Wednesday, October 25, 2017 4:54 pm
Mr Kehinde Bamigbetan, Special Adviser to Lagos Governor on Communities and Communications, speaks to TheNEWS on the state’s feedback mechanism with the grassroots
Not much is known about communication of government’s policies in Lagos to the grassroots level. Now essentially, how is the mechanism for feedback between the government and the grassroots?
You aware of the one everybody knows about, which involves the governor going to a particular area to go and render his account of stewardship where he gets feedback and demands from the people. That is the essence of the town hall meetings. Interestingly some of the things that come out from there are always met immediately, some others that require immediate response are acted upon almost instantaneously. For a example, a woman at the 9th town hall meeting complained that she had applied for a loan from the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, and she was told that she was too old for that loan and governor directed that loan should not be based on age and she should go back there and immediately the officer in charge should follow it up and make sure that she gets the loan. On roads that are bad, you will find out that as soon as possible they are taken care of. People complained of traffic situation in Abule Egba, it was put into the system and now we have the Abule Egba bridge.
And beyond that big one, there are also segments that we are dealing with, the particular one is the community development associations. Now, Lagos state has 3,900 CDA’s, some local government have as much as 200. For the case of Alimosho for example a place they call Ikotun Igando they have 213 CDAs across board like that. So, what we do, every month we have meetings with our CDAs, we call it community development council which comprises the chairman, secretary and treasurer of each local council development area CDC, what I meant is that CDAC relates to the CDC and the CDC relates to the CDAC and so we bring government to those places to come and explain what they are planning to do, and when they explain what they want to do, the people make their own comments about the feasibility.
For example we wanted to bring national insurance scheme, we brought medical experts there, they explained how it works, how it is going to be compulsory, how much a person will pay and they threw it open and people made their observations, we used to be part of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). This is how much we pay and this is how much drugs that we got through it, if you are going to do your own make sure that the drugs are available and make sure there are a lot of quality in it. In this case all those things allowed for discussion, at the policy formulation stage, we discuss at the community level.
Before we launched the Lagos State Security Trust Fund and Lagos State Neighborhood and Safety Corps, we raised concerns about it, after we launched it, that we are not seeing them where they should be, we have to have another meeting with the Community Development Associations (CDAs) to integrate them, those are the kind of things that are going on behind, and are often not reported because many of our newspapers do not see them. However, beyond what goes on regularly we also change the format, we interchange from the general to the specifics. For example every last Thursday of the month, we meet with the Community Development Advisory Council (CDAC). This month it is going to be general across board, next month it is going to be in a particular division, we can choose Epe, we can choose Ikeja division, Badagry, Lagos Island. It allows us not only to get the general field but the specific field. When you go to Epe for example, the issues that concern them come up first. How come Lekki Free Trade zone has 3 zones where Dangote is not employing indigenes of Lagos, how come they are bringing other people from other parts of the country, it becomes an issue there.
We begin to deal with how to engage them so that if there is a quotation for some slots for the indigenous population in their employee or employment scheme we begin to solve that problem from there. If tomorrow, we go to Lagos island, they will also raise local issues about market developments- there are not enough markets; the ones that are available are too costly, and issues like that. So, we bring local authorities to look and mitigate some of these issues. The issue of environmental sanitation came up, so we interchanged so that we can get not just the general feeling, we can also get local feeling about what government is doing and what the local government needs to do.
How do state ministries come into the picture?
So these are put together and taken up in various departments of government, some of our efforts led to various laws. Land grabbers law for example came out of several meetings about how the land grabbers are violating contracts and frustrating people access to lands and Lagos state had to come up with the law to stand by the people so that they can defend themselves against those people. So we have been working at that level but that’s not the only level that we do, we have also done some initiatives in terms of bringing community leaders together. You should recognize the fact that as these communities exist they also have newspapers and now online media that deal with community news. In Ajeromi Ifelodun, there is the Commoners, it has been there for a long time like 20 years and across the state. I will give you several like that (he opens his file) the Islanders, GRA Ikeja, they are active in Alimosho, there is Surulere Watch, very active you can see it, almost full of adverts, Badagry Times, this is Fullshine that covers Mushin, this is Teshewaju Eko which covers Bariga, this is Epe Lekki Times which covers Epe area, this is Isolo Voice, This is Ilupeju today, so across the state we have like 40, so what did was to bring them together, encourage the government to support them.
So last year we had a media programme where the government gave the pull out pages, 4 page pull out, talking about what government is doing to these specific communities so we are going to do it again this year, every other month. We even sponsored their training and it was organized by Taiwo Obe. everything you got to know about community journalism today, almost like a week, government did that and so they are now like empowered to be able to deal with community business.
