- Hon Aminu Muazu Maifata, Chairman, Lafia LGC
Hon Aminu Muazu Maifata currently wears two caps. He is the current Chairman of Lafia Local Government Area (comprising Lafia Municipal, Lafia East Development Area and Lafia North Development Area) and the Chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria – ALGON, Nasarawa State chapter.
He was elected Chairman on May 26, 2018 with 172, 717 votes. Since assumption into office, he has been discharging his duties as Lafia Local Government Chairman as well as coordinating activities of ALGON in the State.
Even as the Nasarawa State Independent Electoral Commission has fixed February 2021 to conduct Local Government elections in the State, Eggonnews met with the Chairman to assess his tenure thus far and look ahead toward the forthcoming elections.
Here are excerpts of the interview:
Briefly can you introduce yourself?
Briefly, I’m Honourable Aminu Muazu Maifata. Currently the Executive Chairman, Lafia Local Government Council.
When did your interest in politics start?
I started my politics right from campus when I was in the University of Jos. And that has been in me. Because my dad was a practical politician and I had been following him. Our house is like a political meeting point all the time. Like we grew up to see him playing politics. That has been on.
Even the time I was lecturing in the Polytechnic I had been an active participant in unionism and both the general politics. So, politics is in me. That is why I have been participating actively during the election and after the election. Right from 1999, I have been consistent and that is what culminated into my vying into this position.
How has been leading the complex Local Government like Lafia. The Local Government Area that has many people; different ethnic background and being the State Capital. How do you feel?
Honestly speaking, to me, Lafia as an Area Council, to my observation, is not a difficult place to govern. However, one has to be patient, very patient and extremely patient to govern Lafia Local Government Area.
Secondly, you have to be a straight forward human being. You say the truth no matter what it takes and no matter what the listener will say. Anytime you make a promise, make sure that promise is fulfilled. Anything you cannot do don’t make promise. And at the end, call a spade a spade. Always ensure transparency and due process is followed in any activity you do in the Council area.
In fact, administrating Lafia Local Area or Council is not a difficult task. Most especially I always carry people along. I don’t just take decisions alone. I always consult with relevant stakeholders. This is what always is making me to move peacefully and run the affairs of the local government smoothly.
Can you recall some of the promises, the major promises you made to the people of Lafia Local Government when you were campaigning. And how far have you been able to fulfill the promises?
I can vividly recall that I made it a point of relevance on my assumption of office as Chairman Lafia Local Government Council during my campaign. One of the things is that I promised I will give my attention to education, to the health sector and then to human capital development as well as infrastructural development. I promised to make sure all my actions and activities will revolve around these key items. If you go round the Local Government Area, you will see that I have achieved a lot on these items I mentioned.
In a nutshell what will you say is your major achievement so far?
One, I have been able to ensure transparency and due process. Before I assumed office, truancy used to be the order of the day. I tried to find out what could be the factors for that, and I found that lack of conducive working environment was one of the factors. When I came into office, there was issue of light and water challenge in and around the office. So, I ensured within my first hundred days in office, I made sure I put that in order. And I have been encouraging workers to go the office and I also ensure the entitlements of the workers are given to them at the right time so as serve as a kind of encouragement to the workers to come to work by 8 o’clock and stay till 4 o’clock before they close. And if you go their offices, they have very good or conducive environment to work. Water and light are available every day from 8:00 o’clock in the morning to 4:00 o’clock in the evening when they close from work.
I didn’t stop at that. I mentioned to you four items. One key area I always beat my chest on is in the educational sector, the Primary School. For instance, Lafia West Primary School, when I assumed office the school was in terrible situation. When the school structures were given to Command Secondary School, they were operating in a two bedroom flat. The Local Government Council under my leadership was able to purchase a large parcel of land not far from the former place and raised up structures through SDG and NSUBEB interventions. Presently, the school is full session with all the necessary structures and furniture in place. So, I ensured the school is in good shape.
