Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta is representing Niger East Senatorial District of Niger State in the Senate. In this interview with Ruth Choji, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-governmental Affairs, said Senate resolution would be taken before the commission can investigate the Federal Character Commission (FCC) on corruption, while berating the Federal Government for not compensating Niger State which gave out part of its land to the FCT, among other issues.
Nigerians will like to know the functions of the Senate Committee on FCC and Inter-governmental Affairs?
The committee is empowered to oversee specific organisations and ministries. It has powers to ensure Federal Character principles of all the ministries, MDAs and other governmental institutions, particularly as it affects the spread of appointments of respective states.
The second mandate is the direct supervision of the Federal Character Commission to ensure that there is even spread of social amenities in the country: roads, water and all the federal projects. We have not done much in terms of the second mandate, because it involves lots of logistics. But we hope that, in the nearest future, we will start going round the country and see things ourselves.
Some states are reported not to have been given the same opportunities as others. What is the committee doing in terms of making things right?
What we want to do first is to ensure that the general public is aware that there is a provision in the Constitution in Sections 14-3, and 14-4 that ensure compliance with the Federal Character principles. Now that people are aware, we are seeing petitions here and there, from people who feel that their part of the country has been marginalised, and are looking for justice.
We have written letters to ministries to give us details on how they came about the lopsidedness in details. When they bring it, we will analyse it and sent it back to them. And then, in their future recruitment exercises, they must take care of these details.
We cannot start giving them directives to square up because we know it required budgetary provision. So, we will wait until next year, and then see what can be done. We have more than 50 agencies and we need time to do the jobs.
There are some states that do not have federal commissioners overseeing their affairs, what is being done to ensure that they are carried along?
The most important thing is that, unless there is timeline, the Presidency, through the Federal Character Commission and SGF, ensures that at every given time the states are fully represented, and the SGF ensures that at every given time the states are fully represented on the commission.
For Nassarawa State, there was a problem and the President asked us to look at the person who was there and see what can be done. So, we are waiting patiently for the state to send a nominee that will take care of their affairs. The process of replacement takes lots of time. So, there are cases like that. And if you don’t know, you find out that some states don’t even have representatives.
There were reports that when the chairman of the commission went to contest election and came back after losing, the staff protested his coming back. Yet, he was reinstated. What actually happened?
This is a problem that we have not tried to address. When the President sent us his request to remove the acting chairman who was from Nassarawa State, the acting chairman tried to resist, insisting that he was protecting the constitution. That was why he did not hand-over. But we said no, he was an acting appointee, appointed by the President.
He has no right to question Mr. President. Secondly, when we went through the subject matter, we found out the person in question, Ogba Abdulraheem, came back. Whether there was due process or not, I cannot go into that, because some people have gone to court, challenging his reinstatement.
Some Nigerians have complained of being made to pay money before given appointment. Has your committee received such complains, and if yes, what is being done about such acts of corruption?
Nigerians are very good at complaining, but are afraid of putting anything in writing. This thing is not peculiar to just the Federal Character, but other ministries and organisations too. We have seen lots of corruption, either on the senior or junior cadre, before anybody is appointed. I know it is there.
But specifically, if you talk about the FCC, then we will take the resolution of the Senate on that. It is only when we have a resolution to go and investigate, that we go. This is what is actually aggravating the matter of corruption, because anybody who is made to pay lots of money before he gets any appointment means he has to recover his money the moment he gets in. It is corruption, in terms of employment. We have been so careless about corruption that it has taken root.
So, it will take time for us to eradicate it. People only think of naira and kobo when it comes to corruption, when corruption also means using your position to influence a posting or employ your people. There has always been corruption, but it became more pronounce during the military era, from the time of the late Gen. Murtala Mohammed, who purged civil servants untimely.
That act made so many super permanent secretaries redundant. People now realised that if it could happen to them, it could happen to me too. So, anytime they have the opportunity, they enrich themselves. Look at our sports, most of the players have to sign that they will part with half of their sign-on fee before they are giving opportunities by agents.
How can the country overcome corruption?
I think, the most important thing the government can do is to provide light for Nigerians. Power will give so many people employment. Look at the issue of monetisation of official accommodation; they tell people to bring 10 to 20 per cent of a particular property for the house. Where is he going to get that kind of money? So, some will have to go all out to meet up the payment.
Don’t you think this is an indictment on the PDP-led government that has ruled this country for over 13 years now?
This problem started immediately after Independence, after the first coup in 1966, even during the colonial rule. But it became worst during the military rule. So, we must get to the root of it before we can eradicate corruption, which is providing basic amenities for the nation.
Still on state of the nation, what is your take on the spate of insecurity and insurgency in the country?
