National Assembly has been on a learning process, Akogun
Basically, the laws the parliamentarians make are expected to enhance the interest of the masses. So, every law is made from that point of view. The lawmakers will not sit down just for the fun of it and make laws that are supposed to be on trial. Every law is made because the parliamentarians expect that they will be of repeated benefits to the people of the country. Initially, people might think that they are not benefiting, but it doesn’t mean that with time, the laws won’t attract their attention.
The relationship between the House of Representative and the Senate has not been cordial over the issue of who is senior. What do you have to say on this?
It was quite unfortunate that the inability of President Musa Yar’Adua to address a joint sitting of the two chambers of the National Assembly on the presentation of the supplementary appropriation bill for the year 2010 has put the matter of discord in the open. Now to everybody it looks as if there is a deep valley between the two chambers. But I do believe that the issue is a matter for the two chambers to settle. That is why the two chambers always seat separately over bills, resolutions and whatever. Each chamber arrives at what it thinks is of the greatest benefit to the people. If by any chance, even in terms of wording, some people could say semantics, the two resolutions differ, there must an agreed point of how to resolve it. In such instances, there is always a meeting point that is why we – the two chambers – meet in conference to iron out any details so that is not unusual.
If everything we do were to be in the view of the public, people would have been saying before now that we have always been disagreeing with each other. What has happened, our inability to sit at a joint constitutional review panel is nothing unusual. There is nothing bad about that, because normally we would sit. If we didn’t want to fast track what we were doing so that we could quickly meet at a joint constitution review panel, that would have eliminated having to sit in the two chambers and really iron out the matters in detail at a conference, we would have eliminated that. That is the only thing that it has done.
If for one reason or the other, the two chambers now decide to go their own way, which is constitutional, meet in different chambers and latter on meet at the conference, there is no way we still wouldn’t meet together.
At first, all we wanted to do was to fast track that process, so that we could come out with what is acceptable to both chambers and others. Even then, after that, both the team from the Senate and team from the House of Representatives would have gone to their various chambers to present what we have jointly agreed. Even as at that time, members of Senate and members of the House who were not even party, who were not members of the committee could even make input.
With the joint sitting for budget presentation, it is really unfortunate that it happened. What has been happening is a beautiful convention that I want kept and that is that we always meet at a joint sitting to give audience to Mr. President when he is coming to present the supplementary appropriation bill. There are some of other occasions. Actually, there is a law that the two chambers are working on now in which the lawmakers expect Mr. President to come and address the nation once in a year. On all such occasions, there is no way we will not have to sit together. But this time around, in the constitution, it is said that the Mr. President will present the bill to each chamber, and that is what the exigency of the moment has compelled him to do.
Assess the performance of 2009 budget?
It is wonderful that the year 2009 Appropriation Bill was passed into law much earlier than in 2008. But surprisingly, as various committees were over sighting the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) at a time, it was discovered that the execution of the various implementation was about 30 per cent. It is believed that the House of Representatives went into a more concentrated oversight of what we expect by way of performance of the MDAs. But as at the last time we got the report, performance virtually in all the ministries have gone up to over 70 per cent. The Speaker of the House of Representative and the Senate President recently said that we would not expect anything less than a 100 per cent performance. I believe that the performance will be close to as a matter of fact 100 per cent at the end of year 2009 because we have made a law that will enable the MDAs to go ahead implementing the budget appropriation law up till March 2010.
Comment on deregulation of the oil sector.
If some people talk of saboteurs in the oil industry, they might not be completely wrong. I believe that there is a show of shame for the marketers who want to hoard the petroleum products in anticipation of a complete deregulation, which has not happened. In so doing, they sell above the regulated prices. If it were to be the other way round, they will happily rule out the fact. To a great extent, I believe that the marketers are contributing to this confusion in anticipation of a government policy. But a few persons also think that some of the end users also engage in panic purchase and this has also worsened the situation. If a marketer sees that the queue is longer than usual at a petrol station, he will begin to think of alternative means, while the motorist will raise his own value and what he wants to get from the people or passengers by engaging in price hike on fairs. I believe that everybody has an impression about deregulation. And whatever we decide to do, whatever we deregulate or not, the most important thing is how do Nigerians react to it. But if everybody is transparent about the whole thing, all of us will benefit greatly.
How will you access the post amnesty programme in the Niger Delta Region?
On the post amnesty issue in the Niger Delta, so far, I will say that the handling and the effect of the amnesty deal are good. So far, so good; we all know now that there is comparative peace. Nobody is moving around edgy about being kidnapped. The kidnapping thing is gone, many contractors have retuned back to site to carry on their work and the projects that have been going on in the area that have been subject to attack are back on stream on. That is good for the entire region. As I always say, nothing can be completely or positively reduced without any effect. Of course here and there, there may be some defects people could point out to improve on it, and I believe that what has happen is very good for Nigeria and it will keep improving until the entire region is totally free and open for development.
The health of President Musa Yar’Adua is generating a lot of issues. What do you think of all the issues arising from his absence?
If one is ill, one is supposed to seek medical attention. It will be wrong for anybody to go to the hospital and the person is not certified to be all right, then you begin to agitate for such person to be discharged. But if the doctor says I should wait a little longer until I am okay, I will abide by it. If the President’s doctor says that he should hold on, he should then wait. Indeed, it is even better that he is completely healthy before he returns so that when he comes back, he can work with his total energy. Nigerians are been threatened unduly, may be it is because of the state of health of the President that they are expressing undue worry.
The recent defection of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members in Edo is supposedly a threat to your party, especially now that Etsako Central re-run election is on the way. What do you think?
Especially in developed democracies, movement of members of one party to another is not considered abnormal. It happens. There is a lot of publicity and propaganda at the moment. Several people who were said to have defected did not defect in the real sense. Even from my council there was the rumour that virtually all the members of the PDP defected. It got wide publicity, but that is not correct. In fact, only a few people left. I think it is an overblown propaganda, because at the end of the day, the truth will come out. We are waiting for the 2011 election; we are not following the propaganda because we are used to it, and that does not worry us. But that is not to say that we should rest on our oars. We are making sure that we keep our members close, so that they cannot be wood over by any other party.
Are you thinking of coming back for third term tenure?
Yes, the whole thing is around the corner now, and very soon, I will make my position known. So that I wont be starting late.
What steps are you taking to ensure that the project going on in your constituency from the Federal Government is properly monitored?
The major achievement is the rehabilitation of the federal highway, Auchi – Igarra – Ibilo road. The duty of the committee is to monitor it very well, and I will personally monitor it because it is about the only federal highway that goes through my constituency and ensure that it is done within the stipulated time. There are other constituency projects that are ongoing, and there have been quite a lot of things. There are other projects that I will let my constituency know about, because sometimes, these things happen unnoticed and if you are not versatile they might even pass the credit to another administration. Whatever the Federal Government is doing in this council, which I am answerable, is attributed to the PDP electioneering manifestoes.
Basically, the laws the parliamentarians make are expected to enhance the interest of the masses. So, every law is made from that point of view. The lawmakers will not sit down just for the fun of it and make laws that are supposed to be on trial. Every law is made because the parliamentarians expect that they will be of repeated benefits to the people of the country.
Especially in developed democracies, movement of members of one party to another is not considered abnormal. It happens. There is a lot of publicity and propaganda at the moment. Several people who were said to have defected did not defect in the real sense. Even from my council there was the rumour that virtually all the members of the PDP defected. It got wide publicity, but that is not correct. In fact, only a few people left. I think it is an overblown propaganda