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We'll continue to shake the tables positively
Dr. Adam, Director, DOAS
August, 2020

He is a battler, fighting enemies of societal welfare. If you are one who loves to cut corners, better not waste your time going to Dr. Baba-Gana Adam, Director, Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) Department of Outdoor Advertisement and Signage (DOAS) to cut crooked deals. You can call him a terror to enemies of due process and you may not be wrong.

Dr. Adam is indeed shaking the tables in FCT's outdoor advertisement atmosphere because, according to him, there are some who hate to pay their bills or who allegedly collect from clients and pocket huge sums, thus depriving FCTA of much-needed cash to continue to deliver the goods to the citizenry. To both groups, Dr. Adam has zero apologies. A very blunt personality, he says it as it is. In this interview with Felix Durumbah of Abuja Digest Weekly, discusses these issues and more.

Abuja Digest Weekly: Recently, you chaired a critical meeting of DOAS, which we attended on invitation. For the benefit of members of the public, can you tell us what the meeting was all about? Aside DOAS staff, who were the other participants at the meeting?
Adam: Thank you very much. The meeting was operational meeting on mobile advertisement. And the other staff that were there are our partners in the execution of mobile advertisement and signage. As a department, we cannot go it alone. Even if we put the entire DOAS staff to carry out the assignment, it would be inadequate. So there were also Association of Local Governments in Nigeria staff members on mobile advertisement and signage that have been doing this business in the 36 states plus FCT.

So, we selected a group of three companies and decided to have a PPP (Public-Private Partnership) with DOAS. The collections are done and the monies are paid into the official government account. And later, we're foreseeing the possibility of percentage where we can pay them, upon the approval of the FCT Administration and the Committee, through the Permanent Secretary, FCT, to the Honourable Minister, FCT, to execute it. So, you see some of the operatives that are not directly DOAS staff in the meeting and also the three heads of the companies that came together and formed the company to work with DOAS were also in attendance. And I'm sure you heard all the discussions that transpired between DOAS and the representatives of the partners at the meeting.

Abuja Digest Weekly: There's been so much action---and controversy too---in the FCT signage and outdoor advertisement terrain since you assumed duties last year. Can one be right to say you're shaking the tables?
Adam: Yes, we're shaking the tables and a lot of things are falling and they're falling into the right places. The positive thing is that a lot of things are falling as I'm shaking the tables; and things are falling into shape, not out of shape. So, I'm glad you said that.

Abuja Digest Weekly: So, what's actually happening? Members of the public want to know.
Adam: Like I told you earlier, there are some companies that have been collecting this mobile advertisement illegally. Since the coming of DOAS in FCT, every transaction about outdoor advertisement and signage, the final bus stop for these should be DOAS. Unfortunately, the people operating it before the advent of DOAS refused to let go. They refused to let go because of the lucrative nature of what they are committing, what they are getting at the expense of FCTA and the six Area Councils, especially AMAC (Abuja Municipal Area Council).

Billions of Naira were being siphoned from the system by the illegal revenue collectors, but they portrayed themselves as AMAC. One of them even incorporated itself as Abuja Municipal Trade and Investment Company, an illegal act which is forbidden under the CAMA (Companies and Allied Matters) Act that no organization shall name itself after Federal, State or Municipal government, or give a semblance thereof of any organization without the consent of the Federal, State or Local Government (which here in FCT is also called municipality). They have been doing that and to that extent…one instant example is that the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) has even written to them a long time ago to change their name within six weeks or face legal action.

But, on my appointment and further investigation and diligent follow-up to see the revenue leakages suffered by FCTA and the Area Councils are stopped, and by deliberately engaging a lawyer and the police to investigate and report back, then we got this huge

breakthrough of identifying that even the organization registered is an illegality. Whatever they had done in collaboration with any other body is null and void and whatever collections they have made are illegal and are to be forfeit to DOAS. I'm happy to announce that IGP (Inspector General of Police) has approved the investigation of this matter to its full conclusion where all monies that they have received for and on behalf purportedly of AMAC, of all the over 1300 companies in FCT, particularly under AMAC, are to be refunded and to be paid into the TSA (Treasury Single Account) account of DOAS, and by extension to FCTA TSA account.