What I did there, I ensured they are done in the other twelve council wards within the Local Government.
For electricity supply, I have done some work in that regard. If you go to Lafia North, Rimi Uku, Angwan Maina, Kofar Pada, Ungwan Gayam, then you come down to Lungu Wambai up to present Diamond bank and to Yan Kaji you will see the development. Through the directive and support of the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State.
Go to off Abuja Street, the Tsangaya street, you will see the one-kilometre road; I think it is about 70 to 80% completion. We are going to finish the road because about 80 to 90% of cost of the road has been released.
On the health sector. Our health facilities are well stocked. The health department is well equipped to attend to any health challenge in the entire thirteen council wards of the local government through the PHC. So, the health challenges of the people of the local government are taken care of. Any time their file comes before me, I treat it with utmost urgency because health services should not suffer any delay.
How is your relationship with the legislature, the councilors of the local government? How will you rate your relationship with them?
The relationship is very, very cordial. That is why you can see that on my assumption into office, I sent a supplementary budget and they approved it. The same thing they did for the 2020 budget. We are now in the process of presenting the 2021 appropriation bill to them. And in fact, I really appreciate them for the cordial relationship which has been making our work smooth and fast. Anytime I go to them for any development, they give it speedy hearing and approve it.
They also assist in bringing resolutions that will better the lives of our people. The relationship is excellent.
What are the challenges you have encountered so far in the office?
I think lack of seriousness from some of the workers is one of the challenges we encountered when I assumed the office. Whether we like it or not, the system, if care is not taken, if proper attention and utmost seriousness are not given to it, it will soon collapse. Because you will see a situation whereby only very few know the procedures in governance. And only very few are ready to learn, only very few are actually coming to their senior to copy and know what they are doing. So that by the time this set is going, another set is prepared to carry out the task. I’m telling you, from what I am seeing, there will soon be a break in the chain if proper manpower is not trained in the local government system. If the right people are not brought in while the wrong people are being channeled to a different title of employment… If not, that is going to be a big challenge.
From your experience, how does it feel like leading people at the grassroots? How does it feel like leading people at the grassroots?
In fact, it always gives me pleasure. When I come out in the morning, I see many people waiting for me to be attend to them. And with God intervention, I always attend to the crowd one after the order. And over 90% of them leave with joy. That gives me a lot of satisfaction. Because of what I told you earlier on of transparency and calling a spade a spade, take it or leave it. And I also always listen to issues. If they are genuine or pathetic, I can deprive myself some things in order to ensure I meet to people’s need. The things I know will have positive impact on the person and the society at large.
You are the State Chairman ALGON. How does it feel coordinating the activities of ALGON in the State?
You know, as ALGON Chairman, it requires extra input and more energy into the system to see that the local government system works. That one too gives me joy, because my colleagues give me fantastic cooperation. Because anytime I have the course to summon them because of either government directives or anything, they always show seriousness and commitment.
As human beings, at times we face challenges. But we always overcome the challenges when they surface. But this requires a lot of sacrifices. In fact, God has been very supportive of my leadership. That is why you see that we are always moving together a family. Because we are looking at the relationship even at the end of our tenure. It is a relationship that will be sustained even after our current assignments.
There are issues in Local Government on the performance of Local Government Administrators generally as being low. How do you react to this observation?
Each individual has his opinion and the parameters one uses in judging certain activity or activities. Some people are looking at what the Local Government can do to improve their wellbeing or livelihood. But one basic thing that one has to speak on is the level of economy of the local government. Does it match the yearnings or demands of the people residing within that local government? How does the chairman of a local government manage the resources at his disposal with the view of improving the lives of his people?
The resources at the disposal of local government council are very, very far below what the council needs to carry out developmental activities in terms of infrastructure, in terms of social welfare, in terms of provision of basic things to the local government area in general.
