Alhaji Abdullahi D. Galadima, Chairman of Kuje Area Council, in this exclusive interview, speaks on providing rural infrastructure, the council’s decision to audit the Local Education Authority (LEA) account, screen council staff and traditional rulers on the council’s payroll, among other issues. Excerpts:
You have just assumed office as the chairman of Kuje Area Council. Bearing the high expectations of the people that voted you into office, what is your administration’s area of priority?
It is obvious that there are high expectations from those who voted us into office. Having campaigned vigorously and won the election, now it is time to settle down to the business of the day. Whatever policy we are going to pursue will be in line with the APC manifesto which is skill acquisition, youth/women empowerment, agriculture, education, including disbursement of scholarships to our indigent students in various tertiary institutions across the country. But the main priority of my administration, as soon as the council’s monthly allocation starts improving, is rural infrastructure, because most of the villages in Kuje Area Council are facing challenges of absence of viable amenities.
Lack of access to pipe borne water, health centres and good road networks are among the pressing needs of the rural people. I can recall my experience during my electioneering campaign to rural communities how I and my supporters had to park our vehicles to cross some streams and trek to some villages, due to lack of good roads, absence of bridges and culverts across some of the streams.
So it was hectic during my campaign and I had promised them that if they gave me the mandate, I will try my best to ensure that roads, water, bridges/culverts and health care centres are provided for them.
This is why I said earlier that my priority as soon as things start improving will be rural infrastructure. In fact, virtually 75 percent of the rural people in Kuje lack access to potable drinking water. The worst is Rubochi village, because if you see the kind of water they drink, you will shed tears, except now that we are in the rainy season that they can have some relief. Pangu villagers also need water badly. We are going to concentrate on that.
We also intend to rehabilitate some of the Local Education Authority (LEA) primary schools, which are in a state of disrepair across rural communities. We will equip them with instructional materials to make the schools more conducive for both teachers and pupils. A situation where pupils sit on the bare floor under leaking classrooms is quite worrisome.
What informed your decision to embark on screening of council staff and traditional rulers, are you suspecting whether there are ghost workers?
You see, when we assumed leadership of this area council, we met ‘bogus’ liabilities to the extent that the council has not been able to pay workers’ salaries for two months. Based on what we saw, we believed there are ghost workers, which is why we can’t even pay staff salaries. Let me tell you what I discovered from the ongoing staff screening exercise. A single staff is collecting 17 persons’ salaries. This is apart from those who collect salary every month without coming to work. If this is not properly checked, time will come when the council may not have money to pay even half of the council’s staff. So the mess I came and met on ground prompted me to embark on staff screening and the traditional rulers who are on the council’s payroll.
Therefore, the ongoing screening exercise will no doubt go a long way in ensuring that every staff’s salary and other entitlements will be paid as at when due.
And coming to that of the LEA, obviously, there are a lot of shoddy deals that we suspect. The members of the committee who are screening the staff of the area council are those who will handle that of the LEA as soon as they finish screening the council staff and traditional rulers.
So I can’t say anything now, until after they finish their work and submit their report to me, but mind you, I repeat anybody that is found wanting shall definitely face the wrath of the law. And I want to further sound a note of warning to those who are not genuine staff of the LEA and they have been collecting money to quietly disengage themselves and return the money they have collected in their own interest, before we will use them as scape goats.
I will also like to remind you that the council has also set-up a 12-man revenue committee in order to ascertain where and how we can generate revenue for the council. There were a lot of leakages under the past administration where 85 percent of revenue realized was not remitted into the council’s coffers. You can imagine some people will just share this money and later take a token into the council account, which is too bad. Thank God the transition committees are also investigating how the revenue within the past three years were expended.
You vowed during the inauguration of the staff screening committee that any staff found to have engaged in any form of corruption will not be spared. What measures do you intend to take against such staff?
Like I have always said, the APC-led government of President Muhammadu Buhari has zero tolerance for corruption and my administration will build on that. Kuje Area Council today is being run by the APC, not that we are going to witch-hunt anybody, no, but the step being taken by my administration is for the best interest of the good people of the council.
So I can’t say for now if anybody that is later found wanting may be sanctioned or not, because the committee is still doing its work. It is after they finish and submit everything to me that I will now sit down with members of the legislature to know the next line of action.