Vice chairman, Senate Committee on Niger/Delta, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman represents Kogi Central Senatorial District of Kogi State.In this interview with journalists, including LEADERSHIP SUNDAY’s RUTH CHOJI the senator assures that the Ajaokuta Steel Company and Abuja/Lokoja road will be completed before the end of the 7th session of the National Assembly. He also tasked northern governors on the need to account for the funds they have been given before asking for a review of the revenue sharing formula.
Kogi central has always complained of marginalization by successive state governments; would you say the present administration under Captain Wada is carrying them along?
The current administration under Captain Wada is presently some few months in office and they have not done anything to show that they are marginalizing anybody. If you cannot assess the National Assembly after one year, it will be unfair to try to assess an administration under four-five months.
But the recent appointment of Professor OlugbemiroJegede indicateshow he will govern.We find in him somebody that is looking at issues deeply. The appointment pleases our heart; it was welcomed by the community as a whole.He is from a small minority in the central. But we are not looking at that, we are looking at service delivery.
Ajaokuta steel is still moribund.What is the state of the company and the Abuja/Lokoja road has taken lots of lives and property 6years after the contract was awarded to build the road. What are you and the senate doing about this critical area?
Ajaokuta steel is the biggest steel complex in the sub-Sahara region.It was started by theShagari administration and by the time they left it was 80% completed. In between 1980- and now, Ajaokuta is 90%completed. It was designed to be the bedrock of the economy, but as it is today, it is completely abandoned.
They are barely able to pay their staff, while President Jonathan was campaigning around the country, he went to Kogi and announced to the populace that if he is voted into power they will complete Ajaokutasteel projects alongside Etape and the dredging of the ports in Warri.
Those are the conduit on which Ajaokuta steel are supposed to be used. He made this commitment. Ever since we came to office, I have at every given opportunity reminded the senate, the president and indeed have had several phone calls chat with the coordinating minister and minister of finance, NgoziOkonjo-Iwaela on the Ajaokuta steel issue.
She keeps reminding me that she has the mandate of the president to put together a team of consultants to access where we are now with Ajaokuta. She has not gotten back to me yet.
But I believe she is carrying out that presidential mandate. I believe that the president is an honorable man and he will honor his word. Even if it was not done today, the president has a four-year mandate. I believe the company will be revived and it shall be completed.
The state of roads in Nigeria generally is pathetic.We all know what happened recently on the Lagos/Ibadan express way, the unwarranted and unnecessary loss of lives that preceded the DANA air crash.
The Abuja /Lokoja road is one that millions of Nigerian ply every day;building contracts for these roads were awarded as far back as 2006 and this is 2012.The roads have not been completed. I am aware that the 6th senate had an ad hoc committee.
When I wanted to move a motion on the state of this road; the senate president told me that, the committee had done a thorough job in accessing the reasons and obstacles towards delivering the road on time.
I know that this road is of concern to every man that uses it. The ordinary people cannot understand why the roads have not been completed. Roads as such are completed in a space of two-three years.With any hiccups it should be done in four years.
The other time I was travelling on the road, I was held up in traffic on this road for fifteen hours; I was with my family and whole lots of others. After sitting in the car for hours I came down and trekked for almost thirty kilometers.In between, I was helping directing traffic. I was just as helpless as every other citizen.
I don’t know whether before now, we do our oversight thoroughly? I don’t know; it could be because of lack of planning? I don’t know. Is it a reason of funding? I don’t know.
But what I know is that, at the end of the mandate of the 7th National Assembly, many things are not going to be the same, I know that at the end of this session, Abuja/Lokoja road will be a completed project. I know that at the end of the same mandate, Ajaokuta will be a completed project.
I know that many things that concern the lives of the ordinary Nigerians will not be the same. I know that by the end of this session, by God grace, there won’t be another DANA air crash because we are taking on all the bodies concerned in the aviation sector.
