The Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is one of few ministries where two ministers work harmoniously to achieve the mandates of their organisations. While Senator Bala Mohammed is the Minister, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide is the Minister of State.
Since her assumption of office in that position on July 12, 2011 as the 3rd amongst female Ministers of State of the Federal Capital Territory, Oloye Akinjide has proven herself as a woman of substance who believes in rule of law and due process. Born on the 4th August, 1959, she graduated from the University of London in 1980 with 2nd Class Upper, Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and thereafter attended Harvard Law School in 1981 with a Master of Laws (LLM). She was also at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos where she was called to the Nigerian Bar (BL) in 1982. She also passed her English Solicitors’ Final Examinations at the College of Law, London in 1993 with 1st Class Honours.
She had served in various capacities as a lawyer and legal adviser in private and public sectors before her appointment as a minister. After several attempts to have an interview with her, she finally granted an audience to the Economic confidential where she spoke on different aspects of her assignment in FCT. Excerpts:
EC: Though there have been allegations of deduction of revenue of local government councils in some states, how do you administer the revenue from Federation Account to your area councils?
We run a very transparent and open system of governance as we do not tamper with funds due to the local government councils. I am saying this with high sense of responsibility and sincerity. We are not deducting money from the Area Council except what is statutorily deducted and it is not for us to hold but it is deducted for paying teachers’ salaries, paying pensions and training of employees. So when you say deduction, it is not as if we deduct it to be spent.
EC: Do you monitor how the area councils spend the funds?
We have invigorated the monitoring and inspection department of the FCT Administration to effectively monitor the Area Councils. We are also going to have a consultant that is going to work with the monitoring and inspection team who will give an independent assessment of work done in the Area Councils. As part of monitoring and supervision, you will see in future that we may withhold some money from Area Councils if we are not happy with the level of implementation and judiciously utilization of funds. If our monitoring and implementation report for an Area Council for a particular month is unsatisfactory, then we will withhold money until amendment and correction and rectification of that particular act has been done. When we are happy with that Area Council’s performance and when they start providing the services that is expected to the FCT residents in their locality, then we will release the money. I think that it is our constitutional rights to withhold the money until we are so sure that it well used. There is no point saying that we are monitoring without taking action if we feel that money is not properly being used.
EC: How do you intend to reward performing area councils?
As a coronary to that, where an area council is doing well, then Federal Capital Administration will reward such a council by supporting that Area Council with more projects and programmes and investing more money in that Area Council. And in future we will be telling you exactly what the Federal Capital Administration is doing in the Area Council. We will be tabulating to you on the areas we are intervening be it education, water supply, infrastructure, health, we will tell you exactly what we are doing and what the Area Councils are doing, because we are working together in partnership.
EC: How do you relate with, and monitor the performance of the councils?
Monitoring and supervision is the duty of the Federal Capital Territory Administration and specifically it is under my office. We have spent a lot of time over the last one year, trying to devise a way we can do this effectively, I know that members of the public would like to see us going around physically inspecting projects, but I tell you, the work is to be done first here before we make a show.
EC: What are the processes you have taken so far before the inspection?
We have done a three-day seminar that will put the Area Councils and the departments in the fore. It is a retreat where we harmonize their budgets, because, that is where it starts; harmonizing budgets in terms of the templates, in terms of the way they device and report their budget. Secondly, we are working with them on what they will be doing; their responsibilities and the way the FCT Administration can intervene to assist them. Thirdly, we are working with them by biometrically ascertaining their employees, their academic qualifications and where they have been deployed. We are also working with them in capacity building. These are the major building blocks on which performance can now be monitored.
EC: Do you have a department or unit for that purpose?
We have an Inspectorate and Monitoring Department that we are strengthening by bringing in consultants who will actually monitor month by month what the implementation is in the Area Council of their projects and programmes and report to us every month at the pre-Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) meeting so that we will then see what the Area Councils have been doing and may be rewarded or sanctioned accordingly.
EC: We notice that there are disparities in allocations among the area councils. What are the reasons for that?
The disparity in the amount allocated to the Area Councils is based on the sharing formula provided by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission based on certain indices.
EC: How is the ministry addressing the health challenges, especially in the area councils?
Recently the Federal Capital Territory Administration has approved the procurement of life-saving drugs for 248 health facilities spread across the six area councils of the Territory. The life-saving drugs would be distributed freely to the health facilities in the area councils. In the recent past, the FCT Administration has embarked on programmes that will positively impact on the lives of women and children. These programmes include free antenatal care, free under 5, and distribution of long lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets to households. It may interest you to note that due to the commitment of FCTA and dedication of health-workers to health care, the Territory was free of wild polio virus in 2011, the first time in over 10 years.
EC: What is the Ministry of FCT doing about satellite towns?
You will recall that President Goodluck Jonathan had last year approved the re-establishment of the Satellite Towns Development Agency (STDA) as part of measures for the rapid development of the satellite towns and area councils where majority of Abuja residents live. Since then you should have noticed the massive development and opening up of the Satellite Towns by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) which will cost about N37 billion in 2012. The ongoing satellite towns’ development projects accounted for N18.793 billion of the total cost while new projects in the satellite towns are valued at N16.670 billion.
