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“Rescue Watch” is a Product of Vigorous Consultations at all Levels – Says Rebo Usman

He is widely perceived to be the ‘the man behind the scene,’ who wields enormous power in the Darius Ishaku’s government.

His name always reverberates in public discourse in this state often for the wrong reasons.

When the major policy thrust of this government, ‘the Rescue Agenda’, was unveiled, he was thought to be the brain behind it.

With the controversies that arose as a result of the launch of the ‘Rescue Watch’, a strategy coined out of the Rescue Agenda’ to create a lifeline for the state in revenue generation, Usman, who is the Chief of Staff, Government House administration, attempted to disabuse the minds of Tarabans on what they perceive as a policy aimed at only empowering the politicians.

Nick Dugba was on hand to hear from him. READ ON…

Taravoices: What is the purpose of the ‘Rescue Watch’ and how much of consultations were made before launching it?

Hon. Rebo: The governor had to be convinced that it was a good program. It is my responsibility to know the working of the mind of the governor. It is on this basis that the concept was thoroughly discussed with him. I can’t remember how many times I had to go back to him because he had to be clear about what we are talking about in the light of what he wants to do to the people of Taraba state. When you talk about consultations, it has to start from him. We did that very well and by the time he was convinced that he wanted to do this project; you know we had to understand that this grassroots watch thing is the governor’s strategy for reaching out to the people. I agree with you; when you have a new thing coming up like this, you have to go into consultations. It was done! How was it done? By the time the governor accepted the idea, I had a meeting with all special advisers because they were going to be the drivers of the strategy. I had a meeting with the special advisers, all the senior special assistants and special assistants. So I now had to roll out this strategy that the governor adopted for reaching out to the grassroots and monitoring our revenue. After having that discussion which I did by way of a mini-seminar, we thoroughly discussed it with the special advisers. It was at this point that we grouped the special advisers and the senior special assistants into the revenue monitoring team for each local government and the grassroots matters team for each local government. That was the second level of consultation. We went on to the next level of consultation which was when we arranged a seminar which was presented by the governor himself on this new concept of Rescue Watch. All special advisers, senior special assistants, special assistants, commissioners, members of House of Assembly; the Speaker was also there. After the presentation, we now organized another level of consultation which was the local government town hall meeting. We sent all these team leaders to their various local governments. They held a town hall meeting to disseminate the new strategy of the governor as far as the grassroots issue and the revenue matters are concerned. In each local government, every ward was represented by ten people. Why did we bring ten people per ward? So that these people can go back and educate their people at the grassroots as to what government wants to do. After the grassroots meeting, we carried out another seminar, apart from the ten we had. We also appointed a Contact Person per ward that would work with these teams in each local government. So, the grassroots matters team and the local government revenue monitoring team have these people at the ward level that they link up with. We organized a seminar for the 158 Contact Persons, in Jalingo. We invited the local government chairmen and their treasurers. We had this presentation again. We educated them and made them know their roles. The Chairman of ALGON was there with his colleagues. After that, we swung into action. You can see the level of consultations, from the governor right down to the Contact Persons from each ward. So for anybody to say he is not aware, I don’t think the person is right even with the House of Assembly members.

Taravoices: Sir! The fears are that those Contact Persons and those at the helm of affairs in the program are politicians and since they are not trained revenue officers, the process could be abused. What mechanisms have you put in place to prevent such?

Hon. Rebo: We have to understand this concept clearly. This concept is all about monitoring. It is not about revenue collection or generation. The concept is to say look; the government has a civil service structure in place and all of us know they are not doing well. So the essence of having the team is to ensure that those saddled with the responsibility of collecting revenue are doing their work and to know their challenges. They don’t go to collect the revenue. We have decided to bring out this strategy because the system has deteriorated to a state of decay. The politicians are those who have the responsibility of the people on their head. If anything goes wrong, everybody takes on the governor. Is it not the politicians that have the blame? But it’s the bureaucrats that are supposed to do the actual work. Now, because the blame would be on the politicians, the politicians are in the best position to monitor; to see that these civil servants are doing their job. That is the essence of the revenue monitoring team. If they are not doing their work well, they can report, so that we would call the attention of the relevant revenue board. So it is meant to ensure a moral check.

Taravoices: Talking about sustainability. There is the need to strengthen the state revenue board so that even if this government is no more, there would be continuity. What is the government doing to reposition the state Board of Internal Revenue or is this policy suppose to usurp the powers of the Board?

Hon. Rebo: Absolutely not! The main aim is for the government to reorganize and restructure our revenue collection machinery and that is what the governor is already working on just as it is being done at the federal level, the Federal Inland Revenue Service. We are going to require to bring in consultants to restructure and reposition our revenue machinery. That is already being done to ensure that we have a sustainable revenue collection system. It is a big thing, a professional thing. That is going to be done. It is not just about revenue that this thing has been put in place, there is the grassroots matters team from each local government which is supposed to interface at the grassroots level and to also from time to time go round to see what is happening in government facilities like a schools and hospitals and so on. You would agree with me that carelessness, negligence and lack of commitment are rife in most of our government facilities at the grassroots level. By the time these teachers know that somebody is keeping an eye on them, apart from the supervision that is supposed to be carried out by the Ministry of Education, they will know that this will go to the ears of the governor. We have already trained the Contact Persons on what they are supposed to do. They have the right to visit schools and clinics. We have provided them with reflective jackets. If they see anything wrong, they will report to the team leader; the team leader will report to me, and by the time it gets to me, the governor will know, and if it is not a serious matter the governor needs to know, I will call the commissioner. Before you know, we would adjust that service to the people. If we can do that in the next two years, everybody who is working for the government would sit up, and it would become a culture, and they will get used to it. So that is what we are trying to achieve, service delivery.

Taravoices: With this policy in place, what is your vision for Taraba state at the end of this administration?

Hon. Rebo: With this policy, we look forward to seeing the civil servants repositioned to serve the people, that whatever belongs to government belongs to them. The grassroots matters team is a continuous thing. If you have a clinic in your community, it is your clinic. We are educating them on how to form committees that would take care of boreholes in their communities. By this, we would be supplementing the work of Ministry for Water Resources. The governor has also made up his mind that once in awhile he will be attending the town hall meetings. We are now compiling the video and audio report, when he comes, we would give him, and he would see what transpires in the whole wards. By so doing the governor would be closer to the people. I will be attending town hall meetings, two or three places every month. So, people who don’t understand it, we won’t blame them because it is a new thing and they have not started seeing. We are encouraged because we know by so doing, we would be getting closer to the people.

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