Michael Tidi has served the people of Delta State in different capacities as a civil servant, political aide to the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Special Assistant to the Governor of Delta State before his people beckoned on him to serve them as chairman of their local government area, Warri South.
Less than three months of assumption of office as he overwhelmingly emerged as the chairman of the local government council in the January 6, 2018 local government elections in Delta State, Hon. Tidi embarked on several projects designed to reclaim the lost glory of Warri. In this interview, Tidi enumerated what he is doing to transform Warri and capped it with the information that Warri Economic Summit would hold on May 17 and 18 to chart a part for the sustainable socio-economic growth of the oil-rich city. Happy reading:
For about three months, you have been on seat as the chairman of Warri South local government area, how has it been?
I can say it has been challenging because, we met a system whose mode of operation can best be described as analogue which was not in tandem with modern day practice. We met a workforce that was not motivated – yes, they come to work because of this clock-in, clock-out system introduced by the Delta State government but, again, most times, they were idle. So, we injected fresh ideas to change the situation. We re-jigged the place. Some of the staff were deployed to areas they will be most useful, where they have comparative advantage for us to get the best, we looked at their files and ensured that as much as possible, we put round pegs in round holes.
You met backlog of salaries owed, which must have contributed to the low morale of staff?
Of course, when we came on board, we met a backlog of seven months salaries. We were able to defray three months salaries owed through the magnanimity of the Governor of Delta state, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who insisted that payment of salaries must be top priority. But, I will disagree that it was because the staff were not paid was the reason for the low morale. They have this mentality to government work.
Today is Friday, it is already past 4pm and because, they know that I resume for work by 8 am and close at times by 5 pm, they are happy to emulate what I am doing. The Head of Personnel Management (HPM), senior staff including the junior staff must stay around, because, I may need any of them. They appreciate the payment of salaries and so far, we are doing very well, with the reshufflement that we did, everyone is happy to do his job.
Apart from payment of salaries, have you engaged in any other programme?
When I came on board, I met with the staff. Thank God for the NULGE Chairman, we talked about welfare and as a welfarist, I assured them that their demands would be met. As I speak with you, their claims have been attended to and we believe that as the revenue increases, we will pay off all that is owed them. Still on our activities within two months, you can see that the secretariat is wearing a new look, we don’t joke with issues of cleanliness and comfort because we must show examples to others. Don’t forget this is the mother of many local government councils in the state, so many local government councils were carved out of Warri South local government. Today, it is a tourist attraction.
We believe in delivering capital projects to the people, we have injected fresh blood into the market. We felt that the market was not good enough, through our engagement with the market women, as I speak with you, they observe their sanitation every Thursday aside the monthly sanitation declared by the state government. Some of the requests of the market women are being attended to. We are supplying electricity in the market because, if you go there in the night, the place is so dark.
We are also installing solar powered street lights. You are a journalist, you can visit the market which is the biggest market in Delta state, the Igbudu market to see things for yourself. In the area of sanitation, the council has paid for compactor truck to help the PSP people to evacuate wastes from the market. We have also engaged the youths to ensure that the communities are kept clean. We have instituted an award for the cleanest community in the local government to encourage the communities to ensure clean environment.
How are you raising funds to engage in all these activities?
We have projections, we have budget. We even projected to pay salaries from our IGR, so, outside allocations from FAAC, we are doing well, but, His Excellency, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has done very well for us. If you look at the NPA, it was resurfaced by Governor Okowa’s administration. If you look at some of the link roads like that leading to Court 4, the drainage has been constructed. Areas that used to be death traps have been asphalted, we are not there yet, but with the commitment of Dr Okowa’s administration to the provision of infrastructure, the situation can only be better.
How are you coping with issues of youths disturbing developers popularly called ‘deve’ in your area?
It is not really pronounced in Warri South but that is not to say there are no dissidents. As an Economist, I know the impact of disturbing developers, so, we are working with the communities to ensure that no one disturbs the pace of development in any part of the local government area.
