Rotimi Adeleye, Ifako-Ijaiye Caretaker Committee Chairman; Wahab Kareem, Deputy Executive Secretary/Supervisor for Health and Alhaja Aderonke Kudirat Bello, Head of Local Government Administration speak about the achievements of the Transition Committee members since assuming office and the challenges they are grappling with in this interview with P.M.NEWS editorial team
Q: Congratulations on your new position, how will you describe the journey so far?
Rotimi Adeleye: Well, the journey so far has been a little hectic but interesting. When we came in it was a tall order and the order was to make sure that we organize a free and fair election (2015 general elections) and you can imagine what that means even for a top government politician who has been in the game of political administration, not to talk of a humble journalist who has been requested to come and serve his fatherland. Shortly after the electoral assignment, we found out that there is no gain saying that we have to impact and in the process of impacting what we did was actually to first handle the health sector. We quickly made sure that we called together nursing mothers, expectant mothers also, those who are pregnant within our local government to educate them about the issue of roll back malaria.
And we didn’t stop at educating them, we went to distribute treated nets to them and interestingly we felt that it will not be also nice to do that to the teeming population without looking at our working population. So, we looked inwards and did the same for our union (Union of Local Government Employees), staffs that are pregnant, staffs that are nursing mothers. We distributed treated nets to them. Still under health care, we went ahead to collaborate with Rotary International. As we speak today, this is going to be the second year that polio has been certified to have been eradicated from Nigeria, but exactly when it was one year, what we did was to call on the Rotary community. They came down to our office and we agreed to have a programme to mop up.
You know often times we have been on this journey. Up till a time it was PAIN. When the acronym was PAIN, it was Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria (countries where polio was prevalent). But now Nigeria and India are polio free. So, we just have Pakistan and Afghanistan left, but even at those places, in India you see once a while, we do what we call mopping up through polio immunization. So we called Rotary International and we went to Ifako Primary Health Centre where we conducted immuniazation to mark one good year that polio has been gotten rid of in Nigeria. And we didn’t just stop at that. We also bought some healthcare materials, distributed them and everybody was really appreciative of it and if you go to that Ifako Primary Health Centre you will still find a big billboard that our local government and Rotary International erected there to mark that particular exercise.
Also as part of our healthcare programme, we went to Iju Ogundimu Primary School. Iju Ogundimu Primary School is in riverine area where … along the corridor where Lagos state government, let me say, Ifako-Ijaiye Local government has a boundary with Ogun State. We went there to have what we call deworming exercixe where we dewormed at least 3,000 pupils in that school and it was a success. All of these are the areas of the structural or capital project aspect of health care. We have two new primary health centres. We built them to finishing stage, the first one is at Lonlo. When you get to Lonlo bus stop, you see a glass house, which is the primary health centre. Now it is completed. We operated earlier at a rented apartment. So, we have now moved the facilities and personnel to that completed primary health centre. The other primary health centre is at Iju. We got it constructed, finished up with the paintings and everything and we are still expecting His Excellency (Governor Akinwunmi Ambode) to go and look at it and commission it. It is ready. As a matter of fact, the Head of Admin (Alhaja Aderonke Kudirat Bello) is putting so much effort now at getting the manpower that will work in that primary health centre. She is working on that now.
Q: Concerning health, there is fear in Nigeria now about the spread of Lassa fever. Is there any campaign going on to enlighten the people about what to do to avoid contracting the disease?
Adeleye: Yes. Let me tell you, one of the very important aspects of the policy trust of His Excellency (Governor Ambode) is health care. Even at the time he was mentioning the issue of the environment, he was making sure that the emphasis is on clean environment and that is why as I speak with you, there is a programme on ground now, we have requested our department of environment to go round and work with CDAs. These are the people that own the community, they know who is passing by, who is dropping what, so their eyes are on ground. So we are working with the CDAs in order to make our environment clean. Apart from every monthly sanitation, occassionally our environment department officials make sure that they go out to monitor the evironment and make sure everywhere is kept clean, especially the black spot, because health is wealth
Q: Specifically is there any campaign on this Lassa fever?
