in Nigeria?
For ALGON which is the umbrella body of local governments in Nigeria, devolution of power is the panacea to our survival. Local Government Administration is fully entrenched in the 1999 Constitution (as amended). So, there’s every sense in embracing it holistically.
COVID-19 has had devastating effect on lives of rural communities. What is the way forward?
Obviously, COVID-19 pandemic has clearly exposed inadequacies in our systems, particularly the health care sector. It has therefore become necessary and urgent for us to quickly rise up to the challenge and the need to fund the health care needs of the people. 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 Federal Government rather than the top-down approach as presently practised.
What’s your assessment of the security situation in Nigeria?
It’s quite challenging but surmountable! It requires the absolute cooperation of the citizens to provide adequate information that would facilitate the nailing of dissidents and agents of destruction and instability. Permit me to use the herdsmen/cattle rustling conflicts with their host communities as example. We all know that the climatic/seasonal change was a major mitigating factor for animal breeding, thereby, forcing the herdsmen to migrate from Northern parts of Nigeria to the South with wholesome damages to farmlands. The consequence of such inordinate action is low yield of farm produce. So, the panacea for resolution of this particular conflict is to create sectoral and dedicated ranches that would relieve the host communities of anger and hatred for unlawful take over and wanton destruction of their farmlands. In as much as we need food crops, we also need dairy and meat. So, we advocate for better understanding and that is why the recent approval and take off sum of the N13.6billion for community policing is a welcome development that would, expectedly, mitigate the skirmishes.