As the executive chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Alhaji Adamu Abdullahi (Candido), prepares to mark his first year in office amidst reports of revenue leakages and talks of an impending sting operation by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), he spoke with anyaora thelma chioma on the true position of events in the area council. Excerpt.
In the next few days, precisely, May 20, you will clock one year in office as the executive chairman of AMAC. How has the experience been like for you?
So far, it’s been so good. We keep appreciating God for His care and blessing. Even though it has not been too good in some other aspects, but we won’t lament because lamentation is not part of my philosophy in life.
You mean even with the dwindling revenue from the centre, you are still able to stay afloat?
Truth is, the little that comes our way, we utilise in a manner that the people will get value for it. It is my responsibility to provide good governance and therefore, I can authoritatively say that even though it has not been too good, but the little that we have, has been harnessed in the best manner that services are fairly distributed across the 12 wards in the area council. The civil servants who are the engine room of the council are also being taken care of the best way we can; and where we fall short of their expectations, we explain why we are unable to meet up.
Let’s talk about your revenue generation. From what sources have you been able to tap into, to boost AMAC’s revenue since you assumed office?
We have approached revenue generation with all the vigour we can muster. Unfortunately, certain arms of government seems not to be comfortable with the way and manner we approached collection of revenue, but after some time, though some needless damage seems to have been done, and this has crippled the speed at which we initially set out, however, now that there is a better understanding, we are now on the same page with these arms of government which initially didn’t seem to understand why we have to go all out to collect revenue in some areas.
The National Assembly for instance has oversight functions over institutions and AMAC and other area councils are no exception. So, when we were told not to collect revenue and enforce collection, we realised that collection became difficult. That was one of the reasons, for instance, why we had these challenges. But now, the National Assembly has agreed with us, knowing fully well that they are the custodians of the constitution from which we derive our powers and that we are not looking at our collection and enforcement from any
other angle, we don’t even have any power over the constitution, and it is this same constitution that empowers us to go all out to collect the revenue and it is the revenue that we are using as a weapon and through that, we continue to advance the authority of the constitution, we let the world know that it is the constitution that we are exploiting, not any other power from anywhere.
There have been repeated complaints that some technical partners of AMAC, especially revenue from sign-posts and mobile adverts, are allegedly being diverted into private accounts.
What are you doing to sanitise the system and halt the illegal diversion of AMAC’s funds?
We succeeded a government, and this government we succeeded, we inherited a lot of liabilities, services that were rendered, sometimes very good and excellent achievements, at other times, something to still worry about. As a government, however, we keep moving forward, having met most of the technical partners already on ground. There is no organ of government that does not employ the services of professional service providers, especially to support its revenue generation and enforcement efforts. Notwithstanding, my argument is that no arm of government should be undermined. AMAC as such, based on our forward looking approach, we took the decision to retain the technical partners we inherited in order to ensure continuity and avoid unnecessary litigations which could slow us down, in view of the terms of their contracts. The truth is, I asked myself, am I coming to provide services or begin to go to court? Let us look at what they do that is right and appreciate them, the wrong ones we call them to order. You know, the former administration never expected to lose the election. Most of these technical partners got engaged and reengaged prior to our coming.
What strategies are you putting in place to block some of these leakages, because these leakages are hindering service provision and prompt payment of staff salaries?
We have put in place an in-house Anti-Corruption & Transparency Unit called ACTU and we have encouraged them to sit up and watch the activities of the entire council as it concerns revenues and finances so that they can inform us about any leakages. Two, we have also a central electronic payment collection system called Remita platform where all the financial dealings of the council will be recorded for transparency. We have also directed that all technical partners must use the Remita platform only for the collection of revenues and they should desist from collecting revenues through any other account.
I’m aware that you set up a revenue monitoring committee, and that the committee has submitted its findings. What necessitated this?
The committee was setup to help us block leakages and ensure that all our technical partners climb the Remita platform. This will allow us to be able to keep tab on all our revenues and finances. However, some of the technical partners we inherited from the previous Administration were reluctant to comply with our directive to use the Remita platform. This is why we had to set up this committee. It is not to witch-hunt anybody, but to ensure strict compliance with our directive by all technical partners. Permit me to use this medium to appeal to the general public to ensure that any payment they make to AMAC should only be done through the Remita platform. Any member of the public who pays money into any private account will only have themselves to blame as such payments will no longer be recognized by the Council.
What’s the relationship between AMAC and the minister of FCT?
Cordial. Very cordial. The minister is our senior brother and my principal.
There is the concern of why AMAC allowed some of its technical partners to register names that give the impression as though they are an arm of the council, such as Abuja Municipal Trade and Investment
(Cuts in…) I agree with you completely… this shouldn’t be so in the first place. But, I don’t work in the Corporate Affairs Commission that registered such a company name like Abuja Municipal Trade and Investment Company, however, we frown at such. We wrote to the Corporate Affairs Commission to explain the rationale behind such. We actually met this situation on assumption on office. Our committee that was set up to investigate gave us some recommendations regarding this and we will implement them to the letter in order to put an end to this anomaly.
One year on, how do you see running for a political office and getting to that office and what would you describe as your flagship projects?
I agree with you, running for this office and sitting in it are different. I used to be a strong critic till I got to this office and discovered that, it is not that easy. I’m seeing a different thing, but I’m not lamenting. I’ll do my best. The flagship of our administration includes reduction of unemployment, provision of basic infrastructure, setting up skills acquisitions, opening up rural roads, setting up the AMAC environmental enforcement cadets, building of town halls, we also engaged the services of the young men and women to set up the AMAC marshal to serve two purposes – provision of employment and security.