Aderonke Bello: The council has held several meetings with their sub heads in trying to see what we can do through education. All the programmes are going on at the same time because it is going to be a statewide campaign. Why they want to do that is to be able to domesticate the same campaign branding all over the state.
Q: What are doing in the area of security and other challenges in this council area?
Adeleye: We felt that there is a need for us to bring the community together and give a very good alert as to why people should be very conscious of those around them. We held a seminar and security agents were around and we also called on traditional rulers, CDAs to really educate them on the need to be conscious about their surroundings and we came up with the slogan of “If you see something, say something”. During Children’s Day, we also celebrated with them so that the children will not feel alienated and feel they are not part of it. We were part of the tree planting programme, we actually held it all over the council area. Specifically I have not been bordering on capital projects apart from the two primary health centres. We just completed one of the streets known as Oluwasijubumni street and it has eased traffic and that is what we said we should be doing, looking at roads that are very vital to easing traffic congestion, not just constructing roads.
We also went ahead to construct Folouronsho street, so as to ease the traffic. If you check our environment, often time because our local government is situated very close to Ogun state, all the vehicular movement from the boundary – Akute, Ajuwon, Oke Aro, has congested because Ogun state has stopped work on the road linking up Ojudu Berger. Motorists now divert through our roads and thats brings heavy traffic around us. That is why we fixed these two vital roads. The Governor has also approved two other one among the 114 roads to be repaired across the state.
Q: You mentioned that people live in the periphery – suburbs, they pass through Obawole and the rest, but there is a portion on Obawole road, there is a place called Ndike, the road was tarred from Elliot up to a point where Ndike stops and then it took off from the road that leads to Haruna, do you have plans to complete that portion?
Adeleye: That road passes through the power line, it is something that the local government cannot really handle alone. But what happened is that when they were working on it, it was around the time, if you check carefully, or you remember it was around when election were going on last year that they had to stop because one administration was about to go and another was to come in. That is what affected it. But then, we are not really closing all opportunities, we still have to write to remind them. We did one recently, you must have seen it, the one that passes through Ashabi Taiwo to link Obawole, so it will take us reminding those that were involved that this one if they do it, it will also help commuters.
Ques: Certainly a lot of activities are going on in your local government, the other day I tried to get information, so I went to the internet and I discovered that almost a year that website – Ifako Ijaiye Local Government has not been functional. I think most of these things that you have enumerated would easily be put on the internet for the people to know a lot of what you are doing without necessarily coming here. Most of the misconceptions about what you are doing would have been easily corrected if you upload your activities on the internet. What are you are doing to ensure that your website comes alive?
Adeleye: Well, the Governor, when he came also advocated for us to have a vibrant website, we are also conscious of having such. The one that we had in the past, I think it was by the past administration and am not even sure there is access to it any longer. But as it were, what it is important is that we are gradually going to get to discussing the challenges now. As important as a website project is, we also are looking at it. It was already at the final stage if not for the
constraint of finance and that is why there is nothing anyone can really do about it. This particular month, I mean, the last month, the amount of allocation that came was very low and that is where the issue of our challenges will be coming up now.
Q: How do intend to improve your internally generated revenue so that you can augment the little that is coming in from the state?
Adeleye: We are putting so much effort on that.
Bello: We actually are making frantic efforts to check how they have been collecting revenue. I just resumed here three months ago, from Alimosho Lcal Government Area and I found out that they are not really doing well. They depend on the federation account fund they get. We just have to look inwards by blocking loopholes, and we are introducing e-payment system, e-demand note, e-receipts. We are equally intoducing the use of POP machines that enables payment at your doorstep. You don’t have to go to the bank to keep long hours, so when you pay into a POP machine, you have your receipt instantly. That will also assure the populace that the money that has been paid is not going into wrong hands, it is going right inside the council coffers. By so doing we know, if you cannot block it hundred per cent, we are looking at achieving 80 to 90 per cent.
