- Water-tight security in Kano •7 churches, 8 shops razed - Police
- Terror suspect nabbed with N3m •As army uncovers bomb factory
- 2012, deadliest year for journalists - UN
- Court adjourns on missing N12.4bn oil windfall
- Why we cleared Molete under-bridge - Oyo govt
- Court jails courier over $286,400 cash
- Court rejects fridge repairer’s plea to keep Ibori’s bribe money
- Oyo to involve artisans in N.5bn schools rehabilitation contracts
- All set for LG poll today in Benue
- Mrs Braithwaite buried amid encomiums
- Forget presidency, Jonathan’s aide tells ex-military rulers
- FG sends delegation to Onaiyekan’s consecration, Suntai
Scrapping LGs Would Be Counter-productive - Enoghama
Honourable Victor Enoghama is Edo state Commissioner for Transport. in this interview with UCHECHUKWU OLISAH, he bares his mind on the accusation that the state government is fleecing local government accounts, the call for the scrapping of local governments, the challenges facing the transport sector and his vision for the sector among others.
AS a former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, what would you say to the accusation that the state government is fleecing local governments accounts, particularly for capital projects?
The Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs is actually saddled with the responsibility of supervising the local governments. They maintain a Joint Allocation Committee (JAC) account between the state and the local governments. When allocation comes to the local governments, there is what is called pre-JAC meeting; which means representatives of local governments will hold a meeting with the commissioner presenting the amount that came into the purse of the ministry and highlight things that are mandatory that would be deducted from it i.e g teachers’ salaries which are deducted from the source.
Before I left office, the monthly package for teachers in the state was almost N700 million ; pensions were deducted from the source, five per cent went to the traditional rulers and one per cent to NULGE’S training fund. during the JAC meeting, you have representatives from the ministries like the commissioners, permanent secretaries, directors, and council chairmen present. you also have a member from the Revenue Mobilisation Commission and Office of the Accountant General present. With these, whatever you are doing is transparent. The idea of the state government taking money doesn’t arise.
From what is on ground, it appears the local governments do not have the capacity of executing projects while some think they should be scrapped. What is your view?
I don’t think so. I I spent two and a half years supervising the 18 local governments in the state . I can tell you that there was 200 per cent improvement looking at how I met and left it. today, the local governments in Edo State have built schools, health centres and even constructed some roads. In Uromi alone, I commissioned at least six roads between 2009 and 2010. The local governments have constructed a number of schools and had some renovated. If you go round now, you will see that before I left the ministry 70 per cent of the local government funds was geared towards education. The local government is the organ of government touching the grassroots. Councils are there to listen to and carry out what people request for. They might not be pro-active, but they are trying. Why would a country like America be operating four tiers of government? They are operating it because they believe the more you have these tiers of government, the more they are closer to the people. For me, scrapping of local governments is not the solution.
What would you suggest as an alternative source of revenue for local governments since it appears they are solely dependent on allocation from the Federal Government?
The problem we are facing in the local governments is that some of the bosses, l think are either lazy or don’t know what they are doing.Actually, as it is prescribed in the Nigerian Constitution, tenement rate, levy and fine are sources of local government revenue. A local government like Oredo, Egor, Ikpoba Okha should not even depend on this so-called Abuja monthly allocation. If it is well harnessed, I am quite sure they will be raking in N30 million to N50 million on monthly basis. They should take a cue from the state government. When we came in we were making N300 to N350 million. Now, we generate over a billion. So there are lots of revenue in the local governments that have not been tapped by the councils. if a local government harnesses revenue from the cemetery, park, tenement rate , it will have enough resources.
Now that you are commissioner for transport, what will you say are the challenges faced by the Ministry of Transport in Edo state?
Since I came on board, we have faced series of challenges starting from the traffic unit, that is, the unit that controls the traffic officers. What we have discovered is that some of the personnel there don’t report for duty. What that means is that there is no structure in place, and there is no system in place that actually regulates this exercise. And the first thing we must do is to try as much as possible to make sure that those who report for work actually do their best. There are series of allegations that these officers extort money from the public, are arrogant and not civil on the job. So, what I am trying to do is to educate them on the job. though they were trained, we have some of them who are too overzealous while carrying out their duties. The role of a traffic officer is to make sure that the road is free of vehicular movement. But what you see is that some of these officers don’t know the difference between ‘No Parking’, ‘No Standing’, and ‘No waiting’. So, even when somebody is sitting in his vehicle they will tow the vehicle believing that the person is parking. And I am trying as much as possible to educate and orientate them that a traffic officer is supposed to be a community leader. What we mean by community leader is that whenever you see someone who is about going against the law, you prevent the individual from doing so. but what we see is that they will hide and let the offence be committed so that the person can be fined. This is not what is expected of a traffic officer. A traffic officer is supposed to prevent an offence.
And what are the challenges faced in terms of general policy framework within the transport sector ?
First of all, like I have said, for us to have some kind of policy framework for the transport sector in the state, the government must have to put some certain things in place. First of all, we have to have roads and our streets marked with the ‘parking ‘, ‘no parking’ and ‘stop’ signs. all these must be in place so that the drivers will know what to do and what not to do. Another challenge is that of lack of private car parks. We don’t even have a central motor part.
We don’t have those facilities that can designate an area where vehicles can be used as a garage or not. as a government, you must design a policy that will have to regulate all these amenities.
What is your vision for the transport sector in Edo State?
I am actually looking at how we can bring in the private sector into the ministry to partner with government in terms of transport. in essence we are looking at a way whereby the private sector can partner with us in the area of issuing Edo State drivers’ license, and also issuing Edo state plate numbers. the Federal Road Safety Commission is doing this on our behalf now, which is not supposed to be. Lagos state now has its own private drivers’ license division and issues driver’s license. I think we should take a cue from this.
Given that there are no public or private parks particularly in the Benin metropolis, don’t you think it is unfair and premature to fine people when they supposedly park in places you now designate as illegal parking areas?
What we have done since I came into the ministry, if you have observed, in the ministry we came up with some roads. Let us take for example, Mission Road, I have published some of these roads in a way where you can park and where you cannot park. And in some of our roads we have some signs, and we are also in the process of making more signs that we can put on our roads to inform the general public where they can park and where they cannot park. Right now, we have a few traffic lights across the city but you see some drivers, especially commercial bus drivers, don’t wait, they are always in a hurry and you know what happens when you beat a red light, there is a possibility you will cause an accident that will lead to loss of lives. No matter what you do as a government try as much as possible to educate the public you will still see have some people who will not respect that law.
The public are of the view that you are doing enough to sanitize the transport sector but they are saying that you are too highhanded. Some said you boasted you can even impound and tow the governor’s vehicle.
The truth of the matter is that the comrade governor has told me if any of his own drivers driving him beat the traffic light, we should get the driver arrested and the driver will have to pay that fine. What that means is that nobody is above the law including the governor. I have had occasion of travelling with the governor, we approached a traffic light and he ordered the driver to stop. You must obey the traffic light especially when you are a government official driving a government car. What you are supposed to do is to show example to the public that this thing, we as government personnel we are respecting it and they should respect it. If you are harsh for Nigerians they will never know that you are serious in anything you are doing. We think that everything is government magic and there is nothing like government magic here because we need to be real with ourselves in a way that if you don’t stand your ground to enforce certain rules and regulations you will never get a good foundation.