The sum of N2 billion has also been provided for the Satellite Town Development Agency (STDA) to take off. We also intend to partner with the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) to develop satellite towns. The FCTA is doing all it can to attract funds to develop satellite towns. We will ensure that we generate revenue internally and through private investors and we will involve the communities and stakeholders in everything we do because governance is partnership.
EC: Can you mention some of the projects?
Among the ongoing projects are: provision of engineering infrastructure to Kubwa Satellite Town (Districts 4 & 5); provision of engineering infrastructure to Karshi Satellite Town Districts 1 & 2; provision of engineering infrastructure to Bwari Satellite Town Districts 1 & 2; construction of township roads in the six area councils of FCT; construction of Bwari – Kau Road and extension of Karshi – Apo road.
EC: What of other areas like University town of Gwagwalada and communities in that axis?
Those areas are also being addressed. Some of our priority include the construction of Karshi – Ara road; provision of roads, water and electricity supplies in resettlement site of Galuwyi/Shere; rehabilitation of road to Gwagwalada – Dobi – Izom; construction of Onex – Bwari Road; construction of 11km Mpape – Galuwyi/Shere Road; provision of 13km road to Kuje – Gaube; and construction/rehabilitation of roads, drainages, flood control in Abaji, Gwagwalada, Kuje and other satellite towns.
EC: Can we have an idea of new projects?
The new projects being executed by the FCTA include the provision of infrastructure and construction of 5,000 units of affordable housing in satellite towns; urban renewal and upgrading of Nyanya – Labour Camp; construction of Kuje – Kwaku – Gwargwarda – Rubochi road, Wasa – Takushara – Burum road, Pandagi – Rimba Mamagi road, University of Abuja Hostel Road Gwagwalada and Kwali Bridge; purchase of heavy duty sanitation equipment; development of markets in four satellite towns; and establishment of youth development & vocational centres in satellite towns.
EC: There are some insinuations that some of the contractors are lazy and incompetent to handle the projects what can you say to that?
The current administration in the FCT believes in employing the services of competent, experienced and respected contractors in handling the transformational projects in the satellite towns. In fact some of them include: Messrs SCC Nigeria Limited, Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited, Parsons Science Engineering Company, Petroline Global Solutions Limited, Mangrovetech Nigeria Limited, Abdec Nigeria Limited, Ndubuieze Engineering Nigeria Limited, among others.
EC: There is an abundance of land in the FCT for integrated farming. What is the Administration doing towards encouraging farmers in the Territory?
Some concerted efforts have been made by the FCT Administration to boost commercial agriculture as part of the Agricultural development initiative of the Federal Government’s Transformation Agenda. We are replicating the Agricultural Services and Training Centre in Plateau State in the FCT. At the instance of Mr. President, Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan, I was recently in Plateau State where I also met with the Executive Governor, Dr. David Jonah Gang, towards replicating Agricultural Services and Training Centre in Abuja.
EC: How viable could that be in the administrative capital of Nigeria?
You will agree with me that commercial agriculture is a vehicle to drive rapid development in the rural area as it slows down high rate of urbanization and make farming a lucrative venture. FCTA is providing adequate empowerment and self sustaining assistance to over 100,000 farm families in the FCT, in the areas of improved seeds, fertilizers, agro-chemicals, tractors and other basic farming inputs. The Administration is also partnering with SEC Equipment and Communication Nigerian Limited to establish Agricultural Services and Training Centres (ASCT).
EC: What of working tools for farmers?
It may interest you to note that the FCTA on May 24, 2012 launched over 80 subsidized tractors for farmers’ empowerment and to kick-off the farming season in the FCT. The procured tractors with implements are being distributed to FCT farmers’ cooperative groups at subsidized rates as part of the Government Led Community Cooperative Tractor Instalmental Purchase Scheme. The scheme was initiated by the Federal Government with the aim of addressing the perennial problem of Agricultural Mechanization. The programme will address that problem by developing a vibrant and sustainable tractor service delivery programme under a Public Private Participation (PPP) arrangement that will ensure increase in the ownership of farm-power.
Majority of farmers in FCT, presently are those referred to as peasant farmers how could they benefit in the use of modern tools?
I agree with you that the business of agriculture has been left mostly in the hands of peasant and small scale farmers. While their efforts may have largely met the basic food needs of the Nation, Nigeria is yet to fully tap abundant potentials in agriculture for wealth creation and economic development. In recognition of this fact, here in the FCT we are determined to ensure that our farmers embrace modern farming and form formidable cooperative groups. This will afford them the chance to fully take advantage of the various Federal Government programmes aimed at boosting the economic base of our farmers. It is our conviction that Agriculture like so many other facets of our economy should be private sector driven, with government making suitable policies and providing an enabling environment for private enterprises to thrive.
As you may be aware, the FCT is already participating in the new Transformation Agenda of Mr. President, Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan. 2012 farming season marks the effective take off of the new Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA). Two key initiatives under the Agenda include: the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme designed to move farmers from subsistence farming to commercial farming and Nigerian Incentive – Based Risk Sharing in Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).
The GES and NIRSAL under the ATA seek to address all the technical, administrative and financial needs of the farmers along the selected agricultural value chain commodities in which the country has comparative advantage. In order to harness the agricultural potentials in FCT with maximum synergies, the Area Councils are expected to buy in and support both Federal and FCTA in the implementation of the ATA. The area councils in FCT should as a matter of great importance identify and key into the value chain commodities to be promoted in their respective area of jurisdiction.