Dr. (Mrs.) Jumai Ahmadu is the Director, FCT Reform Coordination and Service Improvement in the Federal Capital Territory Administration. Notwithstanding the absence of mandate secretaries, she says there is no gap in governance in FCT, just as she explains what the department has done to improve service delivery in the territory. In this exclusive interview, Ahmadu speaks on residents’ participation in keeping Abuja clean while the administration is seeking innovative ways to make money from waste. Excerpts:
You are director, FCT Reform Coordination and Service Improvement, what exactly is your mandate?
It’s not as if the FCT created a new department. There was a memo from the Office of the Head of Service giving directive to all MDAs to have a unit that will follow up all the federal government’s reform initiatives domiciled in all MDAs which is why the FCT, after lot of deliberations with the FCTA Management Committee approved before the minister went ahead to put it in place.
The basic function of the department is to work with FCT Administration to identify process system and service gaps and develop interventions to eliminate the gaps, to coordinate, drive and monitor the reform agenda of the FCT.
The department also troubleshoots, target areas where you anticipate failure, which is why the department recently organised a retreat due to complaints of multiple taxation. All the parties were brought together and they deliberated. A communique was issued at the end of the meeting which we now up-scaled to FCT Internal Revenue Service which will then follow up and see that all the identified problems are addressed.
We also identify good practices that can be adopted to enable the administration render quality services. I also liaise with other departments to develop and identify improved services that they can deliver. You know you can never get to perfection, but you keep trying.
Having gone through your mandate, you will agree with me that service improvement will be enhanced when other departments are fully mobilised. The FCT has been running without secretaries, like a state without commissioners. Has this not hindered your mandate?
As far as I’m concerned, there has been no gap in governance. Directors are there, the secretary would just be an individual to provide political direction but policies are already on ground.
For a fact, the minister has not been able to appoint secretaries for the obvious fact that the FCT budget for 2021 has not been signed. As soon as the budget is signed, something will be done, but I can assure you that this has not created any gap so far.
Recently, the FCT Minister of State revealed that N8 billion is spent annually on refuse disposal alone. But most parts of the city centre have this foul odour and just few minutes’ drive outside the city centre, the humungous amount can’t be justified. So what is the problem?
You can’t totally blame the FCT Administration for the situation. Residents also have to be responsible in how they manage their wastes. The administration has invested so much to ensure that we have a clean city, but people have always frustrated it. Residents should take responsibility in managing their wastes in terms of how they deliver it at the collection centre.
The administration continues to look for innovative ways to make money from waste. AEPB has been talking to investors and other interested individuals and organisations who are knowledgeable and responsible enough, not portfolio contractors, those who own companies that can recycle the wastes. The waste can become source of wealth if properly treated, recycled to create employment and generate revenue to offset the present cost at the same time keeping Abuja clean.
Is it not true that AEPB has not functioned maximally?
I wouldn’t believe that they have not functioned maximally. AEPB is supposed to take care of the city, the Satellite Towns Development Department, STDD, takes care of area councils in terms of waste disposal. One thing people fail to realise in Abuja is that we have to understand the peculiar nature of Abuja City Centre. We have day time residents and night time residents. There is massive influx of people from neighbouring states into the FCT during the day for businesses of all kinds, they generate waste and go back to their states after the day.
It would have been easier to cope if the agency is dealing with Abuja population alone, the burden would have been less. AEPB is doing their best, they work round the clock, it’s not a perfect situation yet, but they are doing their best. So many contractors are at the moment involved in evacuation, but we cannot completely absolve residents for the state of things. Go to Nyanya for example, huge waste are generated, if it is evacuated, the next day they will litter the entire area.
We can, as a matter of responsibility get these black polythene bags and pack the waste neatly and put them in the bins so that even scavengers will find it difficult to litter the area. Residents have to take responsibility.
Since your appointment what innovations have you brought to bear in the FCT Administration?
We have our work plan for the year. Firstly, there is this engagement platform that was launched in March to ensure that we enrich citizens on how things are being done, because there is no way you can manage a people without the active participation of those you are supposed to manage. We civil servants are the servants of the masses, we are here to serve the people, we are hoping that citizens key in and engage our staff.
We are also training desk officers who will man each secretariat. We will not wait like we are doing now when people will call the Call Centre, we do a memo for them to be able to act. We want a situation where each department can see what concerns each other and act. Where the department is not available online, we have the inter-agency collaboration so that Department B can draw the attention of Department A, if it’s not online.
We are also consciously developing a standard operating manual for the FCT Administration with a week-long workshop for all the admin staff to come out with workable template that they can adopt. As the years go by, we will adopt more strategies that will yield results and let the people know that we have their interest at heart.
So far what challenges have you encountered and how are you working round it?
There is something about change, and it is something people are not very comfortable with or will readily accept. This is peculiar to human nature. That is the major challenge we are having.
Thank God that we have the support of all those who are supposed to support us.
If the department were not necessary; if the federal government did not deem it fit that we need to do what we are doing, we won’t have been established.
Our challenge basically is people willing to embrace change. All HODs are giving us support, we are doing our best, we are not where we ought to be but we are now not where we were.