The biggest challenge is funding. We need money, we need money, and we need money, to do what we said we were going to do. We are in Nigeria where everything and corruption is an issue. I know if we have the financial support that we need, things will be different in Umunneochi LGA.
The Chairman of Umunneochi Local Government Area in Abia State, Phillip Okey Igwe, spoke to Our Reporter PHEBBY KOSISOCHUKWU ANICHE on funding as one of the challenges facing the local government structure, as the third tier of government. Excerpts:
WHAT do you see as the biggest challenge facing the local government structure?
The biggest challenge is funding. We need money, we need money, and we need money, to do what we said we were going to do. We are in Nigeria where everything and corruption is an issue. I know if we have the financial support that we need, things will be different in Umunneochi LGA. We are working on an electricity project for example and there are roads to be built. There are people we need to empower so that they can feed their families and we need money to do a lot of things. It is a big challenge on the financial side. On the other side, I believe that citizens should be made responsible and keep informed to understand that running the government is very challenging. I don’t subscribe to the notion that everyone should depend on the government for everything, so, we need to reorient the thinking of our people on being self-reliant. And then, the government can do what it does, which is to provide security and build infrastructure.
Do you think the local government as the third tier of government is living up to expectations?
Actually, I don’t know the answer, but I guess that the answer will depend on who you ask. In my area I know what we have. The whole idea of the third tier of government is for government to reach out to the people at the grassroots. There is the need to make them feel the presence of the government. It is a very good intention. Those in this local government area know that for the first time in Umunneochi there is a government here. How did we make that to happen? You build infrastructure, provide security, and take some initiative that will make the people feel the presence of the government. The local government in Umunneochi, has lived up to its expectations and we will continue to grow until we get there. It is all about funding.
Recently, there was the suggestion of a full autonomy for the local government. What does this mean to you?
It is a step in the right direction in other to make the LGA financially stable. I think the intention of the constitution on autonomy is that the local governments as the third tier of government should be self-sustainable, and stand on its feet both financially and politically.
It is still a long way to that happening because presently it is just a proposed constitutional amendment. The National Assembly has done their bit, now it is up to the State Houses of Assembly. When you have financial stability, then you will be able carry out your promises to the people.
Corruption and poor performance are the issues easily linked to any LGA…
It depends on who is driving the ship. That is not an issue under my leadership because as the Italian sayings go, “the fish stinks from the head.” When the head is not right then the people under will suffer. Today, am at the helm of affairs here, and I know we are not corrupt and we are doing our best to improve our performance.
From where do you generate your internal revenue or don’t you?
We live in a country where we have a very centralized government. We have our internally generated revenue and again we depend on the allocation from the center. That’s how we survive. We have the IGR and we have the allocation from the center. The internally generated revenue we have is not much; if we can improve on it, our funding situation will change drastically.
What is the major project in the LGA?
Electricity. We don’t have electricity. We know that with adequate funding, this can be sorted out.