By Boris Esono Nwenfor
The Pioneer Director-general of the National School of Local Administration, NASLA, Tanyitiku EnohAchuo Bayee has said the institution is the bedrock of local development, which is also the slogan of the school.
Director-General Tanyitiku Bayee and his deputy were appointed by a Presidential decree on March 25, 2020. They were subsequently installed by September 18, 2020.
According to him, one of his priorities is to effectively take off with the training business of NASLA. The Director-General in an interview with Pan African Visions began by explaining some of the successes achieved thus far.
PAV: Since you took over office as the first DG of NASLA, what have been the achievements so far?
DG NASLA: Achievements so far have been recorded both at the level of the provision of professional training (A) as well as at the level of administrative and financial management (B).
Achievements at the level of the provision of professional training:
The continuation of initial training of trainees of the ex-CEFAM: In conformity with article 75 of the decree on the organization of NASLA, the Directorate General continued training one hundred and fifty-three (153) trainees of the ex-CEFAM 2019-2021 batches of trainees.
The organization of NASLA’s training offer which involves the adoption of the training curricula during the session of the Board of Directors of 18 September 2020 and the production of a catalogue of continuous and specific training courses for staff of Regional and Local Authorities and Local development actors.
For the achievement in administrative and financial management, the setting up of management bodies and the adoption of resolutions governing their functioning have enabled NASLA to start its activities in compliance with standards.
Considerable financial resources have been mobilized, following the special disbursement instructions of the Prime Minister, Head of Government. These resources have been mostly made available by the following bodies; the Ministry of Finance (MINFI), the Special Council Support Fund for Mutual Assistance (FEICOM), The Ministry of the Economy, and Regional Development (MINEPAT). These resources disbursed so far, have enabled us to carry out many needed activities to enable us to take off conveniently.
In terms of Renovation, rehabilitation of infrastructure and equipment of the offices of NASLA officials, the following have either been executed or are in the course of implementation: the transformation of dormitories into two classrooms to provide more training space; the rehabilitation of two classrooms, to provide a more conducive learning environment; the construction of a fence to better secure our campus; the signing of agreements between NASLA and P&T School of Public Works for renovation and use of some of their structures and classrooms; and the construction of a water supply system to alleviate water supply shortages on campus.
Concerning the provision of qualified human resources to NASLA, the appointment of Directors and sub-Directors, to beef up the administrative set-up of NASLA and the recruitment of ex-CEFAM staff have been made. The situation of ex-CEFAM was not clarified by the instrument creating NASLA. The Director-General, therefore, decided to absorb all the staff through recruitment by NASLA. Additionally, some persons from the surrounding communities have also been recruited in various capacities and various mechanisms, into NASLA staff.
PAV: What are the priority areas of the NASLA DG?
DG NASLA: As the DG of NASLA, my most pressing priorities at the moment is to effectively take off with the training business of NASLA. As a reminder, the instrument creating NASLA provides the following in terms of its training: A diploma initial training of two years organized in three cycles (Cycle A for senior executives of local administration; Cycle B for the mid-level staff of local administration; Cycle C for specialized workers of local administration).
In-service training not exceeding six months for the staff of Regional and Local Authorities with graduates obtaining a certificate. Specific training not exceeding three months for local development actors with graduates obtaining an attestation.
The management of the institution has prepared the necessary instruments for the launching of the entrance examination for the initial training cycles and forwarded to hierarchy for the eventual launching of the examinations.
Also, a catalogue of the in-service and specific training offers has been prepared and is presently being disseminated to eventually interested persons. So you can see that our priority is to effectively start training which is the raison d’etre of the creation of this institution, meanwhile, we are continuing to out in lace necessary infrastructure for the seamless take-off, which should be hopefully soon.
We are hoping to launch the selection for our in-service training programme in the days ahead. We hope to be in full continuous training by the second quarter of 2021.
PAV: How important is NASLA in the smooth take-off of the decentralization process looking at the goal of NASLA which involves facilitating decentralization and local governance?
