The operation of the Joint Accounts by states and local governments is generally considered as a major impediment to development at the grassroots. But one local government administrator who has not allowed the situation to affect his performance is Hon. George Alli, the award winning executive chairman of Otukpo local government area of Benue State, who has deployed his private sector experience to redefine governance at the grassroots level. Since coming to office, briefly as sole-administrator and now an elected chairman over a year ago, Hon. Alli has demonstrated competence and performance that stands him out as one of the best local government administrators in Nigeria today. The Top10 Magazine here brings to you insights into his journey so far as the executive chairman of Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue state.
It has been accepted generally in Nigeria that the operation of Joint Accounts by states and local government has stunted development at the grassroots. Funds accruing to the local governments from the Federation Account every month are shared based on priorities determined by Joint Accounts committees headed by state government personnel, leaving just enough (sometimes, not enough) for local government staff salaries. This deprives local government chairmen of needed funds with which to execute development projects for their people. This is the basis for the popular agitation for local government autonomy: to free local government councils from funding challenges so that they can determine the pace, scope and direction of development at the grassroots.
But while the much sought after autonomy is yet to be granted, there emerges occasionally a few local government chairmen who have distinguished themselves, virtually squeezing water out of stone, to execute projects for the people at the grassroots levels. One of them is Hon. (Chief) George Alli from Benue State. Since he assumed the leadership of Otukpo Local Government Area of the state in 2016, Hon. Ali has been redefining governance at the grassroots through his sterling performance. His administration has impacted positively on the lives of the people of Otukpo Local Government in the areas of human capital development, welfare, health care delivery, infrastructure, education, socio-cultural activities, sports development, investment drive and the provision of an enabling environment for business. In less than two years in office Hon. Ali has a long list of projects his administration has executed that stand him out as one of the best local government administrators in Nigeria in the current political dispensation.
EDUCATION AND HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT
Hon. Ali, a well-educated politician and business man, understands the importance of education. He believes that without education he could not have attained the heights he has reached in life and that education is the best legacy any government could bequeath on its people. Within the meagre resources available to his administration, he has identified and executed educational projects that would equip the youths of the local government for the future. Some of these include the building of a block of two classrooms in Akpachi, Otukpo and another two class room block in Ondo Ugboju. There are other projects which have been conceived for implementation before the end of his tenure.
In Benue state, there has been the general concern that Otukpo town is fast assuming the status of a failed city. It earned this unenviable tag courtesy of the deteriorating condition of infrastructure in the town, especially, roads, electricity and water facilities in the last three decades. While the provision and maintenance of some of these infrastructure are the responsibilities of the state and federal governments, Hon. Ali believes that conscious intervention by the local government administration could make some difference. Subject to available resources, therefore, he has executed a number of road and water projects in Otukpo town and the rural communities. His administration has rehabilitated the Och’Idoma Palace Road, Otukpo, and is grading and expanding Asa 3 Camp Road Otukpo. In the rural areas, he is grading and opening two kilometers of road in UgbojuOtache as well as grading and expanding the two-kilometer road at Otobi-Akpegede and Otobi-Olalekpe.
In the area of health care delivery, the Hon. Ali administration has built a 12-bed Primary Health clinic in Adoka and a similar one at OtobiAkpa. He has also provided hospital beds and mattress to the PHCs in Adoka and Otobi. He said that with the provision of these health facilities, the rural dwellers would eventually overcome the challenges of medical tourism to the urban centers. He said during the commissioning of the Otobi PHC: “It is my hope that this facility will be properly managed so that our people would no longer have to run to the urban centers in search of medical care.”
Amala village signposts Hon. Ali’s efforts at providing electricity supply to the grassroots. All efforts by preceding administrations in Otukpo LGA to electrify Amala village had ended in disappointments. Within less than two years, Hon. Ali has completed the electrification of the village which has been in darkness for ages. He has also extended pipe-borne water to the Police Barracks in Otukpo, bringing to an end long years of water scarcity in the area.
To improve the working environment of the local government staff, motivate them and strengthen executive-legislative relations, the Hon. Ali administration has renovated the Otukpo Local Government secretariat. As former legislator, Hon. Ali understands the importance of a cordial executive-legislative relationship and knows how to achieve it. He has, therefore, provided modern facilities for the local government legislature such as……
One of the biggest challenges facing government In Nigeria today is the provision of security for lives and property. This is particularly true of Benue State where attacks by cattle herdsmen on farmers have led to loss of hundreds of lives and valuable property worth billions of Naira. Conscious of the need to stem this and provide security against all forms of crime in the local government, Hon. Ali decided to pay serious attention to this area of governance. He holds regular and emergency local government Security Council meetings to design and implement measures to stem the tide of crimes in the area. To give practical effect to his determination to fight crime in Otukpo local government area, Hon. Ali procured a Hilux Van to assist Otukpo vigilante groups, the first and only local chairman in Benue State to do so. He is also the first to set up a joint security patrol team for a local government area.
With the increasing urbanization of Otukpo, the local government headquarters, the problems of land administration have also been on the rise. This has given rise to endless instigations capable of stifling investment in housing and property development in the town. To remove these challenges, Hon. Ali has introduced the Otukpo Integrated Land Information System (OTLIS) to sanitize land administration and ownership and prevent land speculation in Otukpo. This is another first among local government areas in the State. Hon. Ali is also setting up an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Centre in Otukpo to equip the people of the area to keep pace with the emerging world order of information technology.
