Hon Fidelis Odo, PhD, is the Chairman of Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State. In this interview, he discusses what he has achieved in his 100 days in office as well as the expectations ahead. The excerpts.
How far have you improved your workers’ welfare?
My new administration took off on the 4th of December 2017 with the inauguration of councillors and supervisors, and subsequently resolving salary issues. Currently we are not indebted to our workers in any form, and the tempo has been kept till date. We have also paid the leave allowances for 2017 for all the staff in Igbo-Eze South LGA, and we have also paid furniture allowances to all the councillors and executive members.
What have you done in the area of rural roads?
We are currently exploiting the potential of our local government to boost the economy by optimising communication. By the grace of God, we created a motorable road link from Iheaka community in Igbo-Eze South LGA to Umaji community in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area. This will boost trades, especially in palm wine and other farm produce between the two local governments. On Ichi axis, the boundary community with Kogi State, road communication has been a big challenge due to the nature of the terrain, especially around the Okwa hill. In our determination to solve the problem, our engineers have prepared a design to bring the topography to a manageable level so we can construct a motorable link road with adequate drainage to protect the road from erosion. The road will enable the citizens to travel to the neighbouring states without stress, particularly on Ibagwa market days.
I mentioned times without number the vulnerability of our terrain to erosion which has created road gullies that require culverts. At present, we are constructing culverts to link the council headquarters with the old Japan road, and moving towards Igbo Eze North LGA. The road is about 4km. This is a prelude to the grading of the road. If we are able to collaborate with Nsukka and Igbo-Eze North LGAs, we shall construct a motorable link road from Nsukka to Igbo-Eze North and Igbo Eze South LGAs, making it an alternative route for reducing traffic without moving through the conventional road. This is one of the priority projects of the council.
What is your scorecard in the health sector?
We have been collaborating with the state ministry of health in various health issues, including immunization.We are currently on measles campaign and have remained active in all other health care issues till date. For long, we have had a dearth of doctors and, hitherto, we have only one resident doctor. But we have recently successfully applied for a medical youth corps member to boost our health care services. Our design is that the corps member will be resident in our facility from where he will be visiting health centres in various wards. We have created a roaster indicating the days on which a doctor will be available in every ward. We have a functional ambulance and core service personnel for the programme as well as to attend to emergencies.
Tell us about the security situation in your council
To boost security is a priority vision of Igbo-Eze South LGA. In this regard, we have not failed for once in the mandatory monthly security meetings. Every month, the chairman of the council of traditional rulers, the chairman of farmers’ council and the mediator between us and herdsmen and representatives of other relevant security agencies are always present at the meetings. We are mindful of our boundary with Kogi State and the influx of cattle from the state to our local government, and have therefore put necessary measures in place to forestall unpleasant scenarios. There have never been any major herdsmen’s issues since the enactment of this measure. We are also fortunate to have a Muslim in-law who married a wife from our local government area and resident in Kogi State who acts as a mediator for us. He monitors the cattle movement and informs us about whose cattle is moving as well as cautions them against creating havoc. He also negotiates compensation for any damage done on any farmland in our local government. We have also cautioned our people against attacking herdsmen’s cattle at their farmlands and creating a scenario of violence, but rather to report immediately for appropriate action by the authorities. If every council tackles it this way, it will reduce insecurity and violence to a great extent and reduce the burden of the state in solving herdsmen’s issues.
We also ensure that the neighbourhood watch is alert to its responsibilities. The civil defence are also part of us. We intend to get more civil defence personnel to complement the declining population of the Nigeria Police.
What about infrastructure?
In the area of works, we are currently renovating the office of the Nigerian Population Commission (NPC), as well as various health centres. We are also refurbishing the residence of the youth corps members and at the same time fixing dilapidated culverts and roads in the council.
What have you done in the education sector?
Recently, the governor mandated that we constitute a committee to look into the activities of the Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (ESUBEB). We have set up a committee headed by the supervisor for education, Hon Emeka Ezeugwu, who has been active in the job with impressive results. He has visited all the schools and identified the precise faults. His team has been matching the salary schedule with those on the field and also looking at the remittances and deductions in the accounts based on what is generated from the local schools up to ESUBEB to be able to juxtapose what has come from Igbo-Eze South LGA and what has been deducted from our accounts. The report has been concluded and forwarded to the state.
How supportive has the state government been to your council?
Honestly, we have just keyed into the policy template of the state government. The governor has been so supportive in all our endeavours. His Excellency Rt Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is a man of peace and humble character with the fear of God in the performance in his duties. He is my role model in governance. Personally, I feel that the governor watches everything I do; so before I act, I ask myself ‘how he will feel about my planned action before I embark on it?’ In fact, emulating the virtues of the governor has made me what I am.
What is your relationship with your council’s National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE)?
Our relationship with NULGE is very cordial, dating back to my tenure as a transition committee chairman during which NULGE gave me the title of Eze Udo, meaning man of peace.
How do you mobilize your wards to obtain permanent voters’ cards?
The council is complementing the efforts of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by making sure that logistics are resolved at the right time. For instance, whenever the commission’s vehicle breaks down, we always ensured that it is fixed. Also we inform our people on the schedules for INEC visits to the various wards so that they avail such opportunites to register. We have appointed some personnel to monitor the exercise and bring back reports. As I stand, I can tell the number of persons registered every day. We are tracking their performance with positive results. Our stakeholders are not left out in this process because we have organised sensitization exercises to make them aware that the future of our generation depends on our commitment in getting every eligible person registered. They were informed that getting people registered and voting can define the future of our council.
What is the state of the internally generated revenue of your council?
Our IGR is impressive in the last 100 days. The markets are doing exceedingly well. In fact, we are currently in the season of bumper sales and I wish we can maintain the tempo till December. We are also building more shops to let, increasing revenue points and tracking and blocking revenue loopholes. Our major sources of IGR are our markets, yearly licence fees for traditional doctors, businesses like filling stations and parks. Most importantly, we are looking at Nigeria beyond now – Nigeria without oil. Part of why local governments were created is viability. We are envisaging a prospective Igbo-Eze South LGA that can function without monthly revenue allocations. So we are not unaware of this salient point. We intend to introduce property and tenement rates to sustain the local government and manage the administration. You can hear that China already is having vehicles that run without fuel. This means that if the whole world should stop buying fuel, there will be no market for the sale of our petroleum products. Therefore local governments should look inwards and be proactive in revenuegeneration.
Gov Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi recently marked his birthday. What message do you have for him?
May God in His infinite wisdom continue to sustain him with visionary leadership, good health and peace in his family.