The situation is frightening and dire. Places that had hitherto escaped insecurity are now theatres of insecurity. It is a dreadful situation that calls for extreme action.
Plateau State is symbolic of a national malaise. The underlying factors in the once peaceful Plateau State are the same everywhere else in Nigeria; criminality, banditry, land grabbing, farmers/herders clashes, hunger, and bad economy. If the problem is addressed nationwide, Plateau is addressed; but the reverse is not the case.
Official entourages are only an aspect of the cost of governance. This reduction, though a token, is a good sign. There are many components and aspects to the cost of governance. For example, some trips are needless, as our embassies out there can represent the country. Fleets for government officials are excessive.
There were many challenges that I faced as chairman of the Board of NDDC. I believe that the current chairman faces the same challenges as I did. The first was that the NDDC had no master plan. The plan that was launched by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 or thereabout, with a lot of fanfare had been abandoned as soon as it was launched. You cannot develop a region without a plan. Projects by NDDC have become haphazard because there is no plan. The mandate of the NDDC in summary is to create an integrated developed economy for the Niger Delta region. You cannot do so without an elaborate stakeholder-generated plan.
Secondly, there were governance issues that manifested in different ways; too many projects, most of which are abandoned and many of them in competition with states and local governments; a top-heavy bloated workforce, cumbersome processes and procedures, etc. I recall telling my Managing Director at that time, Nsima Ekere, that there were over 40 stops for payments. His answer was ‘Chairman, who told you? We have about 61 stops.’ Inefficiency was the consequence, and corruption and inefficiency go together.
Another major problem was political interference from both the executive and the legislature. No board, to my knowledge, has ever served out its term because of political interference and most projects are political rather than economic or developmental. The level of NDDC debts is an indication of governance failure. We had a retreat before our inauguration as a board and the seminal, Dr Joe Abah, then the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Sector Reforms, started his delivery with this statement: ‘Everything that can go wrong with an organisation has gone wrong with NDDC’.
I have already given the reasons; no master plan, political interference, and governance issues.
I don’t think so.
Not much has changed. The starting point is for a new stakeholder to generate a master plan that will address the development of an integrated economy for the region. The procedures and processes of the NDDC must be re-engineered for efficiency, transparency, and accountability and they must be insulated from political interference. Technology will be inevitable in this regard.
Funding, inefficiency, and corruption are part of the problem affecting the NDDC. However, we have to improve governance to ensure greater efficiency, transparency, and accountability, before more funding can have meaning; otherwise, we will just be pouring more money into the drain pipe. Until we can account for every kobo and make every kobo count, development in the region will be elusive.
The role of the National Assembly is constitutional and historical. There are clear constitutional provisions regarding its roles, law-making, and oversight. There is also the inherent power of advocacy.
The role of the National Assembly is constitutional and historical as I said before. The National Assembly will make laws to support executive proposals aimed at strengthening the economy and security, provide oversight to ensure efficiency and minimise corruption, and use its advocacy role to promote values that will ensure a better society.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Betta Edu, is currently being investigated for her involvement in the transfer of public funds to a private account. What is your advice to the government on the matter, especially as it concerns others who were mentioned as beneficiaries of the alleged graft?
Excuse me from commenting on this as investigations are ongoing.
I wish all public officers and institutions were judged by the same standards. I worry that the legislature is held to different standards from the executive and the judiciary. How many SUVs are purchased by the other arms of government? I am not justifying the purchase of SUVs by the National Assembly, but if we must interrogate the issue, we must do so for the government at large and not isolate an arm for interrogation, as if it is a scapegoat. What percentage of the national budget is the budget of the National Assembly? Less than three percent in my calculation, but it gets 97 percent of the attention, while the arms that have 97 percent of the budget get three percent of the attention.
President Bola Tinubu has been very daring. He has taken decisions that the previous administration dared not take; for example, the removal of fuel subsidy, the merger of the exchange rates, dealing systematically with corruption, non-interference with the judiciary, etc. The signs are promising. Nigerians however expect much more from him as their leader, who had made promises to them. I do not doubt that he has the capacity and endurance to do more and even restructure the country.
It is not only the President that can change Nigeria’s narrative. It is a decision all Nigerians must collectively take and commit to. Every one of us must be part of the change. The President can lead the charge and the process of creating a new Nigeria, a country based on the rule of law and values, where nobody, no matter how highly placed, is above the law, where equity and justice reign.
The Federal Government should provide the necessary incentives for persons (both natural and corporate) to encourage farming. Farming should be made an attractive and profitable business so that a new generation of farmers can emerge. Government should not be directly involved in farming, but should rather create the enabling environment for farming to be an attractive option.
It is not the duty of the party in power to breastfeed the opposition. It is natural for a party in power to want to entrench itself. The opposition must deploy every legitimate means to prevent the party in power from doing so. How the opposition does this should not be the business of the party in power.
It is their legitimate right to associate with whomever they want to, to enhance their chances of wrenching power. It is a legitimate aspiration and they have their freedom of association guaranteed by our constitution.
I don’t want to comment on what is happening in Rivers State, as many aspects of the situation are currently in court and my comments may be prejudicial.
The local government system in Nigeria must be revived to enable local governments to play their envisaged roles under the constitution. I believe that if our local governments were working as they ought, our security situation would not have been as bad as it is now. In the good old days, the local governments were the primary agents of development, both physical and human. They built hospitals, schools, roads, waterworks, etc, and created a middle class of people who did business with local governments. Everyone does not have to migrate to state capitals or the federal capital as is the case today to seek opportunities.