Many people will like it. You know we always have people in between us who had been old hands, you won’t even know who amongst them is the core staff of the local government or not. Now we are saying we want to block all those loopholes, so we engaged a bank, we are now using Ecobank to make sure that all these loopholes are blocked. When we serve you e-bill, you cannot manipulate the bill because it is printed by the system. Not even I nor the staff of the council can alter it. We will be sure that what we are giving you is a genuine bill. There have been approved rate from the Ministry of Local Government, everybody knows which categorises what billing system you will have, those in the up Island, those in Ikeja, Lagos Mainland, all have a rating. The only thing you do is go to a POP handler, tell him this is my bill, you pay and get your receipt immediatly. So, by so doing, there is no way you will say let me go and slash the money, once that is removed. there is no cash transaction.
Aside that, this council has only two revenue generating sources. Now we are trying to increase them to seven. How do we mean seven? We have seven wards in this council. There will be new area office in each of these wards and we deploy staffs to each of these wards. People in these particular wards can now go to the people there, even the staff within that area can easily have access to the shop owner or whoever and you can really capture everything. You cannot come and tell me that in this particular ward you have only 20 shops when in actual terms you have 50. So by the time I now put you in between the wards, you have the opportunity of knowing how many shops within the locality.
Q: With these innovations now, has the IGR grown?
Bello: (Head of Admin.): We’re only starting this Janauary. We have never started collecting money from anyone. I had a meeting with the CDC and CDAs and each of their exco, to equally tell them what we are doing to revive the IGR. We told them that for now, they shouldnt pay anybody. We are not even collecting any money now but when we are ready we tell them. After that we are equally trying to change our staff psyce, if people want to pay you money, you must be humble, treat them with all cordialities. I have had series of staff being harassed by the public because they equally harass the public. Some of them don’t have this relationship or how to be very subtle, so they end up going to the police station for settlement. We are now putting measures in place to teach them how to handle the public and the better way to have our revenue so that we can have much money coming into our purse.
Adeleye: When she came in as an administrator, it was a two way thing, while we are correcting the pschye of the community people, those that are serving them we must also correct. Let them have the right thinking and it is in the light of that we said that we should have a complaints centre and because most people in this part of the world will hardly see governance as service rendering. What we are offering now is all about service rendering. The complaints centre is where members of the public can go and complain about harrassment by our members of staff in the course of trying to collect tax or levies. So, when our staffers, the internal ones also know that we are putting checks and controls on to the external ones, they will also conduct themselves properly. I want to also comment on the issue of those that we call non pensionable, temporary staff. Among them are the Spy Police. The view of people is very wrong on this.
Bello: Non pensionable staff means staff hired by local government not on permanent basis. We have regular staff. That means those that got employed into the system either as a junior staff into the system or as a senior staff through Public Service Commission. Those are the ones we call pensionable or regular staff or registered staff, those ones know that upon their retirement, they have all the benefits that await them. Now, if you say non pensionable staff, that is staff who are engaged and will never be entitled to pensions. They are paid on month to month basis, they are on contract.
Q: But can their contract be terminated at any point in time?
Bello: Yes. so they are on month to month salary basis. They are paid from Janaury to December, so if the salary of December expires, automatically their services expires too, So it is now the choice of the system to ask each of them to re-apply for the positions again, if they still wish to continue with the system. And when they are applying again it is pertinent for them to attach their certificate of medical fitness. We still have many of them who are very old, so if a medical doctor affirms he or she is medically fit, we now look at how our system can dictate, whether we can pay them. These people cut across these Spy Police. They are a kind of arm to the police. I don’t know how they get through the police, but they deployed them to the service, while we accept and say OK come and do some assignments for us.
