Honourable Zaphaniah Kusa Jisalo oversees the running of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) at Area 10, Garki in the Federal Capital Territory. As the 14th Honourable Chairman of AMAC, in his second term, his modesty belies the importance of his responsibilities in occupying what Nigerians regard as the quintessential Local Government Area Council, being located at the seat of power where the hub of the nation’s activities of governance takes place. Meet Honourable Zaphaniah Kusa Jisalo, AMAC helmsman in this exclusive interview he granted the Editorial team of Economic Confidential.
EC: The bane of democracy is public welfare like providing the basic social amenities to the electorates in the areas of health, education and other public services. What have you been able to achieve within your tenure in this regard.
I want to say that principally I came up as a Chairman with a vision to perform. I had a vision of bringing the dividend of democracy to the inhabitants of Abuja Municipal Area Council. I want to say that I have accomplished a reasonable measure of success in bringing to the electorates their basic needs. In the Health sector for example, we were able to construct over 10 Health centres and also upgrade 7 Health centres, comprehensively. With all the infrastructures that are needed. Beds and other equipments were stocked in the ones we built and in the ones we renovated, running into millions of naira. As of now, I believe in terms of rating of performance we are over 70% considering our accomplishment in the health sector.
EC: Are you saying that apart from the Health sector, there are no other areas in public amenities where your presence is felt in AMAC within your tenure?
Of course there are other aspects of public amenities that we equally tackled extensively within my tenure. When I first came on board in my first incarnation as Chairman, I looked into the issue of education. The situation we met at that time was quite deplorable. The decay was out rightly appalling. Even the structures, classrooms were all in very bad shape. Our children were learning under the trees. I took up the challenge motivated by apathy to build some classrooms with headmaster offices. Renovated other primary schools, furnished them with desks, tables and chairs. Today, I humbly can mention that my contribution to alleviating the learning condition and enhancing the standard of other aspects of life in AMAC got me the award of the best Local Government Chairman in the FCT by the former Minister Mallam Nasir El-Rufai; with special regards to the education sector. I was really encouraged by that award which made me know that no positive contribution goes unnoticed. In the educational sector in AMAC, I make bold to say if it is in terms of rating, we are beyond 95% approaching the 100% mark.
EC: In other infrastructural development bearing in mind that, the inhabitants of AMAC suburbs are predominantly farmers who live in the rural areas and mostly bring their farm produce to the Municipal; have your administration been able to come to their aid with agricultural facilities and road networks that would ease their burden in transportation as well as enhance their revenue generation.
When you’re talking about agriculture, I want to say that it is primarily the responsibility of the Local Government to procure fertilizer for the farmers. Normally this is done through the Federal Government or through the FCT administration. We do have allocation of fertilizer from the Federal Capital Territory allotment subsidized to Area Councils and subsequently subsidized to our farmers in the various wards. Through this arrangement, the Chairman is the Chairperson of the distribution committee and this responsibility is replicated by the councilor who is also a chairman of the distribution committee in his ward. This also includes the class chiefs that are in the Jurisdiction of a particular ward to exercise similar function to ensure the distribution of fertilizer through out their localities. May I also seize this opportunity to categorically state that in terms of accessible roads, we have opened up a network crisscrossing the various villages within AMAC. This constitutes of rural roads, feeder roads, bridges and drainages so that our farmers can transport their farm produce to the municipal area and other commercial centres like Kabusa market, the market along airport road and Karu market, including Karshi market which offers the farmers a range of choice of where best to convey their goods. As of now, we have also opened up a market in Apo which is still undergoing construction, where we want the local people to come and transact their own businesses. We want to christen that market as a Monday market. A day when people would set aside to go for their shopping of food stuffs like yam, fish and other consumables. We want to say that we at AMAC are encouraging the farmers through providing the basic infrastructures where they can come and showcase their farm produce without constraints.
EC: The Private Public Partnership (PPP) is an initiative of the Federal government to involve the Private sector into community based projects since government’s budget alone cannot handle all expenditures. What have you been able to achieve so far in this area.
