Hon. Kingsley Chinda represents Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency of Rivers State. He is Chairman, Public Accounts Committee. In this interview with KAUTHAR ANUMBA-KHALEEL, he speaks on the Anti-graft war, 2019 general elections and sundry issues.
As it is with the Executive, one of the key components of the legislative agenda of the House is to expose corruption through the Public Accounts Committee, which you chair. How far have both arms achieved this so far?
I will say it is work in progress. If I say that we have achieved that, it means we are where we are expected to be today; you will agree with me that we are still far from our expectation in terms of anti-corruption drive but for the 8th House particularly, the Public Accounts Committee, it is work in progress but we have recorded a few achievements that I will say is encouraging to me as the chairman of that committee; that is, for the first time in several years, we have concluded about three years backlog of the Auditor-General queries and hopefully, we will lay the 2010, 2011, 2012 reports soon. That is a remarkable achievement compared to the past. That aside, we have made several recoveries on behalf of Government based on the Auditor-General’s queries. Be that as it may, there is still a lot of work to be done both on the part of the Legislature and the Executive. I think that institutions are not strengthened, structures are not built, most of the fight against corruption is mostly based on individual perception and the view that it appears to be tilted towards those that oppose the government cannot be wished away. It is not a good way of fighting corruption-feeling that those around you are saints. I believe that charity begins at home; use yourself as an example to make others understand that you are serious with this fight and to begin to believe in what you are doing. I believe that it will send a strong signal to Nigerians sadly, that hasn’t happened; you can see that all those around the President or working with him appear to be saints. I think we should be dispassionate; let us put our country first and try to make a mark for ourselves in the anti-corruption. On that basis I will say the anti-corruption fight appears to have started but I am still not convinced that we are very serious with it as a country but as chairman of PAC, we are putting in our best and will continue to do so however, institutions are not strengthened to enable us deliver more. A clear example is the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation; the budget for that office is less than N200, 000,000 and that is an office that should be the supreme audit institution in the country; it’s not done in any country that is serious with anti-corruption fight; that office ought to audit the accounts of all MDAs including foreign missions. So, how far will that sum as capital budget take it; what it means is that you don’t want them to operate. As far as I’m concerned, that is the first shop you will stop if you are talking about anti-corruption because EFCC, ICPC will feed from the findings of that office.
The House kicked against Executive Order 006. Is that not encouraging corruption?
I call that Order “Executive Impunity 006”. What does that Order intend to achieve that is not captured in our laws? Nothing. It’s just a political show. What the Government has been doing consistently is to trumpet anti-corruption, instead of act it. Let anybody in government tell me a new clause in that “impunious” Order that is not contained in the existing laws. We need to strengthen institutions and begin to execute our laws. What I think the President has done, is what the military is been doing, Show of Force. If you think that anybody is in possession of proceeds of crime, the laws are there for you to apply to the court to have the lien on that property pending the determination of the trial. Our law is not based on suspicion, it assumes innocent until proven guilty. So, allow the courts to do their job. Rather than strengthen the courts, what that impunity order 006 is doing is to further whittle down the powers of the courts and Chapter 4 of the Constitution which guarantees citizens fair-hearing. As legislators, we will defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; particularly Chapter 4 of that Constitution. So, the Order is not in tandem with our laws, it’s not democratic and it’s against international best practices as far as ownership of property is concerned.
Would you say that INEC is prepared for 2019 elections based on reports from Ekiti and is the outcome of that election is a sign of what will happen in 2019?
Of course, the outcome of Ekiti election is a sign of what will happen in 2019 because clearly, elections will not be a contest between political parties but between parties, security agencies and INEC. We have had several elections in Rivers State so; we have experienced what happened in Ekiti. Places like Ogoni it worked but failed in other places; it is not possible for the results we saw in Ekiti to be the outcome of the election; I challenge anybody, let unit by unit results be taken and computed and see whether you will get the same figure. For me, election must not be my party rather, let the right persons emerge; let people who will be loyal to Nigerians emerge not people who feel that it is the federal might that put them there else, this country will continue to tilt towards destruction. So, strictly speaking, Ekiti election was not an election.
