Mr. George Ali was a member of the Benue State House of Assembly. He is currently the Sole Administrator of Otukpo local government area. In this interview, he speaks about governance at the third tier of government, the challenges and prospects.
You were a one-time lawmaker but, last November, you were appointed the Sole Administrator of Otukpo LGA. What has been the experience thus far?
It has been worth the while, but it came with its own challenges. But we are weathering the storm and making the best of it by ensuring that the people enjoy dividends of democracy despite the obvious economic challenges.
Talking about challenges, and the dwindling revenue at the disposal of government, how are you coping and what measures have you taken to boost your IGR?
I will just say I have applied what I call simple knowledge of economies. Nothing more.
The first thing I did on assumption of office four months ago was to reorganize the revenue generating mechanism in Otukpo. Before now, over 70 percent of revenue generated in Otukpo went into private pockets. But we are on top of the situation now. We have changed all our receipts and introduced new ones with security features. With that it has become difficult for anyone to forge our receipts. So it’s bad business for those behind the diversion of our revenue, the people have been advised to ensure that they are given new receipts whenever payments are made to the council. With that, we’ve been able to improve on our IGR which is now far higher that what was being realized.
What have you been able to put on ground, so far, with the resources at your disposal?
In the last four months, we’ve done quite a lot with the resources of our disposal since I assumed office as Sole Administrator. One of our projects is the rehabilitation of Ochi Idoma Road in Otukpo. That road was an eyesore. It was not motorable. But when we came in, we were able to grade, laterite and compacted the road. We also did surface dressing by putting tar and stones on it. I can tell you that, today, Otukpo local government is the only one in the whole of the North Central that is able to put tar on a road. Within this period, we have also rehabilitated the council secretariat and that complex is wearing a new look befitting of a metropolitan local government council. We also went into the opening up of rural roads, we took two roads within Otukpo. One of them is from Eupi to Idiku bypass. The length is about 2.7km. It was graded and compacted. Before we did the road, only motorcycles could ply it. But light and heavy duty vehicles ply the road now. We did same with Japan Street, that one is about 1.3km. One of the remarkable things we also did within this period is that we saw to the cleanliness of Otukpo town. The place is quite clean unlike what we had in the past. When we came in, we procured compactors, like the ones being used in Abuja and Lagos for environmental sanitation. We have two of them in Otukpo. They are being used to move refuse out of the town. Though people are paying a token to support the service, they are happy to see that their refuse is removed twice a week by these trucks. We were able to do this through partnership without putting a kobo into it.
This service has also created job opportunities for our youths. Over 20 of our youths, both as crew and administrative staff, have been engaged and they are paid on regular basis. We’ve also introduced what is known as Otukpo Integrated Land Service, OTILS. That is the first in the whole of the 23 local government areas of the state. Before now, we had issues whereby people will have three to four titles to one particular land, but with OTILS, the computer has all the details of land ownership in Otukpo. With this, it is difficult for anyone to engage in land racketeering in the LGA. You now have at the tip of you fingers the details of any land you want to buy. Land speculators who deceive people into buying fraudulently acquired land are out of business. Besides, through that project, we have created job opportunities for lots of our youths. The firms handling the project has taken over 50 of our youths off the streets by providing them gainful employment.
On the issue of cultism and crime, we have also done a lot. In the last 10 to 15 years, there was hardly any Christmas that people did not desert the streets of Otukpo anytime from 8pm for fear of being attacked by gangs. But the situation has changed. Between last December and now we have not recorded any such case. It was the first time we had peaceful festivity. Everybody was happy including the security agencies who worked tirelessly to ensure peace in Otukpo. Like I said before now, the most important thing is for us to maintain the tempo.
Within the same period we have built two blocks of classrooms, the type SUBEB is building and they are ready for commissioning by the Governor of the state.