Hon Emmanuel Makoji Egwu represents Ida/Igalamela/Ibaji/Ofu federal constituency of Kogi State. In interview with RUTH CHOJI, the lawmaker spoke on some national issues ranging from anti corruption war to the state of the economy.
The president has not attend Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting for the third time in a row, Nigerians are getting worried, how do you feel about this?
I am concerned. As a Nigerian and Christian, we are told to pray for the sick. We pray that the president should recover quickly if he is sick. But nobody has said he is sick. If the president is not active on duty, it effects all facets of economy and governance in general. I pray that he recovers quickly so that he can meet up with governance challenges.
Immediately the president announced the name of the nominee to replace the late James Ocholi, there were protest in some parts of Kogi State…
What are they protesting against? The protester I know about is the former acting governor and former speaker, and from what I know, he is from Kogi east senatorial zone. I think it is not good for the state. Igala constitute a majority in the state and a minister is nominated from where the late minister comes from. The late minister died mysteriously and nobody has taken time to investigate it. Sober reflection should make us accept it in good fate. It calls for a lot of reflection. I know when PDP was in government, there was a time two ministers were appointed from Kogi west, nobody complained from the central and east. So how can someone complain in a sorrowful situation like this? I want the protesters to have a rethink, in the interest of peace and harmony, we must be our brother’s keepers.
Kogi State has been in the news for negative reasons, is it the governor or the people that is making governance difficult?
It is so painful whenever I read about Kogi State. As a people, we are yet to understand ourselves. We need to have constant seminars to share common ideas, beliefs, culture and values so that we don’t run across each other unnecessary. We should show love to each other and show concern for the welfare of the people we are governing. I know that the worst situation is where the workers and pensioners are owned up to 16 months. The governor needs to have a rethink. Every political elite seen in the state is treated like threat now because the workers see every politician as a threat to their survival. The governor should improve on the social needs and remuneration of workers.
What is the state of PDP in Kogi State?
PDP is vibrant, it is ready to take over in the next election under a free and fair election. When the election is corrupt, you will not have a free and fair elections. I expect Mr. President to ensure that, the election is free and fair. PDP still remains popular in the state.
You once moved a motion on the need to include your state among oil producing states what informed that decision?
Since 2012 when former President Goodluck Jonathan pronounced Anambra as oil producing state, without embarking on enough research on the facts on ground because the oil is predominantly in Igbaji and two other communities. These people, have been living together for years and have even inter-married. These people have common farms common pond and the rest, if each is not given its due, they might start fighting themselves. So I feel that we the elites should be able to initiate peace among the three states. I consulted the members from the three constituencies that are effected. We decided to move a motion. It was adopted and an ad hoc committee was set up to determine the viability of the deposit of oil and gas in these communities in order to optimized the commercial mining of the place and ensure that, all the three states, Enugu, kogi and Anambra all benefit from the oil deposit so that the boundary issue will also be settled.
There have been reports that the Federal Government is thinking of selling Ajaokuta because it has become a burden on the nation. Will you support this move?
In Financial management, you cannot just determine whether to buy or sell a commodity without taking a scientific appraisal. There must be a scientific appraisal before a decision is taken on Ajaokuta. The Federal Government must know whether selling it will benefit the country or keeping it will be more beneficial than selling it. Nobody has been able to bring out a clear cut analysis of the pros and cons. Most of the public assets that were sold were done without scientific appraisal. Look at NITEL, Nigerian airways and the rest.
Government said we will come out of recession soon, but Nigerians seems not to agree, does this bother you?
I am part of a group of micro individual segregated to manage the economy. So as a participant, I should be bothered about how it is revolved. Where we think we could make a stimulation, either on the floor or in our individual capacity, we do it.
Where did this government missed it economically?
I think when we came in 2015 after the election, every Nigerian believed due consultations and expertise works had been done before coming out with a laudable manifesto. Even the commoners, downtrodden were attracted with that manifesto which was like the work plan of the party. Unfortunately, on assumption of office instead of concentrating on the work plan, there was a deviation in terms of implementation. The ruling party started criticizing PDP. They should have dwelt more on achieving their promises than criticizing the PDP. A lot of errors and faults followed after that.
But are they doing enough to get Nigeria out of recession?
