In this interview, the national president of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Kolade D. Alabi, spoke on the recent rancour in the association, how to resolve farmers-herders crises across the country, and sundry issues.
What informed the recent rancour in the ALGON?
This question has been asked overtime, but I wish to categorically state that there was never rancour in the ALGON.
Perhaps your question is in reference to the mischief makers who paraded themselves in the name of the ALGON, and who indeed were not members of our National Executive Council.
It, therefore, became expedient for members of the association to reaffirm the confidence vote on my leadership.
There is an established procedure in our constitution that enables one to become a NEC member.
It is a pity that there are desperate uninformed people who are not members of the NEC.
Representatives of states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) thought it wise to reaffirm my leadership with total loyalty.
Considering the declining fortunes of local governments in Nigeria, how do you think the third tier of government would survive?
On the average, local government areas in Nigeria today are advancing towards higher grounds, especially since my assumption of duty as the national president of the ALGON.
My leadership came in few months before the Executive Order that brought about the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit’s (NFIU) intervention on direct disbursement of local government funds and for states where the system is democratic, such as Lagos.
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 local government system.
We have renewed our appeal to states to kindly save the system through elections.
And I must say that the governors are trying.
If not the COVID-19 pandemic, many elections would have been held.
Indeed, in the last one year of my administration, we have continued efforts aimed at advancing grassroots development, notwithstanding noticeable economic setbacks caused by the pandemic.
For the ALGON, 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.
Would you say the aim of the ALGON has been achieved since 1999?
The ALGON is an association of local governments.
Its objectives include but not limited to coordination, collaboration, alignment and development of synergy amongst the three tiers of government.
We are already moving in the trajectory of the anticipated goals of the association.
Do not forget that lack of consistency and short duration of service as national president were part of 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 wisdom where necessary.
The objectives of the association are being pragmatically pursued, mindful of the fact that our democracy is still passing through the mill, but with time we shall get there.
What is your assessment of the security situation in Nigeria?
It is quite challenging but surmountable.
It requires absolute cooperation of citizens because there’s the need to provide adequate information that will facilitate the nailing of dissidents and agents of destruction and instability.
On the herders-farmers crises, for example, we all know that climatic/seasonal change is a major mitigating factor against animal breeding; hence herdsmen are forced to migrate from the northern part of the country to the South with wholesome damages to farmlands.
And the consequence of such inordinate action is low yield of farm produce.
The panacea for this particular conflict is the establishment of ranches.
This will take care of wanton destruction of farmlands and cattle rustling.
Inasmuch as we need food crops, we also need dairy and meat, so we advocate a better understanding between herders and farmers.
That is why the recent approval and takeoff sum of the 13.6 billion for community policing is a welcome development as it will mitigate the skirmishes.
In your assessment, what is the effect of COVID-19 on rural communities?
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly exposed our inadequacy in the health sector.
It has, therefore, become necessary and urgent to rise up to the challenge.
There’s the need to properly fund the health sector.
Apparently, the cardinal responsibility of government is to save the lives and property of citizens.
In this regard, the ALGON is assiduously pursuing the bottom-top approach – from the apparatus of local authorities, through the states and the Federal Government, rather than the top-down approach as presently practised.
What would you want to be remembered for when you leave office as the national president of the ALGON?
I want to change the narrative by raising the bar for effective rural governance as a breeding ground and model for democracy in Nigeria.
I have a strong optimism that the programmes we have lined up will yield numerous benefits.
You will also agree with me that governance at the grassroots is pivotal to development, as seen in some of my accomplishments as the national president of the ALGON.
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.
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 ALGON leadership has placed in the front burner of the Federal Government, the need for local councils to be treated as worthy allies to states, and for government to consider an upward review of our monthly revenue allocation.
Also, the recovery of the ALGON House in Maitama, Abuja, is an incredible symbolic masterpiece of the association.
We have championed the refund of the US$2.6billion unremitted Paris Club.
Furthermore, I and members of my executive embarked on a trip to Morocco to learn how best local authorities could work perfectly with the Federal Government in Nigeria.
We are presently harvesting its gains despite the ravaging pandemic across rural areas.
Decorum has been restored and members of staff of local governments are now given a sense of belonging.
There are other achievements I will not be able to mention here.