‘Buhari free to seek lawmakers’ salary cut’
Alleged corruption among lawmakers
First and foremost, I wouldn’t want to agree that lawmakers are a corrupt set of people. I don’t think that is true because if you say that, then we should ask the pertinent question which is, who are the people who make laws to fight corruption? Who are the people that initiated laws that brought the Independent Corrupt Practices and related crimes Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) into being? Of course it is the lawmakers. So, if lawmakers were corrupt they would not have allowed such institutions to be established.
The legislators have the power to over-ride the president’s veto, if the lawmakers are not against corruption, they would not have made laws to fight it. If you look at the legislative agenda that has been adopted by the House, there is a provision for fighting corruption. Fighting corruption is one of the key elements in the legislative agenda of the House. We have all agreed that we are in full support of the anti-corruption war should lawmakers be corrupt, the country is finished. There is no way one can fight corruption without the support of the lawmakers.
What the Legislative Agenda is all about
The Legislative Agenda though is comprehensive, however there are some other areas that could still be touched. It is just a brief of what the House wants to do. The issue of Nigerian territorial borders is not properly captured in the agenda even though security is a major issue. I feel that the problem we have in this country including that of Boko Haram is because we have not been able to secure our borders properly. People just come into Nigeria and leave at will, they come in with whatever they want and take away whatever they desire. I feel we should look critically into.
If you look at my constituency: Kwande/Ushongo, we have borders with Cameroun yet there is no single security on that border. That is why you hear Boko Haram goes into Cameroun and comes back here to cause havoc because there is nothing to stop them.
As for agriculture; I know that this country is moving away from oil to agriculture because the feelers we are having is that if we do not diversify from oil, the economy will collapse. The economy is completely dependent on oil but if we want to do anything to save this country, we have to go back to agriculture. For example, Benue state that is tagged “’the food basket of the nation”, still it has a long way go in agricultural production. As I am talking to you now, there is no fertilizer in Benue State; I don’t know whether it is because it is costly but the government of Benue state has reduced the cost of a bag of fertilizer to N4,000, 00 yet it still looks un-affordable. So, if you there is subsidy on petroleum products, the same should be extended to agriculture. We also need to move away from manual farming. The government needs to institutionalize mechanized farming where farmers would be provided with modern farm inputs.
Remuneration for Federal lawmakers
People have different opinion on this issue. If the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerians decide that entitlements of the National Assembly legislators should be cut, I have no objection to that.
Incessant recess by the 8th National Assembly
Yes we are on recess and this is not the first time; it is about two times. The first one was because of the National Assembly crisis – the crisis about election of principal officers that forced the recess at that time. The essence of that recess was to enable the House to resolve the crisis, which the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara has done. He has been able to resolve the crisis amicably. But the current recess is a mandatory schedule for the legislators. I think so far so good, we have done a good job. On the day we adjourned for this recess, we deliberated and passed 15 motions and eight bills that were taken at first reading. We have since inauguration considered 35 bills that have passed through first reading and we have considered close to 200 motions.
How to fast-track the justice delivery system
As a legislator and as a lawyer; what worries me most is the endless duration that it takes a judge to dispense with a case. If we want to sanitise the judiciary system, we should give timeline for determination of criminal and even civil matters. For example, you have a case that starts from the magistrate court and then litigants have right of appeal to High Court, then to Appeal Court and after that you can appeal to the Supreme Court so, you just discover that a matter that should have taken just one year would be settled in 15 years. Sometimes the witnesses die and lawyers take unnecessary adjournments, just because they feel that is how they can frustrate the matter and the court seems helpless. Unfortunately, if the judge says he cannot grant adjournment, the next day you see in the media that the principle of fair hearing is not been observed by the judge.
If you go to Singapore, they have one of the best judiciary in the world. If it is a civil matter, it must be dispensed of in six months. So, by the time we bring that to bear in this country, every lawyer and judge will sit up because a time limit shall be given to try cases. But in Nigeria, it is a different ball game. For example, if someone is accused of theft, you will discover that it could take the police six months to investigate. But, if you give the police one month to investigate and to commence prosecution; you give the prosecution two months to present their witnesses and you give the defence one to produce their witnesses, you will see that within six months the case will be over at the trial court. Then the court of appeal should not take evidence except in exceptional circumstances; if it is based on brief, you take only three months. So the time of appeal should be reduced. It is now 90 days from court of appeal to Supreme Court. Somebody who wants to file an appeal should not wait for 90 days before doing so. If you are serious about filing an appeal, it should be dome within one or two weeks. These are the issues that if I have my way, I will convince my colleagues to do everything necessary that could make the judiciary attractive and effective. But for now it is very frustrating and discouraging.
Negotiating with Boko Haram
There is no basis for negotiation. The battle has gone beyond the level of negotiation, if it were at the initial stage, I would have supported that but not now. We have fought this battle to a level that Boko Haram is now losing and you want to negotiate with them. It is not acceptable.