So, we're at this level now. Police are handling it and we have a court warrant to enforce the rule of law and the immediate implementation of that. By that alone, it means there will be a steady rise in the revenue collected for FCTA by DOAS. As I'm speaking with you now, we just concluded the enumeration of business premises and distribution of bills within AMAC and we have already set into Bwari; we're further continuing to Gwagwalada, Kuje, Kwali and Abaji, by the grace of Almighty God. From there, our database will now be dusted up, updated and then we'll collect whatever revenue that belongs to us from our enumerated first party signages.

Abuja Digest Weekly: At the operational meeting, you mentioned that DOAS is going digital. Give us details of what is to come.
Adam: What is to come is that our field staff and partners don't need to stop a vehicle to find out whether it has paid mobile advert bills or not. What we're beginning to do is, one, we have the enumeration of all the firms within FCT, especially AMAC and, by extension, we'll get the database of their fleet, like construction companies that have branded vehicles, tagged vehicles…you know, once it's a branded vehicle, you are to pay an amount. And when it's not branded and not a commercial vehicle like police, FRSC (Federal Road Safety Commission), other security agencies, are exempt. But anyone that is not government, police, FRSC and so on, you must register the vehicle with DOAS to the sum of N2, 500, then you pay categorized, pro rata amount for cars, motorcycles, trucks, push-carts, for kiosks and others.

And when you do that, we'll then give you our certificates, we'll give you our digital token and you have the computer identification mark which will be stuck to your vehicle so that when you're passing, the vehicle can now be read to ascertain if it has paid and also when your payment is due or if your payment has expired. So, wherever you're passing----because we'll strategically place our staff in places---we have an internet that's undergoing process of upgrade as I speak with you, we have a website already

It's undergoing further upgrade to the extent that we're even adding payment portals, dashboards, activities of all the categories of our operations---the first party, the second party, the third party, and mobile advertisement and outreach. The first party is the shops, restaurants, hotel and what have you. The owners of such deal with us directly, while, if you like, you can even put the mobile advertisement under, but we like to bring it as a separate pillar because it's strategic, it's fundamental and the operationalization is slightly different from the first party. Then, we have the second party. These are government, charity organizations, security bodies and others which just pay registration fee so that we have the database of where their office is, who they are, so that we know the signages put there whether they are in compliance or not. The third party is the bigger billboards, signages you see like lampposts, the bigger mega billboards like other signages along the streets that you do through a third party. And that third party means you have to

go to somebody before you come to DOAS.

So, when you're that somebody coming to a company and the company comes to DOAS---there are three individuals involved because by the CAC regulations every company is an individual. DOAS is an individual, you that want the services on their signage, you want to market either Coca Cola, Guilder or anything, you're also a company, so that's why they are called the third party. Then, like I said, we have the mobile advertisement and outreach. That is the one that, on the road you have dances, people promoting products, marketing items.

You have the mobile advertisement, somebody putting anything on a bicycle, on a wheelbarrow, truck, on a push-cart, a kiosk, a vehicle, partially or fully wrapped. There are fees for each category of these. Everything is supposed to be paid. Once it's a branded vehicle—some particular companies have their own colour which is identifiable with them—they have to pay for it.

And some signages you put on our roads, bridges, you see some cubes along the street, we have enumerated the number of cubes we have within FCC (Federal Capital City), they total 274 and hitherto nobody had paid a dime on them! But this time around in 2020, I will demand the corporate organizations who own those cubes that the period when they enjoyed free advertisement is over.

Any inscription on our bridges or our road infrastructure, we (FCTA authorities) have paid the contractors and so the contractors must pay for the inscriptions. So, any inscription they put on the bridges, whether it's the company that constructed it, because the job has been paid for, so if you want that your insignia or logo to be on the roads, you need to do that.

Furthermore, we have recently also taken up the responsibility of renewing signages within the city. There're these Asokoro signages in front of the Millennium Park by the bridge that we've renovated by painting and re-doing the signages. I've the pictures that I will share with you; you'll see 'Asokoro' as you're going in, when you're coming out you'll see 'Central Business District', DOAS did it. And even the 'No Parking' sign from Millennium Park up to the NSA to the gate of the Villa, you'll see that we've repainted them and we've written the 'No Parking' inscription. So, we're renewing our major streets.

