Hon Abdulraman Shuiabu represents Mubi North/Mubi South federal constituency of Adamawa State in the House of Representatives. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, he argues that Nigeria’s problem is corruption and not restructuring as has been widely proposed.
As a member of the committee on aviation, what do you think is the solution to the problem bedevilling the sector?
We need to provide infrastructure and government has to provide these basic things. The regulation has to be properly done. I believe the main complaint of the operators is that the charges are too much. They are made to pay for so many thing when we don’t manufacture anything here. The rate of JET1 has increased. So definitely, government must come in and allow the private sector to manage some of the infrastructure. I won’t advice leaving the airports in the hands of the private operators because that will give them monopoly. But government should allow the private sector build their own airports to create room for competition and government should just regulate.
The government has also said it will introduce a national carrier, but from the experience we had with the Nigerian airways, do you think it will work?
I think a joint government and privately owned national carrier will be better. Let government support any private sector that wants to go into this to be able to operate efficiently. The moment we have the right infrastructure on ground, then other things will fall into place. If you look at Ethiopian airline, it is the main stay of their economy. They have many fleet and within a short time they will rule the whole of the West African route. We need to have a very well organised private carrier that will be the pride of the nation. Even if we had a national carrier, where will they get the fuel for the carrier? Will they go to other countries to fuel the planes?
What is your reaction to these government policies on land transports, especially the railway?
We need to develop our railway properly…
Is it possible?
Yes, the Lagos railway and the one in Addis Ababa started the same time with the facilities from a Chinese company but the one in Addis Ababa has taken off while the one in Lagos has not been completed. The one in Lagos was hampered by corruption in the last administration. The money went into private pockets. I did a study on debt and development and I think there is correlation but in Nigeria, you can never find that correlation. Most of the funds go into private pockets instead of development. Even if we are borrowing and we apply it to develop our railway system, it would create more jobs and wide business environment for our businessmen.
Should the Nigerian railway be privatised?
We have Nigerian railway. What we need is to allow the private sector to provide their service too, we can use the same rail track. Let’s allow them to provide the rail coaches. Then there will be competition and they will pay charges to government which will generate more revenue. Either way, government and Nigerians will benefit.
Going to Adamawa State, as one of the states affected by the insurgency, can you quantify the impact of it on the state?
It runs into billions of naira. But we cannot quantify the lots of lives and properties that were lost. Up till now, that the areas have been recovered is true, except for some few areas that are still not safe like Madagali. The internally displaced persons are back, but most of them are living in extreme difficult conditions. They don’t have food to eat, some don’t have roofs over their head and many are still in IDP camps. So government must provide roof and food for them. If government can provide farming equipment for them, I think they will do better.
As government is subduing the North-east insurgency, the Niger Delta terrorists and IPOB are threatening to start causing more trouble. Would you say government is handling the situation well?
Government must not give in to criminals. When people are used to getting money through violence, and they are not stopped early, they will continue doing it. I think government must put in more security in those places and handle it decisively. You cannot negotiate with criminals because if you do, others will spring up tomorrow. Our intelligence must be able to pre-empt these people. They must work hard to know what these criminals are planning and stop them before they strike, that way, it will reduce some things. Even the boko haram were making money because they used to sack local governments, break into banks and steal money, they looted people’s properties and that was why they were succeeding for long. So we can stop this if we pre-empt them.
The Niger Delta terrorists said by August 1st, they will declare a republic, don’t you think this could cause another civil war or should Nigeria be restructured?
What are you going to restructure? Are you going to divide the states again? The states in the south -south are not the same. Even if you divided them, you would still have problems over land. Look at what happened in kaltungo recently. So the more you sub-divide, the more problems you will create. What is happening in Taraba State is internal. Will you tell Igbos living in the north to go back to the east? It is not possible. Our problem is corruption and if we can solve it, then we will have peace in Nigeria. If you restructure again, now that states cannot pay salaries, do you think they can do better? If you create another state and local government, it will create more bureaucracy and bottle necks. The FG needs to relinquish some of its powers like in agriculture, works, to states because every road passes through states.
Are you in support of creation of ranches and grazing route?
There were already existing grazing routes during Obasanjo’s time, some of these routes were surveyed when I was a commissioner. We already have grazing routes. But the world is moving fast and there is rapid development. We cannot continue moving our cattle from one point to another. It is not something that can be stopped in one day because the constitution allows for freedom of movement and even within West Africa, we have signed ECOWAS treaty for freedom of movement. We have to create ranches and teach them how to rear their cattle in one place. They carry their cows to look for water and grass. If you provide them with these things in one place, they will have no reason to move around. Every state can do this. It is not only the Fulani that graze cattle, anybody can have cattle.
Every part of the cow is important, we can use the manure to generate electricity. If you go to Germany, you will see a farmer using his manure to generate electricity and even feed the national grid. If I were in the right position, I would not allow these cows to move around. We have to encourage our farmers. We don’t need to have hundreds of cows as individuals. Let one person have at least about 10 –20 cattle that will give them room to afford the basic necessities of life.
I visited a small village in Spain and they have ranches. Every morning, a truck goes to all these ranches and picks cow milk that is processed for consumption. They also have companies that produce cattle feeds. The farmers also have a cooperative that they take their farm goods to which fixes prices on their produce. These are things that we are lacking in this country. So if you have a cattle ranch, you can have a place where you can utilise the milk through processing and use the manure for other things. A normal cattle rearer today in Nigeria does not benefit much from his cows, instead they are engaged in one fight or the other over land. Government must initiate the ranches and allow people to benefit.
Coming back to the House, can you say the house is on track and united?
We are ever united under Hon Dogara. He is a good leader and he is giving us good leadership.
A committee was set up to look into the case of three members who were allegedly involved in improper behaviour in America. What is the outcome of that report?
The committee is still working, so we should not pre-empt the outcome of that committee.
The Nigerian economy is causing everybody to worry…
Most people are worried, there is recession all over the world, not just Nigeria. It is affecting every country, especially those who produce oil. But I think it is a wakeup call so that we can diversify our economy from oil to agriculture and solid mineral.
This recession has given Nigerians fears that government might not be able fully implement the budget especially as it concerns constituency budget…
The revenue they were expecting is no longer there. The other challenge is the level of corruption that has taken place in the system. Even with the little revenue we have, if we had used it well on developing the economy, we would have come far. But we will recover, it will take some time and there will be a lot of pains, but we will recover when we diversify.
The same government has not implemented most of the promises it made to Nigerians, don’t you think this is a betrayal of trust?
The budget is a proposal that was approved by the National Assembly, it still remains as an estimate, we budgeted the price of oil to be $38.00 per barrel but it has risen to $47.00 per barrel. But we also thought we would continue producing about two million barrels of crude every day, but with the low prices and vandalisation in the Niger/delta, the production of crude reduced to about a million plus though it has risen now to about 1.5bp. So you can see that there is a huge gap. This affected the implementation of capital budget. Most times, there is nothing much we can do about the recurrent because it has to be taken care of, it always affects the capital budget. But we are hoping that from the savings government has made with the single treasury account, we will have enough money to make up the difference.