I can tell you the bulk of what comes to the council cannot take care of the basic recurrent expenditure like payment of salaries and other basic needs of the people. The work force is highly over bloated.
In fact, the local government welfare authority that pays people that are not giving commensurate services to the payment or wages given to them, thereby leaving just a little for capital projects.
But thank God, most of the Local Government Chairmen utilize the little resources to execute one basic project or the other, to provide welfare, capital development to our people, which are visible to everyone to see
Even the payment of salaries itself, if you look at it, it is a great achievement. Because if you look at the bandwagon effect, how many people benefit when one worker is being paid. The chain is very long in terms of those benefitting from the salary. It affects the economy positively. This is also an achievement when you are talking generally on the administration of Local Government.
There has been an accusation on the collapse of Local Government system in the state. You said if things are not put in place the system will collapse due to some people that are there and are not ready to learn. Some are even saying that the Local Government system is a place where resources are being wasted. How do you react to it?
Local Government system is a very, very vital arm of government. If provision in the 1999 constitution as amended is adhered to strictly… this is a system that is the closest to the people. People know that Local Government is there meeting point where they go to see that their problems are solved.
So, the Local Government system is not a wasteful venture. Because it serves as a balance between the people at the grassroots (the people at the lowest level) and those at the higher level. It maintains that balance. Because a local person cannot just wake and go to Government House and say he wants to see the Governor. But for the Local Government Chairman, whether you are inside your bedroom or inside your seating room, the person can just walk in and talk anything. Why? Because he feels satisfied when he talks to the Chairman and the Chairman listen to him/her. To him, government starts and ends there.
So, if you can look this kind of phenomenon, you cannot say the local government system is not important. It is highly important.
We just need to rejig the system, train and re-train the workforce to imbibe the culture of giving your best to whatever position you are given. And be ready to learn from those that are above you and be able to translate what you learn into practice. In fact, with this, we can revive the local government system. And above all, more resource should be channeled to the local government system.
The Executive Governor Nasarawa State, Engineer Abdullahi Sule asked that all the thirteen Local Government Areas in the state should have a single account. how do you see that move? How can you react to that?
To me, it is a very good development. This will ensure more accountability and more transparency in governance. And we at Local Government, whatever promises that come from the State Government which we believe can translate positively at the local level, we shall key into it. I thank God His Excellency always gives us the leverage and the freedom to express our feelings on any policy. There has never been a time I go to seek for his audience and he doesn’t give me time. He is always giving us attention. For that I really appreciate him for that. With that there is no any policy that will come from government that we won’t key into it.
Just few days ago the Director of Personnel Management and DFAs in thirteen Local Government and the Development Area of Nasarawa State were suspended due to allege financial crimes committed by them. How do you see development? What is your take on this issue?
It is a government policy, and like I said earlier on. I cannot oppose any government policy that is geared towards bringing sanity at the local government level. I think it is done for the good of the various local governments to ensure that salaries are paid 100%.
The issue of DPM or DFS in the Local Government, especially at the higher cadre discipline, promotion and what have you. There is a commission that is saddled with that responsibility. So, I can’t dwell into those aspects.
We want to focus on your aspiration. Recently, the NASIEC announced that there will be Local Government elections in February 2021. How are you prepared for the next election which is coming up soon?
Elected position is something that comes from God and the people. And we know the person presently occupying the position of Chairman Lafia Local Government Council. And if an opportunity comes again to contest, and most especially if people decide that he comes back again because of his track record, so be it. To me, I am always there to serve the people much better I am doing now. And I will offer myself likely to do that. And I am ready to do that if the people say so.
For those who know Lafia very well. If you go round, there are posters of various sizes, handbills are all over, the social media are awash with posts and various forms of campaign about you ahead of forthcoming election. Are you aware?
