Nigeria at 60: There’s nothing to celebrate — Laori, Reps member

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…says country should retire

As Nigeria clocks 60 years on 1st October, a member representing Numan, Demsa and Lamurde Federal constituency, Adamawa State, in the House of Representatives, Hon., (Barr.) Kwamoti Laori, in this interview with Labara Raphael has advocated for the retirement of the country due to the failing infrastructure, poverty, insecurity and bad governance affecting the Nigerian people. The chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) and former Deputy Speaker, Adamawa State House of Assembly, argued that there was nothing to celebrate, he urged President Muhammadu Buhari to implement some of the recommendations in the 2014 Confab report, made case for the restructuring of the Country. Excerpts:

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won the governorship election in Edo State. Do you foresee a repetition in Ondo State? 

In respect to Edo elections, it is really a turning point if Nigerians will learn from it. Edo people have spoken that they are tired of Godfatherism and they are no longer going to tolerate it and they have come out in mass to make a statement. Aside from that, I have to say that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), have done credibly well in respect to the Edo State election. The people are yearning for what they got from the polling points. You take pictures of the results and post it on their portal and you start to see the results even before they are announced. And you will be able to see the direction the election is going before the copies are brought and if anything has been tampered and anything that will show the different from what had earlier been posted it will show clearly if there is any discrepancy from what is on the hardcopy of the paper the results sheets. This is quite innovative. I hope the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is going to continue in that light. And also the security agencies did not intimidate people rather the voters were protected to go out and exercise their franchise and I hope we will continue with that, then we are probably a new vista in Nigeria in terms of electioneering and in terms of  voting. I also hope that the National Assembly will live up to its dealings by quickly amending the electoral act to conform with electronic transmission initially that was passed, but the President Mohammedu Buhari refused to assent to that because I think that he was advised then that it may cause him to lose the election well he is not contesting again so he should hasten to pass a bill so as to give assent so that we can get the issue of elections in their proper perspective for Nigerians to be getting what they want. Sometimes Nigerians will speak but their voices will not be heard through their vote due to manipulation and all  devices. Irregularities that may occur cost them their victory. The people should be allowed to speak and have their voices respected. So I believe that if INEC and security agencies will perform the way they performed in Edo State election, it will turn around electoral process in this country.

How prepared is PDP to take over Ondo State? 

It is not only my party but every party is getting prepared for the forthcoming October 10 Ondo State gubernatorial election. And I want to say that INEC should replicate what it did in Edo State in Ondo State in terms of transmissions of results. In that way, a fair outcome will be seen. I know for a fact that what INEC is doing is not against the law, they can set up regulations because even though there was electronic transmission that was not what the Independent Electoral Commission relied on. What INEC relied upon was the form EC8 A in compiling the results which is in tandem with existing law. By doing that they have shown that it will work; so on the Ondo election same should be replicated. The security agencies should also carry out their duties as protectors of law so that people can carry out their right of voting and their votes should count. definitely Ondo State is not going to be as easy as Edo State election because of the competing forces in the state.  It is just like a straight race between the APC and PDP. But now in Ondo State there is a third force that is the Labour Party aspirant, party of the former Deputy Governor of the Incumbent Governor. I think it is not going to be a two-way traffic that we had in do but it is going to be a three-way traffic. It is going to make Ondo election very interesting. I believe any one of the candidate that will emerge victorious may be with a slim margin.

The Nigerian Labour Congress has threatened to go ahead with the nationwide strike. Is this the right time for it? 

Let me begin with the electricity tariff. I think it is uncalled for in this time of economic stress given the time that the government has spent so much money on Power Generation Companies; you know and those people that came in to buy over these electricity companies that bought the rights of this electricity, they got it so cheap because the government gave them all the necessary business environment for them to operate but obviously what is happening is that it has shown that they are not even ready. They are just killing their bogus partners and now they have what they asked for and they cannot even maintain or even sustain it. There is electricity but to do to distribute it is a problem, so the companies really are not living up to expectation. I think the Government needs to swing the big hammer on them and we talking about metering, but there are no metres for customers how much will it cost to make metre is available? We still have estimated billing; people are being cheated how long will it take for the companies to provide metres for their consumers; all these things I believe are not done properly there are no proper consultations. I think the Government has even taken the people for the ride in respect to this as regards the Labour. I even want the people to come out on the street and say no we cannot take this. Concerning the hike in electricity tariff, it is really ridiculous, it shows that the government is very insensitive when your salary cannot even afford to buy you a bag of rice because the minimum wage cannot get you a bag of rice and then you are now increasing the tariff, how do you expect the people to survive? and when the government supposed to be talking about improving and encouraging small scale Enterprises and you are increasing the tariff when even the electricity is not available.

