Ganiyu Egunjobi, Chairman, Agege Local Government Area of Lagos State, says he relocates his office to the street once in a month to be nearer to the people and to provide services to them timely.
Egunjobi was seen on Feb. 1, performing his official duties under a canopy by the roadside on at Ogeretedo Street, Dopemu, Agege, a development that no doubt sparked comments from residents of Agege Ward B.
The action came at a time, when some political office holders, including state governors are being attacked by mobs for allegedly neglecting to pay attention to the people’s needs.
But he told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that his action was informed by the need to reform local government administration, focus on the people’s needs and take strategic decisions that would attract development to the area.
“When I assumed office, given my background, as a Sociologist, and manager by vocation, I knew it was essential I started strong in my new role.
“So, the first few days offered me the opportunity to build credibility with my new team, the council’s staff and the management.
“I was also conversant with the fact that the staff would be anxious about my arrival and that I must find a way to put them at ease as quickly as possible because eliminating fear from the work environment is essential for success.
“So, that was the reason I abandoned my office on assumption to be in the midst of staff at the front office.
“On a lighter note, it was not because rodents had invaded the place,’’ the chairman told NAN.
NAN reports that the presence of the entire council staff drew a crowd of residents, workers and business owners to the place, some of whom were rooted to the spot with amazement from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. while work lasted.
Interestingly, Egunjobi was not afraid of being mobbed by street urchins, or other unforeseen circumstances as the case may be in some states, while working in an open place.
“I grew up in Isale-Oja, one of the trouble spots in Agege, so I am one of them. I know what resonate with them,’’ he said.
“You see, the essence of this exercise is to build public trust. It is a programme we do once every month in each of our seven wards.
“Over the years, the scandals in government’s circles have impacted all of us and undermined the trust of the public in our ability to govern responsibly and act as a steward of public resources.
“So, as government, we are making every effort to engage our community in our council’s decision-making process and share information about its operations.
“Some people may see this as being unethical but the fact is that a local government must connect with the locals,’’ he explained.
“Not all people in a locality can come to the office for various reasons. Some don’t like the formal ambience of an office environment, some are put off by protocol and bureaucracies in government offices while the problem with others is just complex.
“So the idea of a monthly outdoor office in essence is to involve our residents in the decisions we make that affect their lives.
“The experience is great. It is an opportunity for some of them to interact with government officials one-on-one for the first time in their lifetime, and deal directly with officials rather than touts or middlemen.
“It is equally a veritable platform for me to educate the people living in Ward B on the waste management programme of Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration.
“And seek their support for it and also explain the dangers inherent in indiscriminate dumping of refuse,’’ Egunjobi said.
Some residents even captured the scene on camera and posted the clips on social media, raking up thousands of views generating comments.
“It is a noble gesture for the chairman to be here with the council staff and to listen to our demands and problems.
“This clearly shows his concern and commitment to serve the people better,’’ a resident, Mr Semiu Ogunbona said.
Ogunbona said that the one-day relocation would promote good relationship between the government and the residents as well as strengthen the people’s confidence in their leaders.
A politician, Mr Oladimije Taofiq, also expressed happiness with the unusual development in the mini-African community, describing it as a novel idea that must be encouraged.
“It is our hope that this programme has come to stay. Most of the time it was during election that you see politicians meeting the electorate but for a chairman of a local government, who is six months in office to operate an outdoor office, it deserves acclaim,’’ Taofiq said.
Similarly, Mr Olanike Biliaminu, the Chairman, Aluminum Profile Glass Accessory and Retailer Association (APGAR), commended Egunjobi for the initiative.
Biliaminu said that the concept would engender cooperation between the council and business operators.
“The chairman has brought government to our door steps and we used the opportunity to sort out some grey areas relating to our business activities and expectations of government from us,’’ he said.
The people in Aluminum Village at Dopemu-Agege in Agege Local Government Area of Lagos State praised the one-day relocation of the council’s headquarters to Ogeretedo Street in the area.
However, both residents and the business environment see it as a positive step to fast track development in their area.
Although attending to the electorate and other stakeholders without a barrier in an outdoor office is one thing, fulfilling the promises made to them is another challenge which the council must address with all sense of seriousness for them to continue to build their trust in governance.