As a northern senator and vice chairman, committee on Niger/Delta, would you support the agitation for a review of the revenue sharing formula as being propose by northern governors
My counsel to the agitators of review of the current revenue sharing formula is - show me what you have done with the little you have gotten and I will be your champion. First I want to know how well you have done with the ‘little’ you have been given. To whom much is given, much is expected.
Still on the north, are you worried about the spate of insurgency in the region and what advice will you give government on ways to end the unwanted destruction of lives and properties.
I am concerned about the security situation in Nigeria, not just as a northerner. As a person and as an Ibira man, I am more concerned because in the last few months, the security apparatus have located my own home town, my local government, Okene as one of the operational bases and I have indeed engaged the security arm to give me a bit of more information.
As a senator I am entitled to a bit more of security briefing and I am not only concern with what is happening in the society but also concerned with what is happening in my backyard. I tell you this; there is no hard and fast rule on how to tackle this issue. If this works for this society, it may not work for another society.It is not an isolated thing, these things didn’t just manifest in one day and became a security issues.It is a pot pourri of many things.
If you try to solve it by using force, then you will be wrong because this is not the usual case of armed robbery or social uprising.It is far more deeply rooted than that. We must all put on our thinking caps. I haven’t got the solution yet.
On the Ibira and Okene issue, very soon, I will be bringing in leaders of thoughts from the zone; eminent sons and daughters from the academia, our royal fathers, accomplished entrepreneurs to rub minds; to know why we are here and where we are going to.
We want to form a sort of road map for the Ibira people. I am very optimistic that our time, our representation will bring about a new lease to Nigeria.
As a member of the Pan African parliament, how did Hon Bethel Amadi emerge as the president and what does Nigeria stand to benefit from it?
The Pan African parliament is an advisory arm of the African Union.We are in transition to being a body that has full legislative powers in particular areas.For example, the movement of people in Africa.Before you can connect a flight from Paris in Europe back into Africa to Niamey, there challenges.
If you want to go to Cameroun, you can’t get a connecting flight.So also in terms of trade, Europe has a 40% ratio with African countries, Asia has about the same.Amongst us African countries, may be 10% trade amongst us.
These are the imbalances we seek to change and that is where the African Union and the Pan African parliament come into play by encouraging inter-relationship amongst ourselves. For Nigeria, we are always at the forefront of everything Africa, even when you don’t give us the presidency or chair of the parliament.
Whenever there is problem, Nigeria is always in the fore front most times. So it is only natural that Nigerian seeks to know who occupy’s this organ and in this particle case, we have a member of the national assembly in the person of Bethel Amadi who in the past three years has been the vice president of the parliament.
Naturally, you will think that, when it comes to transition, it will be handed to him without hitches. However we operate a democracy; it doesn’t work that way and we have to talk to the next person, cajole the next person for him to be elected.
We have gone beyond the point where the white man will tell you that, you are African French and the other black man speaks English; we have now come together as one.
As the vice chairman, Niger/Delta Committee, some people believe that the amnesty program is a failure. Would you say it is successful?
From the indices we have, before the amnesty program, the output of crude oil we have was abysmal.It was in a region of over one million barrels a day. With the amnesty program, it has been raised to two million barrels a day and it is getting better.
The amnesty is the reason why things are back to normal in the Niger/Delta.But I share the view of others that, it is not a huge success. It is a mixture of both, but by and large, we can say we can do better.
If the Ministry of Niger/Delta is not doing very well, what dothey with their budget?Is it that they return the monies to the national coffers
They ministry is saddled with the responsibility of bringing about development to the area. We just returned from an oversight functions of the Niger/Delta and the major projects under the ministry are the east/west road which is a road that spans all the Niger/Delta states.It is the length of 394 kilometers andwas awarded in 2006 by the Ministry of Works.
But with the advent of the Niger/Delta Ministry, it was transferred to them.But since then, nothing has been happening to that road. We are trying to interact with the minister to know where we are today concerning that road.
The East/west road is what the Niger/Delta man sees and thinks he is being marginalized. We need to reverse that, so we await the minister to see what he will tell us.