Chudi Mojekwu is the General Manager and Chief Executive Officer, Anambra State Community and Social Development Agency, (ANCSDA). The agency is charged with the responsibility of improving the socio- economic conditions of the populace at the grassroots level and promoting prompt delivery of services geared towards poverty reduction in the state. In this executive interview with National Light crew, CHUKA NNABUIFE, ROSE ORANYE, EMEKA CHIAGHANAM, ONYEDIKACHI ANYAONYEABOR, CHINWENDU UZOATU, CHARITY UZOAGBA, NKECHI IKENWOKE, GERTRUDE AKWANIGHI and BRIDGET MBONU. He spoke on the relevance of the agency, its drive towards the socio-economic development of the state, among sundry issues. Excerpts:
WHAT is the main goal of your agency or your projects, how do we get to the N354 million mentioned in your speech and how have we expended N194 million?
The overall goal is to improve access to human development services in the rural communities-poor rural communities.
That is the overall goal but specifically, the objective is to increase access by poor people to improved social and natural resources, infrastructural services. We are talking about education, health, water, utilities like rural electrification, social and economic facilities.
We also look at building their capacities with MDAs. We are also trying to facilitate partnership between communities and state government system because they are the government nearest to the people; so that whatever is being done at the local government system can meet the needs, the priorities of the communities.
In addition, we can leverage the resources of the federal government, state government and local government to impact community lives. We have about two or three funding sources. We call them development partners. First is the World Bank – the major funder. Second are the state government and any other credible donor who will want to contribute to the development.
What of the federal government?
The federal government also contributes, but then at the federal level. But here at state level, money is from World Bank, state government and any other credible donor or partner that wants to partner to it. On the budgeted N354 million, we have already paid out about N129 million. This money came from World Bank.
It has been observed that the agency has been working in other states before the Obiano administration came on board, but it just started in Anambra State last year. Is the programme not likely to end with Gov Obiano’s administration?
Anambra State Community and Social Development Agency is a full fledged parastatal of the government established by law from Anambra State House of Assembly. Part of the conditions the World Bank, a major donor agency gave was that it be established by law.
The agency is concerned with the grass root development with the power of a visual succession except the law is repealed by the State House of Assembly. It is an agency of government that continues to receive funding from either development partners or the state government. Because it has started, it was established by law, those are part of the conditions the World Bank gave for Anambra or other states to implement.
What is the difference between this particular project your agency is running and Gov Obiano’s Community Choose Your Project Initiative?
C S D P is a community and social development project established by law for that purpose, with intervention from state government, federal government and other development partners; The choose your project programme of the current administration, to some extent, is a repetition of what we are doing, but not completely.
Our project is undiluted and community driven because all the stakeholders in the community, including the governance structure, the town unions, the women groups, the youth groups, the elderly groups, all of them must come together to decide what they want under this project. It is not a matter of maybe the PG or the Igwe saying do this or that.
We insist that there must be a meeting where we see the communities coming together and we now deploy our expertise to help them do a proper appraisal of the community and come up with their priority needs; serving the needs of all these stakeholders within the community. Besides, the choose yourself project is funded solely by the state government.
These projects are capital intensive and people oriented. What mechanism do you have to monitor the projects?
The budget is community driven. Everything about the project is done by the community. They conceive their ideas. They prioritise, evaluate, implement and monitor and all the agency does is to transfer the money to them and then give them appropriate technical, administrative, managerial, and organisational training that will enable them use the money in a responsible manner for their own development. It is just basically community centered.
The agency on their own has a responsibility to monitor how the communities are implementing the projects and they don’t do it by themselves alone, they partner with MDAs in about twelve ministries.
We have desk officers. The officers are knowledgeable in what the sector does. For example, If they want to go check on the water sector, they have officers that are in charge that accompanies the agency to supervise what they are doing. Therefore, the work is participatory; meaning that everybody is practically involved in the work and project.
Since every community would like to participate in such developmental programme irrespective of its economic status, what are the criteria required to qualify for the programme?
We don’t cover the entire state. Based on the state poverty map, we are intervening in about 12 local government areas, namely; Anambra East, Anambra West, Ayamelum, Awka North, Orumba North, Orumba South, Oyi, Ogbaru, Dunkofia, Idemili North, and Anaocha. Some are poorer but we intervene based poverty rating of these LGAs. For a community to participate, the community must be within a local government; meaning within a participatory local government.