DG NASLA: The human being is at the centre of any development endeavour. For the decentralization process, as promoted by the Head of State President Paul Biya, to achieve the desired results of bringing about development and improvement on governance and the related standard of living of citizens, the people who are vested with its implementation should be qualified and properly skilled. This is why staff capacity building, as well as that of all connected actors, plays an essential role in the success of decentralization.
Presently, there is a marked deficit in the trained staff in our councils. The advent of Regions with the election of regional councils and assemblies makes this need even more pressing, for the said Region’s need to recruit qualified man-power to enable to function as an efficient administration. This is equally true for the other actors, like the newly elected Regional Council and Regional council executives; we have to be properly-versed on their mission and how to accomplish such.
In a nutshell, NASLA can be considered to be a very important institution in the success of the Decentralization process in Cameroon. NASLA is, therefore, as our slogan proclaims “the bedrock of local development”.
PAV: In 2019 MINDDEVEL revealed that more than 70 per cent of workers in Councils across Cameroon have qualifications below the standard. What is NASLA doing to equip Regional and Local Authorities with technical know-how?
DG NASLA: This question is very relevant for a study, that I was reading and that dates back about 10 years ago indicated that the deficit in qualified man-power for councils to function optimally at that time was 10,000 persons and about 3,600 staff would be needed for the Regions. This was ten years ago. This number must have significantly increased given that the ex-CEFAM, which was the school ensuring training for the local administration before now, could only train or graduate a handful of staff each year due to its organic constraints.
NASLA has an ambition, in the medium term, to put in the job market, at least five hundred (500) graduates each year from the initial training cycle. This will be complemented by the short training that shall be carried out in the in-service and specific training cycles. As such, within a reasonable timeframe, the councils and regions should have enough trained staff to carry out the various development missions that the law devolves on them.
PAV: NASLA is an off-shoot of CEFAM. Is there any difference in the way the former is operating from the latter or how is NASLA different from CEFAM?
DG NASLA: It is true that NASLA, just like ex-CEFAM, is training for Regional and Local Authorities. It is also true that NASLA was created on the ashes of ex-CEFAM, and on the same campus for that matter. I would, however, like to point out that NASLA unlike what many people think, is a new creation; it is a new state institution that the Head of State created and not a transformation or reform of CEFAM. This distinction is significant for it makes for the marked differences between ex-CEFAM and this new institution. Firstly, the name changed completely from a Centre to s School. Secondly, the training cycles equally changed in their nomenclatures. Furthermore, the legal status also changed, for NASLA unlike CEFAM, is an administrative public establishment with a Director-General at its helm. CEFAM was headed by a Director.
I should also point out that ex-CEFAM did not have a cycle for degree holders which NASLA has. Equally, the structure of NASLA is different from that of ex-CEFAM, etc. so there are many differences these two institutions, which, however, are government instruments to provide our local administrations with qualified manpower. The operating procedures in NASLA are different from those of CEFAM. To begin with, the philosophy and mindset are different. So NASLA has not revised verso of ex-CEFAM but a new institution which has a mission to take care of the training needs of Regional and Local Authorities in line with the added and daunting missions devolved to them.
PAV: NASLA operates in a region that is going through a crisis for the past four years now. How has NASLA been able to function and keep its daily activities?
DG NASLA: it is a common knowledge that the North West and South West Regions have been in a crisis for some time now. This has, however, not stopped us from carrying out our activities at NASLA. Our modus operandi has been to focus exclusively on our mission.
In this connection, we have equally taken all necessary steps to live in harmony with the local community. For example, we have received local opinion leaders, like chiefs and elected officials of the region in general and Buea in particular; concentrated only on the achievement of our mission; given various jobs to children of the local community, which was appreciated. These are all measures that have enabled us to have an appeased relationship with our environment and ensured to an extent, our harmonious existence with people of the locality.
As for security on campus, we have instituted, inter alia the following measures; security guards who guard over the NASLA compound 24/24 hours; ensure that all visitors to the campus are adequately identified and planning to install surveillance cameras on campus. During events on campus, we enlist the reinforcement of our security by bringing the elements of the forces of law and order. I hope, when training effectively starts, to have some time of these security forces to permanently reinforce our personnel. Meanwhile, as every Cameroonian, I am hoping that this uncertain situation will rapidly find a permanent solution and come to an end.