I’m just seeing it as you see it too. Because anybody that comes to me and those that came to me. I tell them that I won’t and don’t encourage that because the ban on local government or the ban on all electioneering activities is yet to be lifted. When NASIEC does that, that is when I will come out to campaign. And those people I never sponsor anyone of them. And I won’t do that. When I ask, they say they are just volunteers and that they are not campaigning for votes. They are just expressing their feelings and support. That is the situation we are in now.
But mind you, the ban on the political activities on the local government is yet to be lifted.
Why do you think the people want you as the chairman again?
They have their own parameters. They know why. I think people are in the best position to answer this question.
What have you not done, so that should another opportunity given to you that you wish to accomplish for another term or if opportunity comes?
I will really sustain the tempo of what I am doing now. One thing I have forgotten, look at the issue of refuse disposal in Lafia, the State capital. By the time I started intervening I ensured all these refuse heaps are no more in Lafia. I will ensure it is continually. I won’t wait till end of the month before refuse heaps are being collected. It will be continual thing. It will be on a daily basis. Some of these things I will like to sustain them. Because health is wealth.
Do you think your achievement can fetch you another term in office?
Yes, I have that conviction in me. That is why I said you should go and talk to the people and hear from them. Most especially the economic empowerment system I place. The time for me to start blowing my trumpet has not yet come.
Governor Adullahi Sule has spent barely two years in office. A year and half. What is your assessment of his governance? In Particular on the issues patterning local government system in the State?
I can say he is rating excellent when you are talking about Local Government administration in the State. I can he is an Executive Governor that in the whole of the north (but I stand to be corrected) has shown seriousness and does not interfere in the development of local government. He gives free hand to the administration at the local level. He ensures he attracts development to the local level. That is why we are agreeing with his policy in order to succeed in the developmental goals. He is someone that has the State in his mind, the zeal and has the passion to development the state. and even the local government area he has the passion to develop the State in terms of providing security, social amenities. He intervenes in every level in terms of development. Look at even the modern bus terminal he is building in Lafia. It is supposed to be the responsibility of Local Government, but the Local Government has no financial wherewithal to do that. He intervened on that. Very soon, the modern bus terminal will come into reality. The same thing in Karu. Look at the rural roads. Each Local Government has one or two rural roads being presently constructed.
In every Local Government there is one or two projects on going. Look at our schools, look at our health facilities, look at the workers the way he is training and building their capacity almost on monthly and quarterly basis. And above all the transparency and prudence in resource management, in governance and he is very humble. He listens to the person of the lowest level like the way he listens to higher class individual sin the society. And he doesn’t regard himself as a super human being. That is the reason why we support his government at any point in time.
There are issues concerning autonomy to the Local Government Council, to the effect that if the Local Government autonomy granted it will bring development to the grassroots. Is the autonomy is a thing of joy or a thing to lament about?
Yes! The autonomy is worthwhile. Even during the last administration of Umaru Tanko who is a distinguished Senator now, that has been the practice. That is why you see so there are many projects at the local government level. It is just a continuum in government. You hardly differentiate between the government of Senator Ta’al and the present government. That is why we seeing serious development up to today. And it will continue because of the way the present Governor is handling the affairs of the State.
Lastly, what is your advice to people as Chairman of Lafia Local Government and also as ALGON Chairman who is overseeing the affairs of Local Government in the State?
In fact, I am pleading with the people to live peacefully with one another. You should love your neighbour as you love yourself. Avoid religious or ethnic sentiment and give the government of Engineer A.A Sule encouragement and be patient so that dividends of democracy will reach everywhere. Make sure that what the government is doing will translate into positive impact to the lives of the people. And also see government property or public property as your own, safeguard it. With this, it will attract more development to your locality.
Should you consider to contest, how are you going to weather the storm from other political parties or even from those within your party with those that will come up to contest?
Politics is all about people, politics is all apart the society, politics is what you have done to the people or what you can do to the people and politics is all about trust. If you have these things in mind, and you build trust between you and the people. just what you need is God intervention you will weather the storm of any political opponent and you go the promise land. Thank you very much.