Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu hold a discussion with a member of the House of Representatives, representing Esan North-east/Esan South-east Federal Constituency, Hon. Sergius Ogun on the worsening insecurity, true federalism and why power should shift to the South in 2023
The issue of insecurity is one of the challenges we’re facing, people are saying the legislature is not doing enough to be able to help deal with the situation, what are the things constraining you to be able to deal with this?
I think people are also disenchanted with the way government is handling it, because when someone asked me in a forum, that we are not saying anything about insecurity, i had to start posting some of my YouTube videos in the 8th Assembly. The last executive session we had the Speaker said people will be able to speak when we are in the Executive session so things ordinarily you won’t be able to say in front of cameras, you will be able to say it. But when Speaker said we’re going to go into executive session, I raised my hand and he recognised me, my question was, this shouldn’t be an executive session, we should speak so Nigerians will hear. He said it was good but there are things people will not be able to say before the camera that they can disclose during an executive session, let’s do the executive session then the resolution agreed on we will now take it to the executive. Remember we fought for the removal of Service Chiefs, has anything changed? Someone said our motion was to take out the Service Chiefs and bring in competent ones, so what we’re saying now is that we are sure these ones are competent. Ok take these ones out, who else will come? I think it’s just the system basically, those in the north are paying tax to the bandits, a colleague of mine said that, he’s from Katsina, they said the village heads gets like N30000 but now they are collecting money on behalf of the bandits. We actually have two governments in this country. For us it’s not just talking about it, it’s a resolution, it’s not binding on the executive.
People believe that legislators are not doing enough, especially in regards to oversight on this issue of security, the security committees what are they really doing in regards to this? Also last week a controversy arose from the Minority Leader Ndudi Elumelu’s motion calling for Minister of Communications, Isa Pantami’s resignation for his pasts comments backing activities of terrorists, the motion divided the majority and minority caucuses of the House, where does the House stand on the issue of terrorism?
I think whatever the spokesperson of the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu said that became interpreted as APC and PDP politics is not necessary at all. We have a common problem today which is insecurity and this is when we need to unite as a country and fight this common enemy. From where I stand I believe the minister (Isa Pantami) should resign. He will go. I don’t think he will stay beyond the end of this year. Now we are approaching America for help, will America tolerate such things, they will give you terms if they are going to come here. Right now we don’t have the power to dictate. Anything they throw at us we well accept, so for me if he doesn’t go today, he will go tomorrow. But I thought the President should release him, but what do you expect from this President.
On the ongoing arms procurement probe, over a billion dollars was taken from the excess crude account to purchase arms, the new service chiefs said they can’t see how the money was spent, that there are no arms, so is it that the National Assembly approved for such money to be taken without follow up?
They keep telling you this is security, and they don’t divulge anything, I’m a member of the committee on army, the last budget I think we worked with the Senate there were even specific questions the chairman had told me to ask, and I told him trust me I will ask. But just then they said ok relax the Chief of Army Staff said there will be another Committee, he cannot brief committee of the whole, so I didn’t know the outcome of that. But it comes under the fact that this is insecurity you can’t say everything before everybody. But now you’re aware that they have set up another adhoc Ogun committee on purchase of arms in the House, but the chairman senate committee on Army, Ndume is saying that there’s no need to probe and if anything the army need more money, yes we agree on that but we need to know what they are buying with the money because no one is happy with the state of insecurity today, if we are sure on what they are buying then by all means we can make the sacrifice and give them the money so that people will sleep with both eyes closed. But how do we know that when the money is given to them, tomorrow when you say ok account for it they are saying this is executive matter and should not be debated openly,. In the whole House, you cannot debate it, Committee you cannot debate it.
Then what is the way out, or are we just going to accept it like that?
You the media, the civil society organisations should begin to talk. I use to think as a politician you have power to just change certain things, so when you are handicapped and you can’t say some of these things, if the people begin to talk, I don’t think it’s because of our motions that Mr President changed the Service Chiefs, it’s because of the people, they kept commenting, talking about it, that’s what pressured him. So I keep saying everybody should take part. A system that’s not functioning will become a security problem, because people somehow will have to get that money to survive, be it a teacher or civil servant. We need to form these sectors, train them all and be more responsive to them.
