Hon. Abdullahi Umar Faruk is representing Birnin Kebbi/ Kalgo federal constituency in the House of Representatives. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, he says INEC has shown enough capacity to give Nigerians free and fair elections, among other issues.
What has happened to the 2018 budget because Nigerians are not feeling the impact?
I will say yes but for you to understand why we still have issue of lack of cash liquidity, probably some high cost of almost everything that we need in this country is because of where we are coming from. If you have not forgotten, we even entered into recession which does not occur overnight. Our economy has been mismanage overtime even before the coming of PDP and when they came in 1999, they made it a disaster especially during Jonathan where it was free for all spending spree especially for his aides. Almost everything was going bad and our external debt was increasing while our reserve was depleted to nothing. That result into high cost of living and inflation. When this government came, things came to their peak but they were able to take drastic steps to ensure that they stabilize the situation. Our weakness for foreign goods also made things worst. The FG had to ban something so that we will start producing them ourselves. We have encourage capital flight for long and now, it has taken its toll on our system. But with this government effort, Nigerians have started producing their own things. Take rice for example, we now produce rice in large quantity and this has created jobs and self-sufficiency. Buhari administration banned some of the unnecessary luxuries Nigerians used to indulge in and today, our people are beginning to produce them. For some of their policies to be effective, government has to borrow and that is why today, you see projects everywhere.
Talking about borrowing, the opposition have accused the Buhari administration of incurring more debt in three years than the 16 years of PDP…
I cannot say I have the figures but as of last I heard, our foreign reserve has rose to about $47bn. If you put that side by side with our external borrowing which is about $22bn, you will see that we are about $22bn in our reserved that is if we decide to pay our debt cash. So we are still credit worthy compare to the Jonathan era where our external reserve was just $2bn and then our debt as at that time was about $11bn. You are to borrow when you know you can pay back and the only way to pay back for a nation is to invest in capital projects that will bring return. That means if you have a good reserved based, then you can borrow because the people that will give you the money must know you have the capacity to pay back. Besides, the government is borrowing to invest in capital development. We are developing our railways and roads. Lack of railway service is the major cause of our bad roads because there is no other means of movement with goods and this has made transportation expensive but with the revamping of the railway, cost of transporting goods will bring down prices of goods and service. So the president is borrowing with good sense.
If we have that much in the foreign reserve, why do we need to borrow to fund INEC?
To me, I blame INEC because I believe they should have brought their budget early before the president present the main budget. But we need to hold elections next year and so the INEC budget is a very serious issue now. So INEC budget is an important item that must be tackled immediately.
Some are beginning to express their reservations on INEC capacity to give us a free, fair and credible elections. Do you think they can?
From the few elections we have witness, I think the current INEC have shown enough capacity to give us a free and fair elections, in fact they are using the mistakes of the past to ensure that such is not repeated. To me, I have confidence that the upcoming elections except for security reasons will be better than the previous ones.
Some Nigerians are of the opinion that INEC should stop registration of more political parties, what you think?
It is the lacuna of our constitution. It provides for freedom of association. The constitution provides that people can associate freely, so there is nothing INEC can do. But I think what we need to do as Nigerians is to ensure that either we temper with such leverage given by the freedom of association or through the act of National Assembly, so that for you to be registered, you need to have a seat in a local government council or else be suspended for 10years as a party. Before 10years, you must have put your act together and come back for a re-registration,With prove that you have won some seats. And if you are still not able to meet up the criteria, you should be proscribe. Right now parties that have seats in state and LG council are not more than six. So it is within us to temper that freedom given by the constitution through the act of National Assembly.
What is your take on Senator Bukola Saraki’s continued occupation of office of the Senate President?
This is politics in another dimension because I have not seen or heard in any part of the world where a member of a minority party is leading the parliament. It has never happen anywhere in the world. In civilized Nations, it is giving without asking that majority party will preside over the affairs of their parliament. It is always a member from the majority that can be senate president or speaker. In USA where their elections is not general, it happens based on the peculiarity of their constituency, at any moment when there is a shift of leadership between the two main political parties, the democrats and republicans, even if it is by a single individual, automatically the leader of parliament changed .when Bukola Saraki became senate president, it was because he was in the majority party. You remember that very day he was elected to be the senate president, the PDP members were in the chambers while APC that day had about twenty senators at that sitting only, yet Bukola was given the presidency because he was a member of the majority. The PDP could have nominated their own but they knew they were in the minority in the chambers so it has to be the APC. Even now they are still in the minority, why can’t he have the moral right to resign without causing acrimony within the nation? He should resign because only a member of the majority party can preside in the chamber. We are hiding under the constitution to do what is wrong. How many lacunas does the constitution have that need to eb corrected? This is why it was made mandatory for every session of the National Assembly to have a constitutional review committee so that they can review some aspect of the constitution because it was giving to by the military and so it wasn’t perfect. We must continuously review it until it reach perfection.
But the defections cut across board, why the APC is not talking about Governor Ortom’s defection but concentrate on the senate president issue?
It’s all about politics and the forth coming elections. The particular governor and others you are talking about must have realized that the door is close for them where they are, but because they have capacity and don’t intend to let anybody limit their aspiration, they moved somewhere else. Not that I am supporting it but this is just the explanations. A time is coming when these movement will stop and parties will be based on ideology. A time is coming when people will be voted based on what they have done for the people, not based on parties.
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