For any local government to participate, law must establish it. The committee which is the local government reviewing committee receives proposals from communities that indicate interest and that committee ensures that the proposals are in consonance with the plans for the agency. It takes a qualified local government before you have other committees under them to participate.
Is there any financial commitment from either the state, local government or community to qualify for these projects?
No, but the local government has to fund the activities of that committee. The law states that the local government funds their operations. You cannot say you have a need which you are not able to contribute, no matter how little.
That is the only way to convince others that this is actually your take on it. Over the years, it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that those who make some input unto their own agenda achieve more success than those who make absolutely no input into it. So whatever you contribute is in cash or kind.
Some people feel that the project is political. Do you approve projects in only APGA strongholds?
It is an agency not a political party. We are here to assist communities to help themselves and in every community, you see people of various political denominations. The issue of partisan does not arise at all. There is hardly a community that you meet in Anambra State that is 100 per cent APGA. We are targeting community units as set up by the government.
Yours is an agency tasked with enormous responsibility, what are the challenges the agency faces and what do you see as its achievements in the one year that the agency has been established in the state?
The agency isn’t a ‘touch and go’ project where you walk in, take money, and go away. Some processes are tasking, allowing the communities to key in. The processes are quite challenging. We receive commendations from people but occasionally, we receive calls that ask us why we interfere in the communities without their consents.
Some of them can be so powerful that they can create problems in the communities. We have issues like elements of the weather, and the riverine areas where we have to travel for miles
The achievements are many. We have 37 communities and about 80 micro projects. Some are completed and others are about to be completed. We commenced micro projects in March, this year, and have been working on the projects and within these few months, we have recorded much success. We hope to improve on these projects and get them better.
How do you know the projects that affect the poor directly and do you meet the poor themselves, or do you have any particular system that you use to get the poor? Do you have any frame work that you use to know the project that will affect the poor of the poor directly?
We have well trained staff on community development, who possess skills in Participatory Rural Appraisal, (PRA), some call it Participatory Reading Action (PRA) that enables to interpret community needs and assist the community do proper appraisal of their life to be able to enumerate countless needs or wants and see from those wants of the community, identify their priority needs. These are skills that come with training and capacity building.
What about the chieftains of the communities, are you sure that you are not dealing with people who claim to be poor or represent the poor whereas what they are, are actually merchants who use the poor? If you can name some communities for us, it will be very appropriate.
We have well trained staff on community development who possess skills in Participatory Rural Appraisal, (P R A), some call it Participatory Reading Action (PRA) that enables to interpret community need and assist the community do proper appraisal of their life to be able to enumerate countless needs or wants and see from those wants of the community, identify their priority needs. These are skills that come with training and capacity building.
We sensitise them on the need for these groups to be kind of organised. In some communities, they are well organised, even registered. In some communities, they are not yet organised but we are using some social organsations like maybe their president-general or where there are some priests or well meaning individuals to be able to gather them, okay and get them registered.
It’s either you are registered as a group or as an association,(with local government system or we help you to get registered). Moreover, we still cross check with the Ministry of Social Welfare and Women Affairs.
The agency also goes with experts from the ministry who also help us to do proper appraisal to be sure that we are dealing with real poor people. In any case, when you see vulnerable people, you don’t need to be told that these are vulnerable people.
When you see people that can’t see, can’t talk, looking so emancipated; I mean they have a history, you know that these are really poor people. So that is how we normally work hard to ensure that we are not dealing with people that are dishonest.
Besides when you go to communities that are poor, talk about when you go to the Anam people. Like yesterday, we were at Anam. We went to Ezi-Anam, went to Imeukwu Anam, we have groups in Umuewelum Anam. We have groups in Ogbaru, one in Orumba South, Urum, in Awka North. I mean these are known poor communities, and so as we are dealing with community made projects.
We also target these very poor groups within the communities to ensure that they are part of the process. So the part that is important is that there are legal processes and also there are skills we display to ensure we are dealing with very poor people and when you see them too, and by the time you interface with them, you don’t need a person to tell you that these are people that require intervention.
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