We have to go back to the recruitment process, most people in these services shouldn’t be there, we can clean the police now and then going forward you recruit the right people. Even the army subcommittee on recruitment that’s what they told us clearly .It’s not enough for the National Assembly to recommend someone and say the person was not taken the person must meet our criteria required for recruitment. If you look at the police we have all manner of people, nobody is doing the right test, they don’t even ask them why they want to join the police, because it’s recommended from somebody that’s it and you expect these people to come into uniform and do magic? So we need to go back to the process of how we recruit people be it the armed forces, police or even the civil service. When was the last time you heard they advertised in the civil service? But they have all manner of people there and you expect these people to deliver this country? How much are you paying them anyway, how much does a permanent secretary or director earn? If the person is earning N150,000 or N250,000 and then you give them a budget of over N50 billion, that’s like giving yam to a goat, he will eat it. Till we look into these things, I am the first person to criticise the President, but in fairness to Mr President, he’s part of the problem but not the problem. It’s not enough to blame him alone because it didn’t start today. Why he’s part of the problem is because he has been in the system, and for the past five years he has been in the office, what has he done?
Are you in support of the calls for secession?
I’m not in support of secession, I believe in true federalism. My governor last month at a meeting said something about the need for states to be independent, that’s where he made mention of monies shared by FAAC not being enough and how they did printing to cover up, and he said going forward they should be prudent and states need to support themselves and they should also deregulate. But they turned it around and used it against him. But it’s now in the news that this April there might be no money from NNPC, if they don’t borrow money things will collapse, if you don’t pay workers then we are in crisis clearly. So I am in support of true federalism, allow the states to fend for themselves. True federalism will take care of all these, and I even think now if we wake up tomorrow and say ok , that’s the way forward, states government raise money for your states, pay tax to the center, things will quiet down a bit.
Speaking on True Federalism, it’s contradictory, the National Assembly asking for true federalism when they can’t even allow states create more development areas. You hear some governors, and other people complain that they have brought certain items that the National Assembly ordinarily being a progressive lot would embrace and include in the constitution, but they won’t. The National Assembly has the constitutional powers to impeach a President that’s not doing the right thing and year-in year-out we hear only threats. You begin to wonder when will the lawmakers really bite?
It’s the politics, the truth is when they were in opposition they were agitating for state police, when they came in it was the PDP governors that were now asking for state police, if the governor said he wanted us to thinker with the exclusive list the National Assembly can’t just do it, there has to be constitutional amendment. For the constitution review, we are already engaging the governors because we know that there are certain things we want to put there that will not fly. In the last review we granted autonomy to the House of Assemblies it didn’t fly, they turned it down, I think we got some states but they had a enough number to make it fail. So who does that? You would rather go cap in hand begging the governor to give you money. Now we’ve agreed that we will lobby the conference of speakers and then the governors forum, that’s what they should be doing so that when we add it as part of the amendment then they would have spoken to themselves and by the time it get to states houses of assembly, it will fly.
What are your thoughts on Igbo Presidency?
I strongly believe that the PDP is most likely to field an Igbo candidate, I believe APC will field a Yoruba and I believe that if we really want to clean this country this is not time
for sentiments, somebody like Peter Obi should be allowed to be the next President. The way the country is today, he’s the kind of President we need. Take sentiments away. You talked about impeachment, in the last assembly I signed for the impeachment of this President. I was talking to one of my colleagues from the North, he said to me I don’t like this President but I cannot sign that because how can I agree to impeach my brother for a Yoruba man to take over? That’s why we are where we are today, those sentiments. There are people from the North that don’t agree with this President, but if you put such proposal forward they will back down for political, ethnic or religious reasons. But like I said I will support an Igbo President, I will support Peter Obi. Let me put it on record also that if my party (PDP) doesn’t support a Southerner I might walk away from the party. You cannot give the North 16 years, is it that there’s nobody capable from the South? They are finishing eight years. Why should it go back to the North.
Are you confident PDP will Anambra Governorship election in November?
If they don’t fight they will win it. Because APGA doesn’t exist, not even APC. APC’s last governorship candidate Tony Nwoye is back to PDP now. If there’s no interference and the PDP people don’t fight they will win. I heard there are 16 aspirants who collected forms and they were cleared, so before you eliminate 15, they will fight among themselves and some people will move across parties. If they come out like that in the presidential too they will also fail in the election, my prayer is they agree, for once, to work together.
From where I stand I believe the minister (Isa Pantami) should resign. He will go. I don’t think he will stay beyond the end of this year. Now we are approaching America for help, will America tolerate such things, they will give you terms if they are going to come here. Right now we don’t have to power to dictate, anything they throw at us we well accept, so for me if he doesn’t go today he will go tomorrow. But I thought the President should release him, but what do you expect from this President.
Lifted From THISDAY THURSDAY MAY 6,2021