Sen Abdullahi Adamau is the chairman, senate committee on Agriculture and in this interview with RUTH CHOJI, he said that in terms of performances, the 2016 budget has performed better within the last six to seven years. He also spoke on some other issues.
Now that the year has come to an end, how has the agriculture sector benefited from this administration?
There is change in agriculture. If you see what is happening in the farms now, you will be amazed. They are preparing for the dry season farming. You can’t but appreciate that government is serious about changing the face of agriculture. I am very happy with it. Of course, we can do better because we have gone deep into the valley. What has changed now is that, everybody is talking about agriculture. In the 2016 budget, government made pronouncement on the position of agriculture with what was allocated to the sector, but from what the president said during the 2017 budget presentation, they have moved it from #47bn to #92bn. I think it is a big leap forward. I believe that better things are still coming to the agriculture sector.
Farmers, this year, complained of the high price of fertilizer, is anything being done concerning this?
When the king of Morocco came calling, the FG went into agreement for fertilizer to be imported from there. But local interest is making government reconsider the issue of whole sale production and importation of about one million tons of fertilizer. Government understands and sympathises with investors in the fertilizer industry and, the employment opportunities that Nigerians enjoy with the various fertilizer blenders in Nigeria. I believe that, appropriate agencies of government are reaching out to their counterparts in Morocco and taking a closer look at the understanding of the importation of fertilizer form there, such that, some compounds that are basic to fertilizer production will be procured from Morocco but the actual blending of fertilizing is done locally. The local blenders or manufacturers are willing and they made it clear to government to reproduce and supply MPK for minimum of 5,000. We bought this same product for not less than N10, 000 per bag during the last planting season. So, if what is being proposed is acceptable and implemented, these coming planting seasons, farmers will acquire fertilizers without tears. This is doable and I am happy government is behind it. We have government support.
The ad hoc committee on IDPs contract indicated the former SGF, Babachir, what is your take on this?
I wasn’t a member of the ad hoc committee charged with the responsibility of the investigation of the various allegation on the management of funds and general administration of IDPS camp. But I was present at plenary when the report was received. The interim report as it was tagged by the chairman, in his report to the plenary, clearly indicted the SGF. The only thing some of us insisted on in the report is that, he should be reprimanded for the fact that was laid before us. He is part of this government and also part of those who take decisions on the IDPS. Somehow, when they were awarding contracts, the report alleged that a company in which the SGF was a director, tendered for one of the IDPs projects and the company was awarded the contract. After the award and after payment, the report alleged that he went back to the CAC to get his name removed from the list of directors of the company. The report also alleged that he was a signatory to the account of the company. We are not a court and the committee is an ad hoc committee. We trust what they do and based on this, we accepted their recommendation and the resolution of the senate will be conveyed to the appropriate quarters of government.
What is the level of the implementation of the 2016 budget?
I will say without any fear of contradiction and if anybody has any contrary record, then they should forward it. In terms of performances, the 2016 budget has performed better over the last six to seven years.
Are you referring to recurrent or capital?
Both. The reason why the effects of the budget are not being felt is because the ministries have to observe what is called due process. It takes time for the various ministries and departments to be able to place their advertisement in keeping with the requirement of due process and procurement act. It takes time for the adverts and bids to be opened and contracts awarded. If you think of it from that point of view, and also remember that, the budget took time to be passed and accented to by Mr. President, because of some controversy before it was accented to on the 5th of July, then you will understand why implementation started late. Seven months were already gone before implementation started. So, you cannot expect that there will be the expected performance in less than five months. The seven months before the coming to being of the budget definite has impacted on the implementation.
What can be done to fix infrastructure in Nigeria?
We are unfortunately very bad with our maintenance culture. We are very good in awarding new contracts, but sometimes hardly seeing to their completion. Often, hardly ensuring maintenance of acceptable international standard for such project and once we manage to get through and commission, that is just it. Nobody follows up on maintenance. It is even worse when there are changes in government. Incoming administrations hardly believe in the principles of continuity in governance. The aggregate effect of this is what we see all over in our roads, railways, water ways virtually none existent, that is why we have the sorry state of infrastructure facilities that this government is up to rescue.
The capital expenditure has increased from that of last year which we all know was better than any we have ever had in recent times. Investing in infrastructure creates employment and it will take care of some of the micro economic indices that require attention. There was also provision for paying contractors’ debt. About #1,3trn was earmarked for debt servicing. All this will go into the economy. Once it is paid, the economy will relatively benefit from it. People who are owing will be paid, those selling equipment will pick up because money will be in circulation. I believe strongly that, government is more than serious in working on the infrastructures.
Anybody who has traveled round this country will tell you that our roads are bad. It didn’t become bad during Buhari’s administration but the opposition said we shouldn’t blame anybody. It is not a matter of blame game, anybody who does not care about his yesterday is not standing on a firm foundation of today and he will surely not have a good tomorrow concerning his dream. We can’t take pleasure in ignoring what happened in the past just because we don’t want to be blamed. The lesson of experience should guide our effort in having a better tomorrow. The depth of failure was not known to the generality of our citizenry.
Some are calling on this administration to review the 2013 sale of PHCN assets so that the myriad of problems affecting the power sector can be solved. Do you share such views?
I am not quite abreast with complaints on this issue but one thing appears very clear, there have been hues and cries that those assets were undervalued and I believe that, there is a need to take a look at it again because it is a huge loss to Nigeria. That is one of the reasons why when they were talking about selling some of our national assets because of recession, some of us said no, because the fact of the matter is, they will go and under value these assets and sell them to their lackeys. At the end, we will be going round and round, singing the same song. Ajaokuta, Volkswagen, trucks, steel rolling mills and the rest were all undervalued and sold in a very corrupt manner. What did we get from them till date, if anything, only carcasses are there now. Some of the guys who did the evaluation were beneficiary of the sales, directly or indirectly. Some of the financial obligations of government for the DCOs are being addressed in the 2017 fiscal year, another good example of problems we inherited from the previous administrations that did the privatisation and left this hand over of liabilities. But their prayer to the Nigerian public is that we should cover their failures without talkgin. They want to occupy the political talk shop. That is eating their cake and having it. We will not allow it. We will continue to tell the public what they have done while we address the problems the best way our circumstances will permit us to do. So, we say kudos to the government of President Muahmmdu Buhari.