‘Government Must Deregulate The Downstream Sector’
Uwemedimo Nwoko, immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Akwa Ibom State, a constitution lawyer, activist and former Chairman, Governing Council of the state Polytechnic, spoke to AYOYINKA JEGEDE on 16 years of democracy in the country and stressed the need to strengthen our institutions.
What is your take on the new administration?
I wish the new administration well. I hope that all they said during the campaigns would be brought to bear in the course of the actual administration of this country.
One area they need to address and tackle very seriously is where the immediate past administration had made a lot of efforts, but with no very visible success, which is tackling corruption.
The incoming administration needs to work on that and if they can stem corruption in Nigeria, a lot of other things will fall into place.
The administration needs to address the issue of power, which is not far from the corruption we have in system. Corruption in Nigeria has virtually assumed a larger than life image and it is a major threat to every other facets of the nation, because with the kind of corruption we have, no economy can survive it.
No matter how much a country is earning annually from any resource of its own, when the managers of the economy are corrupt in and out, the resources cannot sustain the glutton and greed of the managers, particularly those managing from the political perspective.
Corruption is a major issue threatening the survival of Nigeria and has become endemic. It is not because of inadequacy of laws; it is rather because we have not been able to enforce the existing laws.
Beyond that, the new administration needs to look at the aspect of revenue, principally the oil sector. We should be able to tell ourselves that it is shameful that up till this moment, Nigeria cannot operate its own refineries or refine our oil locally.
We produce the oil, sell it to a foreign country that would now refine it and send the product to us. There is no greater shame than that in the international community.
That is one area I believed the new administration should first address. The present fuel scarcity across the country is a manifestation of the shameful situation we have, where a few individuals have come together and hijacked the governance and be able to arm-twist the government into submission.
One of the things that must be done is to deregulate. The government must have the strength of character to deregulate the downstream sector.
As it stands, a situation where billions of naira is being wasted on just a few individuals in the name of subsidy is absolutely unacceptable and cannot lead to progress in this nation. We must deregulate and let it have an open market situation, where the market will speaks for itself.
There should be a situation where the market regulates itself and everybody will buy whatever he/she wants to buy at the prevailing market value.
These are the basic areas the administration has to look into.
We must also look at the electoral process to make it able to prepare and conduct a better election than what the Jonathan’s administration had done. Jonathan’s administration has done one of the very best elections recorded in the history of any African country, but there is room for improvement.
The new administration must work towards ensuring that by 2019, our electoral process should have a higher integrity than it has been achieved so far.
Where are we after 16 years of stable democracy in Nigeria?
It is a plus and we must give credit to ourselves, as a nation. It is a clean departure from the ugly past.
We have been able to sustain democracy for 16 years. We have been able to have a change of government for four times, to that extent there is something to celebrate about at.
At least, our democracy has not been transacted after 16 years of a consistent experience.
What are the institutions that need to be strengthened in Nigeria?
All the institutions that form the fundamental foundations of a democratic society need to be strengthened.
We must strengthen the Judiciary and give it independence from the Executive.
We must strength the Legislature, both at the national and state levels, and given them financial independence, as well as ensure that they function independent of the Executive.
We must make conscious effort to strengthen major institutions, principally the Independent National Electrical Commission (INEC), in every ramification.
We need to look at the weaknesses of INEC, such as its funding and the facilities it is working with. We must be able to fund it in such a way that it can have basic requirements to be able to conduct free and fair elections without any interference from anywhere.
We need to strengthen institution, like the Police, so that they can provide the necessary security across that country, both for individuals and properties, and other institutions that require police protection.
Generally, the necessary institutions that form a democratic process need to be strengthened. I am advocating that we should begin to build up institutions that are stronger than individuals.
The weakness of our democracy is that we operate with stronger individuals and weaker institutions. We need to reverse the situation to have stronger institutions and weaker individuals.
This would advance the course of our democracy.
Do we have enough development to justify the mantra of government of the people for the people and by the people?
I think we have to admit the fact that we have not done too well, in terms of letting the government be the government of the people, by the people and for the people, because some how, which is why we talk about corruption, most of government businesses are done in a manner that does not encourage the delivery of democracy dividend to the populace.
If we are going to live what we preach, that democracy is government of the people, for the people and by the people, we have to become more people-oriented.
We have to set a government pattern that has the interest of the masses over the individuals that are running the system.
If that is done, the mantra of government of the people, by the people and for the people would have been achieved.
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