The leadership appeared to be confused on how to go about the issue.
But what advice can you give the government on the way to end the mayhem?
I cannot see them solving this problem, because they always say that they are on top of the situation. But the next day, something else will happen. These checkpoints mounted on the roads will not stop the problems. How many times have they caught anybody carrying bombs? These bombers have become advance that, they don’t need to carry any bomb with them.
They can pass any checkpoint and get to their destination, where they can then prepare the bomb there and then. If this thing is not solved now, we are moving towards anarchy, because they have moved from attacking government facilities to attacking schools, churches and the most unlikely places. Government must change its policy and start thinking towards development. Let us generate light, because a country like South Africa generates 47,000 megawatts of electricity for just her 50 million people.
The same can be said of Iran, which has just over 70 million people, and yet generates about 60,000 megawatts of electricity. Also, Brazil with 200 million people generates over 100,000 megawatts. And these are countries we started together. Yet, our government is boosting of generating just 3,000 to 4,000 megawatts only.
So, some Nigerians feel that they do not belong to this country, because what they are supposed to get in terms of protection, yet no Nigerian is secure in this nation. We can only find solution if we can supply constant power. We need about 50,000 megawatts of electricity, so that textile that is not working will be revived and we can generate employment. I laugh when I see people from the Niger-Delta go to other countries to learn trades like welding and the rest. How would they ply it when the trade needs electricity? So, the situation is hopeless.
So, how do you think the government can handle the insecurity issue?
Dialogue is very important. We must dialogue with the Boko Haram. Let’s hear what they have to say before further action is taken.
Going to Niger State, your governor has been advocating for a review of the revenue sharing formula, would you support him?
I have always supported that. I believe that there should be more funds to the states, but their projects must be people-oriented projects. We keep hearing that the economy has improved with seven per cent, but it doesn’t seem to affect the common man on the street. Many state governors have also mismanaged the joint account between states and local governments.
This must stop. Section 1, sub-section 3 talks about joint account, but do the local governments want to be independent? Section 8-9 gives you steps to take that will create local governments or states. So, it means if you want to amend the local government or take any action, you must go through all the process in Section 9 before any amendment is made.
The local governments cannot get their autonomy now until the state houses of assembly have their financial independence, and when we tried to get them to get it, we couldn’t get two-third from the state assemblies themselves. We cannot saddle an individual with the independence he doesn’t want. Until state assemblies are free from the grip of governors, the local governments cannot get their autonomy. Once you don’t get two-third of state assembly for any amendment, the amendment is not carried.
There were reports that the Senate might likely support the House of Representatives when it comes to the purported impeachment of the President, come September, if the budget is not fully implemented. How true is this?
The Senate has held public hearings on this matter, and the minister has briefed us on the situation. I would also want to say that, it is true that the budget is not being implemented as it should. But I do not think the Senate has taken any stand on this. It is really sad about the budget, because we have more than 6,000 abandoned projects in this country, and not much amount of money has been provided for the implementation of these projects.
Talking about abandoned projects, the contractors handling the Abuja/Minna road have revealed that they were only awarded 40km of the road instead of 100km, and that from the N10 billion earmarked for the projects, they have been able to access only N285 million. What are you doing concerning the road project?
I really want that project to be completed even because of the sacrifice we have made to the Federal Government. Two-third of Niger State is in the Federal Capital, and when the relocation was made, President (Olusegun) Obasanjo promised us that, as part of the compensation to our state, they would dualise the Abuja/Suleja/Minna road, which was about 35-year ago. Until now, nothing has been done. People are beginning to think that the Presidency is only playing politics with the road
What are you doing as a senator representing that district?
This year has gone, but by next year, we want to see if they will not vote more money concerning that project. The truth is that, the work has not even taken off. After establishing their headquarters and constructing some small-small culverts for them to be seen working, nothing has been done since.
Who is really to be blamed? Is it the contractors or the government?
It is the Federal Government. Because, before any contract is given, there must be requirements by the contractor. The Federal Government should come out and tell us how much it has released to them, so that we will now know where the problem is; or whether they are seriously underfunded.
We have not been taken along, and the Federal Government has not been fair to the state, because where we are today used to be Niger State. We are seriously feeling the negative effect on the relocation.
Are you saying that the proximity has not been a blessing to Niger State?
Maybe in terms of employment and small things, but we are not benefitting in anyway. Look at the various roads in Niger State, nobody is attending to them. Everybody is now seeing Abuja as “no man’s land”.
People that were living here have not been fully compensated. Our facilities have been overstretched. Look at the General Hospital that was supposed to house 70 patients, yet it is accommodating over 300 inpatients, not to talk of outpatients.