Hon. Umar Bature is the member representing Sokoto North/South Federal Constituency of Sokoto State in the House of Representatives, and in this interview with Ruth Choji, the Chairman, House Committee on Interior, states that Nigeria needs a new defence policy that will guide everybody.
How would you describe the 7th Session of the House?
I think we are on the right path. Our first step was taking our independence by electing our own Speaker, and we set the legislative agenda ourselves. We have also put the executive on their toes. So, I will say that we have done our very best in the last one year.
Why is it that whenever there is a probe, it always ends up in one scandal or the other?
It is not peculiar to the House, and that is why sometimes I tend to wonder the kind of journalists we have in Nigeria. You media craved for the Freedom of Information Bill. There is a difference between an individual and the whole House of Representatives…
Are you exonerating the House from the scandal?
I’m not only exonerating the House, I’m stating the facts, whatever scandal you are talking about, be it subsidy probe or whatever. In the subsidy probe, there were fundamental issues raised. Are those issues addressed by the executive today?
Forget about the scandal, it is just one aspect of the report. But there are issues raised that affect the lives of Nigerians. Have they taken action to implement the facts of the report. Let’s forget what the media is doing, as it only derived pleasure in scandalizing the names of people and the image of the House.
And to us, that is not the right way to do it. The House sat down as a group to investigate the issue of subsidy as Nigerians, and because it has direct bearing on the nation and we have come out with facts that have not been doubted. The issue is, are you going to destroy these facts because of a scandal?
But, don’t you think the scandal has put a dent on the report itself?
No, it has not. The government investigated too, and they came up with higher figures than what we had. So, Nigerians should be asking the executive to implement the report and prosecute those found guilty, not focusing on some allegations that have no bearing on the nation as a whole.
How many bills and resolutions have been passed by the House in the last one year?
I can’t really say, but we have passed over a hundred motions. For bills, I know that considerable amount has been passed. But the issue is, have the executive implemented them? Is the media, as the watchdog, taking on the executive for not implementing these reports?
Resolution is decision of the House, and in a serious democracy, resolutions from the House are respected, because they represent the will of Nigerians, because the reach of our representation is higher than any other organ of government.
So, when we sit down as a body and we come up with a resolution, it is Nigerians that are talking. So, if the executive refuses to respect that, it means they are not disrespecting us, they are disrespecting Nigerians, because Nigerians elected us to represent them.
Recently, there were reports that the House has threatened to impeach the President if he does not implement the full 2012 Appropriation Act. What led to such decisive action?
In the last session we sat before we went on recess, our Chairman, Committee on Finance and Appropriation, gave us the figures, that the government has enough money to fund the budget. But the Minister of Finance and the Presidency are saying, it does not tally, because budget is just a projection of estimate.
And based on that, you say; okay, this is what I will use to fund it. We have shown Nigerians that Nigeria has the money to fund it. So, what is going on? It is an Act passed by the National Assembly, and if you are infringing on that Act, then, there are consequences.
Coming back to your committee, there have been mixed reactions of the bill that empowers the Civil Defence to carry arms. What is your take on this?
The Civil Defence started as a volunteer force to guide pipelines and address other issues. You will agree with me that over time, their roles have multiplied and their exposure to danger has multiplied as well. If you are guiding pipelines and the person that wants to break the lines has a gun, how did you fight him?
People keep saying that we are under-policed, and now, we have an institution that can form the bedrock of protecting public buildings and establishments, and then, you are now condemning them. Civil Defence officials are well-trained by the best, which is the army.
The only thing I will agree to, is that maybe the police are afraid that they could be better than them, and then, take over their role. But I don’t think that is the case, because we are just worried about the magnitude of danger they face.
You say we are under-policed. So, are you supporting the creation of state police?
Certainly not. Because the country is not ripe for it. If Mr. A from Niger State cannot go to Sokoto State and live peacefully as a Nigerian, because the leadership of the state does not want him there, can you imagine if that person is given state police, what he will do? Every country matures to have certain institutions that will guide that country.
Nigeria is not matured for state police, in as much as, we are still in the basis of where I come from, and which religion I belong to. That is why, we believe the Federal Government should still retain the police. I will agree with you that we could downgrade the Civil Defence to play the part of the police, so that the police can concentrate of prosecuting criminals.
Most people have attributed the state of insecurity to our porous borders, is the committee doing anything concerning that?
If I give you the picture of how our borders are, you will weep. And that is why I blame the media. There are border posts in Maiduguri that the walls are still built in mud blocks. The Immigration get water from the wells. There is no light, no housing.
They live in rented houses, owned by villagers. It is not a question of our borders is porous, but what have we done to improve the situation? What has been done to fund immigration to carry out its statutory role?
As a retired military officer, whenever there is crisis, the military are brought in to quell the situation, and this has made people to think the military has been polarized. What is your take on this?
I don’t believe the military has been polarized. But I believe that we need to define our defence policies, where a clear national security strategy can be drawn from. It will help all the national security agencies we have today. What you are seeing today is lack of that national defence policy. They keep saying we have one, but is it practicable?
But how did Nigeria get to this stage?
It is selfishness, and then, we don’t believe in Nigeria.
But do you think this administration is capable of handling this situation?
They have the tools, but what is lacking is the political will.