PAV: When we look at the decentralization process, many observers say it is just a way for the government to continue exerting its powers on the local authorities. What do you say about this concerning the fact that NASLA is expected to have financial and other autonomy though still under the government?
DG NASLA: I must start by asserting that decentralization is a system of government where the state devolves some of its powers to local authorities as a means of bringing development closer to its citizens in all nooks and crannies of the country. It is not the abdication of the powers of the state over the national territory. The local authorities, therefore, function under the state. It is in reality a more advance form of delegation of powers. Local authorities remain dismemberments of the state and not independent entities. It is in this connection that State Supervision over Regional and Local Authorities is enshrined in our national law for the actions of these authorities must conform to national policies and law.
As for the case of NASLA which you mentioned in terms of its financial and legal autonomy, I will like to point out that NASLA operates as any other administrative public establishment in Cameroon. It is an institution of the State of Cameroon, established by Presidential decree and funded as well as administratively and financially supervised by this same state through competent state bodies. So it is not an abnormality for the government to continue to exert powers over NASLA, and even the Regional and local authorities for that matter.
PAV: Looking back to 2016 the crisis in the NW/SWRs cantered on decentralisation and federalism. How important is effective decentralisation in bringing an end to the present impasse?
I have already pointed out above that there are various forms of governance. Governance by a delegation of powers to territorial entities is what is desired. Such delegation could take the form of decentralization or federalism as you mentioned. That State of Cameroon through the constitution of 1996, opted for Cameroon being a decentralised unitary state. So decentralisation was the form of power devolvement elected by Cameroon. This form of government has its modus operandi.
I believe that the State of Cameroon has been pursuing such. It is a process which entails imperfections which can only be corrected to make the system better functional. What is noticeable is the absolute commitment of the government of Cameroon to the success of the decentralisation process as a means to keep the unity of the country and bring about effective development that takes into consideration local realities and specific interests of various parts of the country.
As for the crisis in the North West and South West Regions, I think that still is within the latitude provided by decentralization, the government has taken various measures that take into consideration that specificities of the people of these regions in terms of administration, governance and development model and priorities.
More significantly, special status was granted to these regions with the creation of a Regional Assembly composed of a regional Council and House of Chiefs. This model draws from the administrative history of these regions. I believe that when these institutions shall go fully operational, many of the concerns of the people of the said regions will be addressed. Of course, the government is committed, I believe, to initiate and implement more measures that will better adequately meet the aspirations of the people of the North West and South West Regions within the framework of a united Cameroon.
PAV: Recently, the NW/SWRs elected members of the Regional House of Assembly and House of Chiefs. How important are these institutions in addressing the issue of decentralization?
DG NASLA: I already mentioned above, the significance of the creation of the Regional House of Assembly for the North West and South West Regions is an important measure to resolve the crisis that the said regions have been witnessing for the past four to five years now. This model draws from the administrative history of the concerned regions. The Regional Assemblies shall enhance grass root democratic participation and better taking into account the aspirations and needs of the people of these two Regions. Now that these institutions have been effectively put in place and are operational, it is our fervent hope that they will contribute significantly to bringing the crisis to an end.
PAV: This year 2021 marks five years since the crisis in the English-speaking Regions ensued, where are we right now and what do you think can be done to address the crisis?
DG NASLA: I believe that the crisis has abated to an extent, and this is due to the concerted efforts of all the stakeholders. Government has taken several measures, some of which I already listed above, to resolve the causes of the conflict, which unfortunately has not only grievously harmed the people of these regions but the entire country as a whole.
My take is that we should all keep working for the total resolution of the crisis so that absolute peace may return to the two regions in particular and our country as a whole. In this connection, I would on a personal note wish that all the parties of good faith keep up with dialogue efforts, for all human disagreements can only ne sustainably resolved through dialogue and reaching a mutual agreement.