FUNDING AND HIS DRIVING FORCE
Hon. Ali has achieved all these at the time his counterparts in other local government areas are spending all their time bemoaning and explaining away their financial difficulties. Why does the Otukpo Local Government Chairman stand out? How does he finance the projects he has been executing? His answer: “We don’t have much but we can do something with the little that comes into our hands. That’s why we are here. I will not be here forever. When my tenure is over, it will be the turn of another person. The big question is what will I be remembered for? This is the question that triggers my passion to work and make a difference”.
In addition to his personal passion to leave a befitting legacy of service to the people, the Otukpo local government chairman attributed his exceptional performance to his experience. He said: “The secret lies in my private sector experience that I brought into play in running the local government. I was able to set priorities and ensured we worked towards it using KPI to monitor”. He has learnt to work with other private sector operators to achieve results. For instance, he said, “our partnership with Lexil Global Tidings Nigeria Limited to keep Otukpo clean has resulted in the employment of 20 youths”.
Hon. Alli, even though a Christian, has demonstrated that he is a leader for all irrespective of religious affiliation. This was demonstrated in the recent Sallah celebration where Hon. Alli on behalf of himself and as a representative of the deputy governor, Engr. Benson Abounu, took time out to mark the Sallah celebration with the Muslim community in Otukpo, where he donated bags of rice and Cartoons of juice to Muslim leaders.
Hon. Alli who used the occasion to brake the Muslim fasting with the Chief Imam of Otukpo Central Mosque, Mallam Umar Zuberu; Alh. Umar Ajakpe Oba of Yoruba, Otukpo; Alh. BalaDahiru, Sarki Hausa; Alh SalifuOcheAkpoto k” idoma; Alh. GarbaGrema, Sarki Beriberi; Alh Alkali Idris EtsuNupe; Alh. IsahShaibu Atta of Igala, along with other Muslim faithfuls within Otukpo said, “We are one, and we shall continue to remain one united family, no matter what tribe or religion we belong to.” He used the visit to wish the Muslims a prosperous celebration and solicited for peaceful coexistence amongst all Nigerians.
ENVIRONMENT AND SANITATION
As part of his desire to keep Otukpo clean, Hon Alli, one month ago reintroduced the long abandonend KEEP OTUKPO CLEAN sanitation exercise. According to the chairman, he believes that the environmental condition of Otukpo is a task that must be done, which he believes requires the input of every one. As part of measures to sustain his desires of keeping Otukpo clean at all times, he has employed kits street sweepers made up of mothers and widows to maintain and clean major streets of Otukpo town from time to time.The chairman stated that his council deems it necessary to do something about the environmental condition of major streets in Otukpo, hence the need to seek the services of the street sweepers who are all provided with the necessary kits to do the job.
Construction of Otukpo Fire Service Station
In continuation of his legacy projects, Hon. Alli made history by building a fire service station at Otukpo, the first ever fire station to be built by a Local Government chairman in the whole of North Central of Nigeria.
Hon. Ali is a grassroots politician who is greatly loved by his people. He hails from Akpegede in Otukpo LGA of Benue State. He was born and brought up in Lagos State where he worked in the private sector. His stay in Lagos exposed him to the complex issues of infrastructural development and security management. He was a first hand witness to the great infrastructural developments executed by successive state governors like Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Bola Tinubu, etc, and local government chairmen in the State.
Hon. Ali had his primary school education at Army Children’s School Apapa, Lagos, and his secondary school education at Apapa High School. He also attended Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo; Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Ogba, Lagos; Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo; and Benue State University, Makurdi, from where he bagged a master’s degree in Public Administration. He is a fellow of the Professional Managers and Administrators of Nigeria. Hon. Ali’s multi-disciplinary academic and professional background has molded him into a well-rounded manager of human and material resources which Otukpo local Government and its people are now benefitting from.
He started his working career in 1993 with Miccom Cables and Wires limited, Lagos, the first indigenous cables and wire manufacturing company in West Africa. He rose to become the National Sales Manager, covering the West Africa Market, in 1999. Ali’s experience in the private sector, especially in sales and marketing must have conferred on him the attributes of prudence in resource management and result-focused service which he is putting to good use for the benefit of Otukpo people.
The Otukpo LGA Chairman relocated to Benue State in 2003 where he ventured into active partisan politics. He contested and was voted into the Benue State House of Assembly where he represented Otukpo/Akpa State Constituency from 2007–2011 on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He retired to his first love – the private sector – at the end of his tenure in the state legislature where he operated as a successful businessman. Politically savvy, the former law maker flew with the wind of change to All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 where he found political relevance very much unlike many of his colleagues who are yet to find their feet in APC following their decampment from PDP. He was appointed as Sole Administrator of Otukpo Local Government on October 10, 2016 for a period of six months and was later elected Chairman of the local government on June 2 and sworn-in on June 12, 2017.
From the very first day he assumed office as the elected chairman of Otukpo local government, the charismatic, ebullient, energetic and visionary politician with a mission was determined to raise the bar of political and grassroots leadership. He has largely succeeded in doing that. With another year still left of his 2-year tenure, there is so much that he is planning to do and is capable of achieving.
He has a message for his counterparts in other Local Government Areas: “They must realize that Local Government is grassroots-based and it’s very easy to destroy one’s name and reputation. If they have that at the back of their mind, they won’t have choice than to perform”.