Honourable Isa Hassan Muhammad represents Jama’are/Itas Gadau Federal Constituency of Bauchi State. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the lawmaker holds that the recurrent spate of violence in the country is killing economic activities in the affected states and by implication, the country as a whole. He also shared insights on several topical issues.
Bauchi State is also sharing in the spate of violence that has overtaken the northern parts of Nigeria. Does this unfolding scenario worry you?
God knows I am worried. One of the most terrible things in life is to be insecure. There is nothing as good as peace in life, at home, in the state and in the country generally. There is a saying that, ‘it is better to be a peaceful person than a son of the chief’.
There seems to be no sign of solution to the problem. Do you have any ideas or suggestions on what should be done to stop the violence and destruction?
I see this problem as one of the phases we must pass through in our democratic experience, having been in a military grip for long. People are just trying to express themselves; unfortunately they are doing it in the wrong way. But I believe we will surely overcome this.
Many people have attributed this insurgency to illiteracy, religion, poverty and so on. What would you say is the cause of the insurgency?
I believe the evil mind is the devil’s workshop. If God had wanted us to all practice one religion, he would have created us that way. God wanted us to live together, that is why he created us this way. Prophet Muhammad stayed with Christians and Jews as neighbors and they stayed together in peace. Whenever they are down or sick, he will visit them. I believe the Bible teaches the same thing too.
Some Nigerians are blaming the security for not being able to stop the Boko Haram menace. Do you think they can be tamed?
The security people are capable of handling the situation. Nigeria is inseparable, we will never disintegrate, but we are in a serious dilemma. It is affecting all our economic activities.
Nobody wants to come here for investment. My friend told me that, some consultants were invited to Sokoto and thy refused to come because of insecurity. Look at Kano that has a history of industrialization, it is now going down the drain.
But isn’t it ironic that this thing is happening in the north, where some people have vowed to make the Jonathan administration ungovernable?
It is mere coincidence; they are saying this out of frustration because they didn’t win the elections. I believe that Boko Haram is an external problem. The insurgency is coming from places like Chad, Niger and the rest.
If you look at the history of armed robbery in the north, you will see that those caught are not Nigerians but foreign nationals who take advantage of our porous borders. But our security is capable to handling it and very soon, this thing will come to an end.
Do you think that an increase in federal allocation to the north will solve the myriad of problem bedeviling the north?
I support the agitation for the review of the revenue formula because the imbalance is too much. If you listen to what the American ambassador was saying, it is like the north is living in a different country compared to the South/south.
What a state is getting there covers the whole budget of the northern region. So there is a need to increase funds to the north so that, problem like illiteracy, poverty could be solved.
But the south has been urging the north to harness its natural resources. As the chairman, Reps Committee on Solid Minerals, what is being done in this sector?
The solid mineral in the north and Nigeria as a whole is viable if it is fully harnessed. We can get four times what we are getting from oil according to a World Bank report. Unfortunately we also need lots of money to develop the sector. The South/south oil sector was developed by the money generated by the north through agriculture.
So what is bad now if the funds gotten from oil can be used develop the minerals we have in the north. I can tell you that, there is no local government in this county that does not have one or two mineral resources; if we harness them, we will revamp the economy and create employment.
Industries can be opened that will explore these resources, refine them and export them. Mineral sector has the capacity to employe millions of people unlike the oil industry that is employing few because they use machines mostly.
I met a company in South Africa recently who said, they spent a century in producing cement but to their surprise, they learnt about Dangote who spent only a decade or two, but is now producing million of tons of cement, which is hundred times what they produced in a hundred years. This is to tell you that Nigeria is blessed; our only problem is leadership and lack of patriotism. We also don’t have political will to do the right thing.
What is your committee doing in the sector? Have you evolved laws that will guide or help in harnessing our mineral resources?
Yes and what we have discovered is that, the sector lacks funds. If we truly as a nation want to revive this sector, we have to inject some money. Unfortunately when we came on board, the budget has already been done. What is given to the sector is very negligible.
Some sectors that are duplicating jobs at the federal level are getting more than the mineral sector which is unfortunate. I also have seen that the current minister is trying hard to revive the mineral sector; the minister is committed and with this passion. I think very soon we will see some changes and diversification to the mineral sector.
We also have a World Bank funding and on our part, we will ensure that, every dollar injected into the sector is being accounted for. We want to see that, this sector is revived as it will create lots of job for our teeming youths.
It is common knowledge that the executive does not respect motions presented by legislators. Do you think it will be different in the mineral sector?
We will make sure these things are done through lobbying and oversight functions. The industry was in a comatose state when we first arrived. Let me tell you something that most Nigerians fail to understand, if we continue to depend on oil, at the rate the people are bunkering the oil, if it was supposed to last us fifty years.
Then it will not get to twenty because more oil is being bunkered than what the government is selling. Only God knows how many barrels they bunker. So the life span of our oil is being cut short. It is mineral resources that made Ghana and South Africa. It is unfortunate that the discovery of oil has made us lazy; it has brought us corruption and made us forget about the mineral that God has blessed us with.