The next stage we are now doing is to try and see how they can accesses loan because many of them are individual start ups and they have never registered as companies. When we first gave them adverts we learnt that many of them had their accounts in their personal names, we now told them that it cant work that way you need to go and register a company and then government can only give you fund based on the fact that you have registered as a company and so we intend to increase their corporate profiling in terms of their tax status as we move on.
The other thing is to bring the corporate people that there is actually a community network that is beyond that national newspaper, when they come out they are reputable, there is only one place we are working, of course you will also notice that we have been talking about community radio, that is going to be another major for us because we found out that community radio enables the community, it empowers the community to be able to develop itself faster. For example let me tell you community radio will enable people to be able to also engage in public adult education.
If Lagos state is coming home with a new transport policy for example we should have people who will translate same to the local dialect, it is our next project and I think as soon as possible we are going to start about six of them, we want to have it that all local governments have a community radio and it will be run by the community itself. What government will do is to support it for stability and all these are meant to activate the public to speak out, to encourage the government to sell its policies and programmes to a large number of people. While news information and strategy is dealing with above the market issues, the radio stations, international media, television stations, we are doing the underground system, communities network, market network as soon as possible, we also do market campaigns.
Explain the market campaign project
In the market campaign project, we go to the markets and let them know what it is going on and then you get feedback. What do you want in this market to make your business better? Is it security, pedestrian bridge or are you being harassed too much by council officials. So, we go straight and ask the council to come in and say look let us structure our ideology and stuffs like that. That is another area that we are into. We also try to improve the basis of the environment within the local government, we have done we call Lagos Business Assembly where we bring the local sector to the public sector, we encourage them to interact, you will find out that many corporate people in the local government don’t even know the rates and levies, they don’t have the rate card. So, when they come to me I said come and pay for television license, some of them will just go and pay and then start complaining, the first thing you make sure you have is your rate card, this is your rate card, this is how you are going to pay, ok we give you a cheque for this rate card.
Do you involve corporate organisations in community development?
We are now trying to see how we see corporate organizations come to support our communities through corporate social responsibility. By the end of this month we are going to have the first interactive session between the corporate sector in Lagos and the CDAs so that we can give the corporate sector the right information about communities that are in need, maybe a community whose school needs roofing. Access bank is there, they have a project but they don’t know so they have to rely on NGOs that are intermediaries but when we linked directly to the community that is in need, you cut out that system so that you can monitor exactly what they are doing, your budget therefore can be better managed.
We run a programme on LTV now called Lagos Community Update, it is another initiative, and what is the idea, we want to encourage communities to engage in self help until government gets to them. And we found out through that programme that communities were actually doing a lot of work, building schools, building health centres, building roads, drainages on their own while waiting for government to come and support them, it comes out Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 7.30pm on LTV and it has been working very well. We now realize they are coordinating champions because they will say I will do this road on my own. We need to celebrate some people, somebody will say my generator is big enough, I don’t have no use of it, let it run light for the whole street, we also use it to get community ownership. If government comes to a community and does a road, government leaves that place, it is the people there who will keep that road and our governor is very particular about opening the communities.
Did the communities have imputs into the 114 roads constructed by the government at the formulation stage?
From day one Governor Ambode said his government would patner with them. The first thing he did was a 114 roads, what we didn’t know is that before the 114 roads, community CDAs were asked to present the road to the local governments. So he started with them and when the roads were chosen we now had a major training programme where we train the communities on what to expect and how to manage the projects, what the project is all about, what is the cost of the project and what is the duration.
Number two, the CDA’s themselves must set up a committee that can monitor the contractor, also assist him. In some places the road might be 7 metres wide and they want to do 9 metres wide, that means some places must have to go, it is the CDAs that will meet those people that it is for our own collective interest that please let this your fence move back . In Kuje Amuwo for example it was a 7 metre road and they wanted it for 9.5 metres and if they did what they wanted to do, many houses will be gone, now many of those houses belong to widows who rely on the rent from those rooms to survive so the widows started raising issues so we had to go there with the CDA’s and told them it can’t be 9.5 do 8 so that it can only take half of their fences, so self engagement is going on.
All that we have been doing – roads, light etc are deliberately handed over to the community. The governor worked in the local government for over 27 years; he is able to understand that everybody relies on the community to survive so if the community is not taking ownership of their project will go bad, if the people have done the road and gone and people start spoiling it, burning tyres there who will be passing through that place? Because you did not enforce any responsibility to them, if bad youths in the community start vandalizing the electric pole who will look at it, that’s why we give back to the community, we have given you a generator, run it, council will give you N10,000 per month, so a child that is trying to be funny knows that everybody is monitoring him. For our own office because I am in the community and communications we have to be together always to ensure a smooth running.