How is night life in Warri?
I must confess that it is a serious issue. We are doing a lot to revive night life in Warri. You are aware of the forthcoming Warri Economic Summit that we are organising for us to reclaim the lost glory of Warri and make the future of the oil city better. We have concluded plans and resource persons who are those mainly nurtured by Warri will come and make contributions on how to make Warri a better place. We are confident that in the next few months, the Warri that we used to know will bounce back stronger. His Excellency, our Governor, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa will be at the summit.
How is the revenue generation effort of your council?
To avoid duplicity in the collection of revenue thereby adding burden to our people, we have looked at all the relevant laws. We have deployed technology in what we are doing, injecting fresh ideas to avoid doing same thing all over again. So, what we did is to introduce scratch cards, all that you need to do as a good citizen is to purchase the scratch cards and log in to show that you have paid your tax.
The tenement rates have different cards and it will help us have a data of the residents and the business owners in our environment. We have witnessed substantial compliance as the people now believe that the money will not end in individual’s pockets. The money comes to the council and we are working with law enforcement agents, anyone who poses as agent to collect cash would be arrested because the money we get through sales of scratch cards go straight to the council through the designated banks that sell our scratch cards.
So far, so good, the sensitization has been effective, government needs money to provide security for the people, make the environment clean for business activities, our traders needs soft loans, our youths needs to be equipped with required skills that the job owners are demanding for. To acquire the skills the multi-national oil companies are demanding for are expensive, but, with money which we can raise from IGR, we can sponsor our people to acquire the necessary skills and carry out our activities.
There is a sea port in Warri, are there plans to make it more functional?
Yes, His Excellency, our governor is passionate about reviving the Warri Port. I discussed the issue with him before I became chairman and I have also continued with the moves as chairman. What I see playing out about making the Warri Port more functional is politics because, I see no reason for ports in Lagos and Port Harcourt would be functioning and ours will not function. This is a cosmopolitan town for crying out loud.
It is not a private port, it is not a state port but, the powers that be somewhere want this port to die. So, we are doing a lot of advocacy for the federal government to come and dredge the port. The benefits of having a functional port cannot be quantified. The federal government does not want the port to work so that everybody will patronize the Lagos port. It is not only the Warri Port, the Burutu and Koko Ports are here in Delta state and are not also functional. What has the dredging of these ports has to do with Lagos? They will complement each other and make the goods get faster to their owners. Lagos is congested while this Port is wasting.
As a politician, how do you see the strength of your party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta state?
Deltans are happy that Delta state is a PDP state. PDP is a big family, if it is not your turn today, it will be your turn tomorrow. There is no other political party in the state. During the local government elections, our leader, His Excellency, the governor went round the 25 local government areas campaigning for the party’s candidates, there was no other political party that campaigned, so, during the elections, it was just one way, it was all about the PDP in Delta state. That obviously buttressed the fact that Delta State is home to the PDP.
In 2019, what should we expect?
It is PDP all the way. Governor Okowa is a blessing to Delta State, he has managed the resources of the state so well, he is prudent and he is one of the Governors in the country today who is not owing salaries, projects are evenly spread across the state, his support to farmers, the true farmers, micro-credit scheme, empowerment programmes are wonderful and our people who appreciates good things will ensure easy sail for him back to Government House in 2019, I can assure you of that.
How do you see the issue of scrapping the third tier of government, the local government system?
Local government is the shock absorber, we relate with the traders, we relate with the people at the community levels, people who doesn’t know about federal or state governments. We interact with people at the grassroots, so, this tier of government is very important and those calling for its scrapping are not in tune with what democracy is about. I want to thank my people for their support for what we are doing in the Council, we will continue to ensure good governance, I am a grassroots person and my people are happy. You can see the influx of people to my office every day, our people sees me as theirs and the Governor is supporting my Council for us to succeed. They should continue to expect aggressive development, we will clear the water fronts, take healthcare to the rural areas, what we need is to always support of Governor, we should pray for him and accept the programmes of his administration.