They even have to run on their generators, how are they going to break even? I personally think that the government has not thought this through to allow them to increase the tariff I believe that is something that should be looked into immediately. I am even surprised that the Nigerian Labour Congress, (NLC) are still talking and they are dragging their feet on these issues given also the issue of the fuel increase. The government came in with the promises that they are going to reduce the prices of fuel but surprisingly the government kept against your promise the President said subsidy is a fraud and since the creation of this country no government has paid the subsidy he has paid. He had promised us to revive the refineries, none is still working and he is the Minister of petroleum  which shows he has failed and ought to resign not only from being the minister of petroleum but also from the presidency, the truth must be told, you cannot make promises and not fulfil your promises to the people. That is why sometimes when people accuse politicians you cannot blame them, we ought to be men of honour, that when we speak we should walk the talk and not just to talk with the intent to deceive people. I feel that we are one of the major oil producing countries in the world and what we are getting and the kind of treatment that the government is giving us does not correspond with the benefits that this country is getting in terms of being an oil producer. I feel that it has even taken too long for the Nigerian Labour Congress to react. The masses are looking up to Labour to really give them  a platform to join in to express themselves but here the Labour is almost quiet.

I think they have to put their acts right and do the needful. You see nobody is against the deregulation. But there should be systems in place before the regulation can happen effectively. The refineries should be working, those private enterprises that are trying to put up their refineries should also come on board by the time these refineries and working before you can deregulate whatever you want to. And I think nobody will complain because then they will be competition and then naturally it will bring down the prices

COVID-19 has grounded businesses and exacerbated hunger and poverty coupled with increased fuel price and electricity tariff. Do you subscribe to the slashing of lawmakers allowances to be used to help the vulnerable?  

In respect of allowances of legislatures. How much is the allowances that legislatures are being paid? Do you know how much the minister’s allowances are? Do you know how much the President is earning? Do you know that the special advisers and others are earning humongous amounts? But most times people talk about what the those in the legislature are earning. What is the percentage of what the legislatures are earning? Do you know how much goes into the convoy of a minister?  If we are talking about cutting cost, it is not about the allowances but the cost of governance and I was thinking that the President should have taken the lead. If the President had said today, I am cutting down on my running cost, I am cutting down on my allowances, every government personnel will follow through. I challenge you go and find out how much is being spent a day in the presidency. What is being spent in three months in the presidency is more than what you think the legislatures are earning in a year. So the issue is not the legislatures, the problem is the executives that have refused to be frugal in terms of cutting the cost of governance.

What project have you done in your constituency since you entered the House of Reps?  

It is not for a legislature to carry out projects. It is not our responsibility to do that, but we are allowed to put in projects that will be executed in our constituencies by the Executive. The budget has to be funded for those projects to be executed I have put in some projects which is called zonal intervention for the presence of the Federal Government to be felt in each and every constituency you know when the Federal Government is bringing out its programmes it is not every constituency that will benefit but this zonal intervention programs were created to fill in the gaps because we are all parts of Nigeria. For instance, if the Federal Government is concentrating on building railway from Abuja to Kaduna to Yola or to Newman which is my constituency, how do we feel the Federal Government presence?  I have installed solar lightening in my constituency. I have put an Examination Hall. I have also put for us to have a community Town Hall in Demsa Local Government: and I have also put for us to have a computer centre in Lamudi. These are the specific projects if the budget is funded we are going to see them in my constituency.

You moved a motion for the construction of road from Numan to Jalingo. What is the situation with it? 

Yes. We have moved the motion and we are equally working with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing for implementation. Follow up is still ongoing in respect of construction of that road which is a Federal road. And, of course, you know that the budget has been passed before the motion was raised. So we cannot move outside the budget but we are working assiduously to ensure that it is captured the next budget for it to be implemented.

Nigerians are lamenting the high cost of food stuff since the outbreak of COVID-19. What can government do to help the masses? 