I have said before, there are areas the country need to concentrate on if we want to improve on the economy. To confirm what I said, within the short period the vice president acted, we saw monumentally improvement in the economy. But if you observe, you will see that we have been drawn back, the strategies he put in place were abandoned. First was the consultation with Niger/delta militants. He wanted us to optimize the resources there, be it on a large scale level or small scale level. The Niger/delta indigenes introduced a mechanism of exploring oil. What government needs to do is think of how to make it right by legitimizing their license most especially as Nigeria has not been able to meet OPEC target and we have the small scale producers who are not licensed. They have been existing without license and the Federal Government has been losing. That would have been an opportunity for government to design a way that revenue could be derived from that community based mechanism of getting oil. The militants are beginning to make threats again. I believe there is a need for the government to consult with them and meet what they can do and know the ones they cannot so that the unrest in that place will end. You don’t think about war in the area where the eggs are laid. The eggs of this country are laid in the Niger/delta for now. The issue of diversification has not yielded any significant revenue, I stand to be corrected. The major source of revenue for the country is still oil. So I will say, that we must maximized our potential in the Niger/delta so that our oil revenue might be optimized. I think the vice president of Nigeria in his acting capacity was taking reasonable steps to make sure those things were corrected. Another issue is foreign exchange. I am yet to be convinced on the dynamics of what the CBN is doing now. What they are doing is applying the theory of demand and supply, which when there is too much supply, the price will definitely collapse. But my question is, how long can we meet up with the supply? Now the government is requesting for permission to get more loan, which means we don’t have enough in reserve. If we have sufficient in reserved, they will not continue to asked for loan. This shows that we don’t have enough to meet up with the demand of foreign exchange. How long will you continue to borrow to meet up with our challenges? I am afraid that these strategies might not last long. If we can have assurances from the ministry of finance that they can meet the demand, and make forex available to Nigerian and investors, then we would have solved this problem.
Are you in support of plans to source for loan by the FG?
A lot of fact will need to be put on board. We need to know the reliability and the suitability of the fund and whether it will be put into proper usage. Where I am not comfortable is that, in economics dynamic, there is always yes and no. So our problem might be the implementation of the ideas. For example, the state governors that were giving bail out, they have not been able to give account of what they did with the fund that was released to them. That has caused a problem in the economy because it caused a percentage of inflation. This is so because money cannot be pumped into the economy without proper usage. In that respect, if this loan will be collected and not be used for political campaigns, so be it.
The governor of Kaduna state and speaker challenged each other on the need for both arms of government be transparent in the disbursement of funds under their offices, will this help the system in anyway?
It is clear that el-Rufai has always been involved in controversial issues. He should account for the security votes he takes every month. Governors take these security votes every month, and it is unaccounted for. He also travelled abroad to do a PHD program, how much did it cost him to do that? How many members can run such program abroad? What are his domestic speeding? How much goes to the first lady? He should do proper account of the money he takes. So the idea of el-Rufai saying that, the National Assembly does not give proper account of funds given to them is baseless. I differ on this. He was once a minister, didn’t he spend lots of money to demolishing houses in Nigeria? Like the old market he demolished, has anything been done there up till now? that action effected the economy in many ways.
It is the aggregated of all this actions that has affected the economy today. So many people have to leave the city because of his action. Go to china, they encouraged their small scale traders, which in turn makes the economy vibrant. We must encourage even the groundnut and vegetable sellers. We shouldn’t look down on them. If we think they are nuisance, we should think of making the business lucrative and good by given them conducive atmosphere to operate. So el-Rufai might be afraid of some competitors from the National Assembly and so he might want to make some statement to undermine his assumed contenders for 2019. I don’t think he has the merit to make such case.
Is government succeeding in its fight against corruption?
It is so worrisome. Let us define corruption. By my definition of corruption, it is a mistake committed willingly or unwillingly by an individual. If my definition is agreed upon, then lying is corruption, nepotism is corruption, cheating is corruption, electoral malpractice is corruption, Stealing money is corruption. If you are indiscipline, it is also corruption. Prof Obaje said corruption is a sin. The definition of corruption in Nigeria is when money has been stolen. I want to believe that in our approach to corruption and that shows we are not yet there. Proof was provided of electoral fraud in some states that had elections recently. In Edo State, evidences were provided over distribution of N5,000 to electorates. But nobody has been arrested. In Ondo State, there was a lot of financial inducement, we saw the evidence, but nobody was arrested. But because Rivers State is a PDP state, they arrested the electoral officers. What happened to the electoral officers in Ondo and Edo States? Because APC won, there is no corruption there, but anytime PDP wins in places like Rivers State, there was corruption. That action too is corruption. There were allegations against Ameachi, Fashola and Fayemi, yet they are still ministers of juicy portfolios. So how can we blow hot and cold at the same time?
Are you worried with the way the anti-graft agencies have been discovering monies without identifying their owners?
We are beginning to have miracle cash everywhere. I learnt they saw money In Kaduna airport and they don’t know the owner. They saw money at Ikoyi, they discovered the owner but it is now a contentious issue. The director general of Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) said was meant for an operation. The fact is that, we are exposing our security to danger. We must not allow our political interest to overshadow the security of this country. When funds are reserved for covert action, I think the investigation should have been done secretly. We should stop passing judgment on the pages of newspapers. That is why when cases are taken to court, they discharge the accused because they have been given a media judgment. Why do we make our national security vulnerable? It calls for caution. Security investigation should be done in secret, it should only be made public when the truth has been unraveled. The EFCC said the money is meant for the former PDP chairman, but the DG said, the funds are meant for covert operations and the presidency is aware.