And we're also repainting the bridges with the zebra markings. We want to renew the city; it (renewal) will be for the entire six Area Councils, but for now, we're focusing on the FCC (Federal Capital City). Recently we also removed some vendors' stands with the inscriptions, advertisements on them and signages because they looked dilapidated and in almost all the ramshackle ones, we even found rodents and reptiles such as snakes. And we carted them here, but we're talking with newspaper organizations on how we'll give them standards and we'll seek for corporate social responsibility from NNPC (Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation) and other organizations to see that we have vendor stands, police stands, traffic shelter, commensurate with the level of a Federal Capital Territory like Abuja so that we can be comparable and even better than any other city you think of in the world. So, these are what we're doing and this why we're trying to overcome these.

Abuja Digest Weekly: Sounds interesting…You're a tax collector, as it is, and tax collectors are not often popular persons in Nigeria. Given that tax agencies often raise a lot of money from the public, not everyone will be happy with the work you're doing in

terms of raising revenue for government. Don't you have any fear for your life? I ask this question because I learnt that recently you were physically attacked and almost killed by suspected thugs near Games Village. So, what is it that keeps you going as Director of FCTA DOAS, given the threats to your life?
Adam: Well, to answer you quickly, what keeps me going is that as a human being I know I'll die when the time is up. That keeps me going because nobody's threat, nobody's bullets, nobody's stick will kill me when the time is not up. When I took over the office, my belief was---and still is---that God Almighty is the Wing below my wings. Nobody can harm me or do any other thing that God has not meted to me. So, this is the Wing under my wing and when I was discussing with staff, partners, I tell them 'I have not come as a professional. I've not come as somebody who knows it all. I've come to work as an administrator. And whatever that I'll get to know, tell me; then, I'll know that you're a partner in progress. But if you don't tell me, the God that we all serve will tell me' and everybody shouted 'Aameen!'
And from that day to date, we've been receiving information from banks on all the collaborative destructive things done by some persons in and outside the Area Councils and some so-called revenue consultants that had short-changed the organization. Hitherto in 2015, DOAS had been collecting up to N500 million or thereabouts on first party in a year. But since after 2015 to 2019 before I resumed, it nosedived to few millions per annum. You can see that the fall is just too bad. What encouraged them and, as rightly quoted by one of our principals, was that they said 'let the President come and collect revenue!'
And those revenues, it's not like they just disappeared into thin air. They just changed from coming to government to individual and private pockets with collaboration of some staff and others. I've documents, I've evidence to tender. So, I'm encouraged by the fact that the Honourable Minister of FCT, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, specifically appointed me to be here to cleanse the Augean stable, to drain the swamp, and make it look good.
But, I said before and I'll say it again----within the first six months of my engagement here, we have raised over N500million and that is more than what they had collected for three years. The entire collection DOAS made for three years---2016, 2017, 2018 was about N333million. So when you compare N500million in six months and N333million in 36 months, you cannot compare. The difference is clear. So, the joy that FCTA has given me a task that I'm pursuing, at least, is worth anything to make a place better. But I'm not a death wish person. I follow whatever we do here through laid-down procedure, using the law. As I'm speaking to you now, one of the squads of the IG is on the phone calling me for a mission that we're trying to pursue on an illegal revenue collector.
So, if we block all the leakages in a pipeline that gets water from Usuma Dam (laughing), more water will flow into people's tanks and more revenue will come into FCT and more people will have infrastructure, many more people will have a livelihood. So, this is what is driving me, despite the danger, the potholes, the threats I face every day. But I'm happy to tell you that God is the final security, but we have other security arrangements that the Honourable Minister has made as a back-up for the department, for all the staff of DOAS, for which we're grateful to him and the Director of Security Services of FCTA, for enabling and giving us those security back-up. But, you understand? Whether you're killed or whatever, when the time is up, everyone will die.
Those threats of wasting me will never deter me from pursuing the right course of increasing the revenue. I'm hungry to see that FCT realizes, at least, 95-97 per cent of our revenue so that FCTA can give services especially to the rural poor. That's what drives me, that's what keeps me going, by the grace of God Almighty.

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