It is the responsibility of the government to help the masses. We are saying you have to think outside the box. In every situation the people expect the government to give them solution. They do not expect problems and pains. But as it is now it looks like the government is creating more problems for its citizens; what is wrong in bringing policies to control prices in terms of grain production; what are we doing with our strategic grain reserves because this is where you have a thinking government that will say look the price of rice is increasing how do we do? You go to your reserve bring out rice, flood the market with rice and it will crash the price of rice that is what is meant to be done. It is not rocket science it is just pure simple economics but that is not being done. Here you are encouraging people to farm rice; yes, they are farming rice but are they getting the dividend? The rice is here and the flood is destroying their crops; what are they getting? what social investment program insurance have you put in place to protect the farmers? all these things are not on ground and it is for the Government to think for the people not the people to think for the government. I believe that the Government can do more than what it is doing right now to give succour to the people.

The incessant crisis between farmers and herdsmen has lingered for too long. As a legislator who is from a region that is facing similar problem, what measures are you putting in place to quell the problem? 

My duty as a Legislator is to cry out and explain to the appropriate authorities the predicament my people are facing of which I have done in terms of putting that down in writing. I am talking about it. Of course, the issue of insecurity has improved but still there are certain areas in my constituency that are being attacked periodically. Areas like the border between Adamawa State and Taraba State and also Bolon, which is on the border of Demsa and Mayo-belwa. These areas have witnessed herdsmen coming in to attack even though it is not as vicious as it used to be. But this time around they come in, they shoot in the air and when the people run away they put their cattle in to graze on the farm. I do not know how my people are going to survive because they have been forced not to farm because if you go to farm you will be killed. And if you go to farm in group your farmland would be destroyed. Definitely, the government has to take the issue of security seriously. The people are not asking the government for food; we do not want food rather protect us so that we can produce our food. We do not want hand out; our people are not lazy; they are industrious they are hard-working. They can sustain themselves that is what they have been doing for ages we know that the issue of insecurity is the sole responsibility of the Federal Government, the state governments are only assisting the Federal Government because we know that the issue of security is in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief that is President Muhammadu Buhari.

What would be your assessment of Nigeria at 60? 

Nigeria should retire. We cannot conduct election properly. It is not good for a country that is 60. We do not even have a direction in this country. We are simply just fumbling and that is why we are not consistent. As long as we are not consistent on issues and we continue to rigmarole; we keep talking, no action, no movement, we expect Nigeria to be more than where it is today. If you compare Nigeria at 20 or 30 with Nigeria as 60 you will prefer to go when Nigeria is 10 or 20. But unfortunately, we have come to a position where we do not have national values. Because if we have national values and they are entrenched we would have made progress; no matter who is saddled with the affairs of this country. he/she has no option but to toe that line of our national values. But as it is, we do not even know what we want as a country because if we had defined what we want as a country so say that this is what we want to achieve; believe me four years is enough to transform Nigeria completely. This country does not respect its citizens; it does not protect its citizens. This is the only country were hundreds of people would be killed in a day and there is not one protest, riots and no government official will resign for not doing his job for negligence. The government will just be behaving as if it is normal; in other countries this is not normal, it could have led to the government to be brought down. But as it is in this country the government has made it that life has no value. A lot of killings will go on and the perpetrators will not be arrested for all these years and nobody is being prosecuted. And you expect the citizens to be loyal to the country and respect when the country has no value. I think we need a lot of deep thinking. We need a lot of restructuring in this country so that we can get good fitting. It is not out of place for us to sit down and talk. There were far-reaching recommendations made to President Goodluck Jonathan but he failed to implement even one of it. It is not out of place for President Muhammadu Buhari to dust these things because some of them are far-reaching and if implemented it would change the direction of this country because this is a country that we waste so much resources. When you put people together to discuss the issues of this country they will agree to do but they will not do. And somebody is acting as if it is just a political activity and never considers to pick up the recommendation. It does not matter even if you are not the person that brought it up just do it if there is something good about. Even if it is from your worst enemy, still implement it so long as it is something that will move the country forward. But that’s not what we are having in this country and now we are 60 years old. 60 which is a retirement age in the civil service, Nigeria has now reached the retirement age we need to retire it so that we can reboot the country and start afresh.