You alluded to election in Ogoni. With what played out in Ekiti, is there a likelihood that River State will be over-run by the APC in 2019?
Well, I am not God so, I cannot say yes or not. Whoever God wants to be the Governor or the Representatives will emerge but I can tell you that the people of Rivers State will ensure that their votes count. When people say that Rivers state is violent, I tell them that it isn’t rather, Rivers people are always provoked; our background is different from the Yoruba’s; we don’t have the same culture and tradition; you can’t come to Rivers State, rob a Rivers man and expect him to keep quiet. He will not; he will die with you as long as he is sure that it his right; he will challenge you. That is the spirit of the Rivers man. When the Governor said, if you are coming to rig, write your will people misinterpreted him. If you come to Rivers state and do the right thing, you will be friends to both the victor and the person who lost; if I lose election and I know the people voted against me, I will not have the temerity to come out and misbehave. But if I win and before me you want to change the result, you will kill me first so it’ll be that I’m not there to see you do it because it’s very painful. That is the difference between Rivers and Ekiti people but Rivers election will be very peaceful by God’s grace because I believe the proper thing will be done. I’ll give you an example of the local government election was conducted. Yes, APC pulled out but the Governor told everybody to go out and campaign whether you are unopposed or not if you lose, nobody will change any figure and if you loses; we all went and worked because we know we will go back and ask for the votes of the people. But if you look at the opposition in the state, they virtually do nothing because there are waiting for results to be written. I said they succeeded in Ogoni with the government might, military force and then the court of appeal helped in Ikwerre when it accepted INEC results from police against the one from INEC and entered judgment; it’s painful.
The APC has dismissed the grand coalition, CUPP. Looking at the current indices and if there is a level playing field, can CUPP dislodge the APC government in 2019?
If there is a level playing field, President Buhari will not come back. Deep down in your mind, if you have the opportunity will you want this government to continue, won’t you ask for a change? Your answer is good as the answer of majority of Nigerians. So, if there is a level playing field, you don’t even need a coalition to vote him out; look at the indices, how well have we faired economically; every day we are told our reserve is on the increase but nobody is telling us how much loan we have collected within this period; look at where we are coming from. The ordinary Nigerian on the street is not interested in the luxuries but the basic necessities: food, fuel; what are the prices of these things today as compared to when this government took over? What has actually improved in the life of the ordinary Nigerian? It’s just that Nigerians adjust easily to conditions so; we have adjusted to the cost of living and it seems like the life we are living is normal.
The economists in this government cannot be compared to where we are coming from; where are the Okonjo-Iwealas, the Minister of Agriculture who started the agricultural revolution that they are talking about today? You don’t have such people in this government; what we have is more of politicians not the technocrats that can actually deliver us. So, if you ask me, we don’t even need CUPP to win election if it will be free and fair.
What in your opinion is the best way to tackle insecurity particularly, the Farmers/herdsmen clash?
First, I think the chief security officer of Nigeria should take a firm position. What is the government’s position in words and in action concerning this herders/farmers clash? None. It is difficult for any Nigerian to tell you the position of the government. When IPOB came up, government’s position was very clear; it took a stand and implemented it. Today IPOB is no longer that strong; why don’t you do the same thing. Before this government, OPC sprang up, the then government took a position and dealt with them. So, if this government is serious, I believe that this issue will be taken care of; more so because the President is a Fulani man. If today I am the President and Ikwerre people are disturbing this country, the only way it will thrive will either be because I am not their son, they want me to fail or that I support what they are doing. If majority of those perpetrating these acts are Fulani and he wants to stop it, he will. We have heard different stories of causes and persons behind; recently the President said it was politicians who are trying to blackmail him, if this is true, don’t just say it, prosecute them, Nigerians will support you. We have also heard that some of them are from Libya yet, he is asking us to accommodate them. Do we accommodate foreigners in our land? These are questions that beg for answers; you can raise several issues of contradictions within this system that has fueled this crisis; it is a sorry situation that Nigerians are being killed daily.
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