Well, PPP is a Federal government policy. I want to commend the Federal Government on the formulation of this initiative. Using that as a vehicle, AMAC has been able to achieve a couple of projects. For example, if you look at Area 1 (one) shopping complex, it was conceived and built under the aegis of PPP. The same thing was replicated in Lugbe Federal Housing Authority Estate which was just completed. The third aspect of it is the Gwarinpa market which is beyond 50% in construction. These are part of the PPP that Abuja Municipal Area Council has initiated. We have achieved tremendously in the PPP initiative. Really, it has recorded a measure of outstanding successes at AMAC. And by the grace of God, we intend to achieve more of what we have recorded so far.
EC: Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) is one of the driving force of Local Government Funding, since your monthly Allocation are not enough to carry through all of your projects, how have you been able to make your IGR viable within AMAC in your tenure.
Construction or the establishment of Market structures is part of where the Local Government or Area Council can generate their revenue internally. Like I earlier mentioned, the Shopping Complex located at Area 1 is also a source of generating revenue to AMAC, very huge revenue at that. There’s equally the one at FHA Lugbe and the one at Gwarinpa, even though it’s still under construction. There’s also the one at Apo. We have other markets which are yet to be upgraded which we want to turn into community plazas. This includes the Karu and Nyanya markets. All these would boost the AMAC IGR. We really do intend to do more on that.
EC: Honourable Chairman, this is your second incarnation as AMAC helmsman and you said you had a vision of what you wanted to accomplish. Your first tenure has come and gone, now you’re getting to the last lap of your second term. What are your major challenges in realizing your vision.
It is normal that when you are a politician, you are bound to face a lot of challenges. In Abuja, I want to state here that the normal Federal Allocation, we don’t have any problem in terms of deductions to do with our allocation. We have our allocation as at when due and we are grateful for that. I think that the challenges that are ahead of Area Councils like AMAC is that we are operating where there is the seat of government. That’s the hub of every activity nationwide. The issue of how to generate revenue is not clearly defined in the FCT administration. Area Councils are faced with a herculean task in terms of generating revenue within the city. Who collects what and who does not? That’s a big snag in the course of running AMAC activities especially with regards to Internally Generated Revenue. But all the same, the bureaucracy in all the processes involved remains a key factor to be overcome. I am doing my best to leave a legacy.
EC: AMAC is viewed as the quintessential Local Government Area Council in Nigeria. Probably because of your Location at the seat of Government, will you say that in terms of programmes facilitation and achievements, you have been able to live up to that?
I am happy that I am operating in Abuja. I am located at the metropolitan, a place where all Nigerians can call their own. It is something to be proud of. Looking at the nature of Abuja Municipal Area Council is a pacesetter where every Nigerians craves to belong. We need to articulate our activities in order to stay abreast of others as well as make it attractive to visitors both within and outside Nigeria. A norm which we intend becomes synonymous with AMAC for other Local Governments to emulate. Sincerely, all hands are on deck working round the clock to ensure we remain the torch bearers of Local Government and a beacon of excellence to the Federal Government. I pray that my predecessor maintains the impetus come 2011 when I shall be vacating this office. So many of our policies are geared towards continuity. We have executed well over 500 projects, and we are still counting.
EC: As you approach the dusk of your second term in office what do you want AMAC residents and the electorates to expect from you.
I still have about two years to go. Even though there are many programmes in the offing and those that have already been accomplished, I’ll rather have someone talk about them and for posterity to adjudge my performance. However, personally I am fulfilled at AMAC because the projects that we have put in place should speak for themselves.
EC: Tell us briefly about yourself.
My name is Zaphaniah Kusa Jisalo. I am a prince of Garki in the Federal Capital Territory. I am an aborigine of Garki Village. A Gbagyi by tribe. I was born here. I know I cannot contest three times by the provision of the constitution but if given an opportunity to serve my people in another capacity, I’ll oblige them.