• Monday, June 24, 2024
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Parliamentary system not solution, reduce exclusive list, practise true federalism – Egberongbe


Mufutau Egberongbe served as a member of the 9th House of Representatives, representing Apapa Constituency in Lagos State, under the All Progressives Congress (APC). He advocated for the adoption of the 2014 constitutional conference report and emphasised the importance of granting more autonomy to states and addressed various other pertinent topics. INIOBONG IWOK brings Excerpts:

How would you assess President Bola Tinubu’s first anniversary in office?

This is a very proactive government away from what we used to have. President Bola Tinubu has an idea about the challenges of the country. He has a team that is capable of advancing his Renewed Hope Agenda. The problem with Nigerians is that we are always in a hurry.

Democracy is a process, it’s just like you have a team and a football coach. When a President comes out with a policy that he desires, it is not sacrosanct, it is susceptible to changes.

For me, I would say this is a proactive government that is capable of rekindling the hope of the masses.

Read also: Presidential or parliamentary system: What can work for Nigeria?

The President announced the removal of fuel subsidy and this led to increase in prices of goods and services and high inflation, will you say Tinubu is on the right path on economy?

President Bola Tinubu is very much on the right path. One year is too early on the life of anybody for us to start evaluating. In some climes, the first one year is always used to design policies and implementation would start later.

But even while Tinubu was campaigning for the office, he already had a programme plan, which was why he could remove fuel subsidy, when he did and he also decided to float the naira. Even there was no provision for fuel subsidy in the 2023 budget by the government of former president Muhammadu Buhari.

But President Tinubu took over in May; does it mean there was no provision for fuel subsidy before then?

There was a budget before he came and it had not run for one year and there could be reordering and supplementary budget. But the fact is that President Tinubu is adequately schooled in governance.

Look at the number of sectoral engagements, captains of industries, scholars that he has engaged since he got into office. Even people outside the country know that he knows his onions. Not that we support kidnapping or banditry and what have you, but you know what happened in the previous administrations, when children were kidnapped in schools.

Are you talking about security now, I was going to ask you to comment on that because some people believe that it is not yet Uhuru.

Yes, it is not yet Uhuru, but then, we have a ray of hope. If any of us had our own child amongst those that were kidnapped and it happened that they were rescued within a week, how would you feel. Who cares if ransom was paid or not once the children are free. I have not heard that ransom was paid, but we have to be discretional as leaders.

Are you saying that the issue of insecurity has been tackled by this government, we still hear people being killed or kidnapped. Is that not the situation?

I am being specific about what happened in Kaduna State, where some children were kidnapped and later released. Of course, things happen on a daily basis, most times people talk as if there are no governments in all these states, when issues happen the President is blamed for everything, whereas we have council chairmen and state governors there.

But the security forces are controlled by the federal government, it is exclusive to the central government, I mean the Army, Police and others. Don’t you agree?

The concept of security is not one way; there are instrumentality that can be used for it. You can use technology to secure your area, and also engage with local chiefs and others. They can assist with information gathering.

Let’s look at the issue of corruption; it’s as if the government has not been able to tackle this as there are still corruption allegations here and there against ministers and some former governors. How best do you think President Tinubu should handle this?

The people themselves have roles to play on this. Money is budgeted year in year out, the people should stand up and criticise the budget on how money is being spent, but we are very lazy as a people in carrying out our civic responsibilities.

Even journalists are not doing their job of investigative journalism as expected. We should ask the government about the projects that they budgeted for. So, the citizens should be alive to their responsibilities.

The issue of restructuring is also there, people are saying that the report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference under former president Goodluck Jonathan should be implemented or do you think another one should be organised?

How many constitutional conferences are we going to have? Constitution is meant for the people and not the people for the constitution. There is nowhere in the world that you will have a perfect constitution.

But we can go back to Oronsoye Report that we should reduce the number of government agencies and we should also implement the reports of the 2014 Constitutional Conference. It costs money to organise another talk shop. We will end up doing the same thing.

Do you support the call for regional and parliamentary system of government?

I think what we need is true federalism. We cannot go back to regional government because states that are standing on their own would not want to be subjected to any regional government. But what we need to do, which was started by the 9th National Assembly, is to start scaling down what we have on the exclusive list. It’s too bogus, let most of them go back to the concurrent list.

We can have state police, but things such as the Army, Navy, Air Force, currency, immigration and others would still be under the Federal Government. States should be strengthened to do more. There is not state in Nigeria that does not have resources, let us develop our technology and educate our children.

Will you support the creation of more states?

Not at all, let us maintain the 36 states, I know there are agitations for states creation, but we cannot look at that. Let the state control their resources and let them develop at their own pace.

You were a member of the National Assembly and people have criticised the legislature that they are not doing enough and that they are rubber stamp. What roles do you think should be given to the National Assembly?

Most of these allegations are spurious and they cannot be defended. You remember the number of sectoral issues the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila was able to resolve.

Is it the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, the doctors strike, ASUU strike and others that we want to talk about. The expectation is for the executive and legislative arms of government to be at each other’s throats, and that would not be in the interest of the masses.

What of their checks and balances duties?

It doesn’t stop checks and balances; they still do that.

Let’s look at the issue of naira redesign by the Central Bank of Nigeria last year that caused suffering in the land, people expected the National Assembly to have come in then

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is apolitical, it has laws that govern it and they are not subjected to control by the National Assembly. Temperament was very high and the atmosphere was tense then, but we were able to intervene in our own way.

We will like you to set agenda for President Bola Tinubu for his second year in office?

President Bola Tinubu is a guru and he is a master strategist, and he has plans. You can see what he was able to do in Lagos State as governor then. You can see all his developmental programmes, see the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Road project and he has another plan to build a road from Badagry to Sokoto.

I wonder why people still doubt the capacity of such a man. He is a proactive person, where politics stops, governance starts. The area I want him to do more is on electricity or power. Power is necessary for the growth of small-scale enterprises.

Once the SMS thrive, unemployment would reduce and when you have employment, crime, and banditry would reduce. The issue of power is very important, but we cannot have it at once, it’s a process. You can also see what the First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu has been doing all over the country. She is also hardworking. She has done a lot to help the women, and develop small scale enterprises.

What is the situation of things in Apapa Area on tank farms?

Tank farms are combustible. Just two weeks ago in Ajeromi/Ifelodun, there was a gas explosion that claimed many lives. I understand that something like that almost happened in Apapa/Iganmu and the council chairman has cried out what is happening in Ijora Causeway.

In the masterplan of the state, tank farms ought to be in Ibeju-Lekki, where you have the refinery and the Lekki Free Trade Zone. Most times, they don’t want to follow the plan, they should go to such places.

We have vast land in Badagry area, they should go there. Ibeju-Lekki is not as congested as Apapa area because when disaster happens it would be disastrous. I must commend Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the state and most of the council chairmen for being proactive and retroactive.

When you talk of Ajeromi/Ifelodun, the chairman is retroactive, but that of Apapa Iganmu is proactive, but you see them trying to prevent it and you see the Governor supporting the Chairman to prevent disaster.