Mostly you see them serving as orderlies to the kabeyisis (monarchs), some of the chairmen also use them, and when we go for revenue enforcement we use them too, you know the public doesn’t know who are the regular police, when they see them in black uniforms, it scares them not to misbehave. These are kinds of things they do for the local government. Some of them have been with the council for ages. I dont why the council kept them for so long, maybe because of unemployment in the country. Now that the fund is challenging, it now becomes an issue. Apart from the police we still have civil defence, legions, cleaners, sweepers – those people are all non pensionable staff, we still have Youth Corps members, even the local sourced people, some of them say they are vigilante, some who carry out traffic control, all these people, WAI brigade, we call them non pensionable because we know that in our pensionable list they are not there.
They are only hired for month to month salary basis. We were surprised to see this category of staff employed to protect us, go to the press to report that the local government is not paying their salaries. When I got here that were about 761 Spy Policemen, more than the number of our regular staff. I said ‘No this can’t be’. Our staff strength here is 595. That’s why when I came here I said I must know them. We started doing auditing and we called them out, after the auditing they went again. So we are just paying people for nothing. The Spy Police get paid for not doing anything.
Adeleye: Sometimes you will find out that it is only when there is payment of salaries at the end of the month that you will see them. Some of them will just travel and come and collect the money at the end of the month. That’s why they are afraid of the e-payment. They just use ATM to withdraw their money wherever they are. What she is explaining would have continued like that, apart from my observation, what happened was that after the auditor general exercise, we discovered lots of ghost workers. Perhaps if not for our observation and constraint from the federation account, nobody would have known that there are ghost workers in this council. When I did a little research, even from Ojodu, they (non pensionable staff) don’t stay for a long time. The council engages them and after a while they lay them off, get another ones based on the title – temporary staff but here, it is an old tradition and it is eating deep into our revenue. Some of them have spent twenty years. I is natural to keep them when you have resources but now the resources have dwindled, we have to look inwards and now that we are looking inwards, a few of them employed or recruited by the politicians are now trying to politicise it to make them feel that our own administration is a bad administration that is why we are laying them off.
Q: Have they been laid off?
Adeleye: We are trying to be very practical because of the fact that they want to politicise it. We have gone to the source of the Spy Police, the Police Command that deployed them to our council. They were very practical about it. They said, ‘if you don’t need them again, Ok, we will call them back to the command and give them to the people that want their services. If you don’t want them, write to us.’ So, we have written to the police command concerning Spy Police. So, it is different kinds of people eating from the national cake. The man producing the cake has said he cannot continue to produce, so we don’t have any option and they don’t have any option. Times are hard and revenue has dwindled drastically. And we want this infornation get into the public domain so that people will know really what is happening.
Q: Schools have resumed. We went round and we didn’t see the students and pupils being fed as part of the free meal programme of the APC government. What is going on and when are you starting that project?
Kareem: It is a national programme which starts from the top. We are still expecting our own from the top. It is a federal programme. In addition to that, part of the achievements of this administration in respect to education is the distribution of 200 GCE forms to indigent students in the local government. We have aalso resuscitated the library. Before now we had a library that was not functional. This administration has made it functional for the use of the populace. It is located at the old Area Office, on Old Akute Road, Iju. Also this adminsitration as directed by the state, has embarked on two anti-cult campaign programme for students of secondary schools within the local government. And in conjuction with the Rotary club, we have rehabilitated and reconstructed two blocks of six classrooms each at Karaole Primary School. One is already completed and one will soon be ready. Very soon we will start another at Adeleye Primary School.
Q: One last question, what next?
Adeleye: Well, the question is a very good one and my answer to it is that when I was going to be appointed it was really not expected and sincerely I have resolved within my mind that I will not also struggle because I know that after this one I will be also called upon to serve in one capacity or the other. I don’t know what it will be.