GOVERNOR Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, recently, introduced what can be called the fourth tier government system known as Community Council Government. Deputy Governor Jude Agbasu speaks on what motivated the move and other projects being handled by the government of Imo State. Excerpts:
Many people don’t seem to understand the community government which has already taken off in the state. Can you explain what you want to achieve with the community council government?
The concept of the community government is a way of taking development and government to the rural areas or communities. The local governments were created in the constitution to take development to the rural areas but that is not working. The administration of Imo State under Owelle Rochas Okorocha came up with an idea for a third tier of government in Imo State which will help to reach the people in the rural community.
This is a structural way of reaching the people in the communities or rural areas for the purpose of unlocking the resources there. If we want to make these communities to be economically viable, we must go back to the land, that is, go back to agriculture and the easiest way to go back to agriculture is through community government, where people will now be empowered to unravel the resources that are there.
Now, you hear of unemployment, but, in the olden days, only few people worked as civil servants, and people did not say that they were unemployed. The value of our currency was high, penny was useful that time, but now you cannot buy anything with kobo.
If the common denomination in our currency is not in use and it has no purchasing power, it means the economy is sick. If we develop our agricultural sector properly, food will be cheaper and this will make the purchasing power of our money stronger. Our currency is naira and kobo but you cannot find the kobo in use today.
This can only happen if governance is brought down to the communities. The governor wants the communities to feel the impact of government. The people who want to farm will be provided with fund to work in any field they want, even it is bush meat rearing. Any where you drop cassava in Imo State, it will germinate.
The product of cassava we eat is chaff but the main product cassava is the starch extracted. We extract starch in our rural communities and throw it away. This is used in pharmaceuticals, textile industries and it has various other uses.
What we want is to partner with the people in agriculture and introduce funding and machines like tractors and other agricultural mechineries and stop people from tilling the land with hands and hoes, then, when they harvest, we let them take that part they have been taking for years and the starch they have been throwing away for years that is useless for them, we can buy and export and earn foreign exchange.
Meanwhile, people are getting fed. The only way all these things can happen is through the fourth tier communities council government, that is what Governor Okorocha wants to happen.
It is not easy to embezzle community money because in the communities, they know themselves. It may be easier to embezzle at local and state governments, but not easy in the community. If you do wrong or steal in the community, it will continue haunting you and your family for a long time even if you pay back.
What we want to do is to take this back to the community and use it to drive the economy in the state. If we do it well, and I know we will do it well, we will not be depend on oil money. Our palm oil, if tapped well, will return more money than crude oil. That is what we want to do with the community council government.
There is the local government and you are having this community government. What is the difference? What will the local government be doing?
The local governments are still fulfilling the roles assigned to them by the constitution. The community government is interested in unlocking the latent resources in their land through agriculture and also join hands together to secure their places.
In every community, they know each other, they know the thieves, it is the home rat that tells the one outside that there is a piece of fish in the house; the community council government is capable of revolutionizing our lives in terms of provisions of services, security, healthcare, education, if the community government checks the schools and asks questions on the attendance of teachers and the headmasters and know what is happening there, the standard will improve.
Where is the fund for the community council government coming from?
The community government is being funded by the state government.
Has the State House of Assembly passed the law on this community government?
Yes, there is a Community Council Government Law in force in Imo State now.
Who supervises the community government?
The Ministry of Local Government is there and some civil servants have been seconded to the communities to go and set up the community council government, after six months they will go back to their ministries. Their job is to set it up and make sure that the people are capable of running it. This is the only way we can have a simple, understandable definition of democracy, a government of the people by the people and for the people.