This Day (Lagos)

1 October 2008

Nigeria: Senate Report on FCT Ready, Says Senator Sodangi

interview

Lafia — Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT and Senator representing Nasarawa West Senatorial district, Senator Abubakar Sodangi in this encounter with George Okoh in Lafia last week comments on the activities of his committee saying the committee's report will not be swept under the carpet.

People are curious to know the outcome of your committee's report on the probe of past administrators of the Federal Capital Development Authority . When are we likely to see the final report and what are the recommendations?

I will only tell you about what we have done, how far we have gone and what next to do. It has been in the public knowledge that we have conducted public hearing into the past administration in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) from 1999 to date.

In other words, we had the privilege of calling those in charge of the FCT who had complaints laid against them and hundreds of those who had complaint and petition over demolition of their houses, those who complained of allocated houses and government selling the houses to other persons, those who went to court to stop demolition and how court orders were flouted etc.The public hearing was done in a very transparent manner with world wide television coverage. We saw the pains and anger and excitement expressed by people in some cases.

As a committee set up to look at what transpired in the FCT, our work is to collate the views of people and find out what happened, what led to the action and them take our decision as a committee and give our recommendation to the senate and the senate will take the final decision.

That is the stage we are. We have finished all our proceedings and have done our interim report. Very soon you will see the report but I am not in the position as the chairman of the committee to start disclosing the content of the report, all we have done is recommendation to the senate and the senate has the absolute power to jettison the report if they find it necessary,

What were the major recommendations your committee made to the senate?

We have made some far reaching recommendations because our findings were very comprehensive and thorough. The facts are there and based on our orientation knowing that fact speaks for it self, there is no way we will cook up stories on anyone to drag the person down. We will never do such a thing. We gave ample opportunity to all those who are stakeholders in the FCT.The minister, directors every one interested and they gave evidence.

That is what happened with the FCT hearing. I want to assure all Nigerians that unlike the saying that our colleague, our leaders are trying to rubbish the report or to tell us or guide us not to put certain report or implicate certain people even my leader, the Senate President David Mark has never dabbled into the committee's work, never.

Even the rumour I heard that the executive is interested in the probe and are not comfortable with some issues is not true. We are not hunting any past administration of the FCT, whether it's Gana , Bonu or El-Rufia who some people believe I have personal issues with. We are accountable to Nigerians, the senate and God in discharging our duty

Do you think your report will address the complaint of injustice brought by people against the past administrations of the FCT?

Let me tell you what has been happening silently that people do not know or appreciate. This government is a listening government. Yar'Adua has spoken to his ministers "you must be up and doing and be fair to all in the discharge of your duty" The ministers are adhering to that, particularly the Minister of FCT,Mallam Aliyu Modibo.

We have done our interim report and the minister may have had the privilege of seeing the report and almost quite a number of the recommendations made, he accepted them. I wont mention names but quite a lot of people whose houses were pulled down or those who paid 10% or what ever and were denied the houses based on expiration of time to pay have now been giving more time to go and pay and this is based on some of our recomendations.Single plot of land that was taking over by the past administration I want to assure you that due process is being followed to redress all these.

The accountability of the FCT Ministry and departments were also scrutinized by our committee. So many departments were not telling the chief accounting officer what the ministry is getting. We have written to banks to tell us what agencies in the FCT have with them.

I told Dr Modibo when there were complaints that we were too hard on the FCT that we have a duty to Nigerians for them to know and also we wanted to be thorough.Today,a lot of Nigerians are satisfied with what we have done. Let me assure you that the report will not be swept under the carpet as being insinuated by some people. It will surely be debated around October this year and I assure you justice will surely be done.

As Chairman of the Senate Committee on FCT, you have an oversight function on monitoring what the FCT Minister is doing. Can you say the FCT minister has done well so far?

You see ours is not to judge to say you have fallen short of people's expectation. We appropriate funds to the ministry and its agencies and in order to have accountability and transparency we also go and see the expenditure of the kind of money being appropriated by the agency. In order words, we monitor how and where the budget is being spent. Modibo is seeing to it that due process is being followed and agencies and departments appropriate funds in accordance with the law of our act of governance.

Although a lot is expected of him, for instance people are expecting that he will open new district and invest more in infrastructural development which I think he is trying to do like the Boulevard project which is very popular to some people and unpopular to others. Although criticism have trailed the project but I want to remind Nigerians that the project is not going to be entirely sponsored by the government but it is going to be on a private public partnership arrangement.

He is doing very well in the areas of Education, Health and Agriculture. I have a privilege of going round some health institutions and I must confess some of our hospitals in the FCT can now be compared with what we have in Europe and Saudi-Arabia.

I am not saying he doesn't have his flaws but as far as our oversight function is concerned he is doing his best.

While your Committee is trying to Sanitize the FCT, Nasarawa state is paying for it as there is huge influx of people from the FCT to Nasarawa towns such as Karu, Mararaba, Ado, Karshi which has turned these areas to robbers den and slums. Is the Committee on FCT planning to intervene in the area of infrastructure for the state?

The concept of building Abuja also has in it that all the surrounding satellite towns will also be taken care of in terms of developments, I am not talking of towns within the confines of the FCT alone but towns outside it such as Suleija, Karu, Mararaba, Nasarawa, even up to Keffi and Akwanga.

This is because if you allow such places to decay in infrastructure such as water, light and healthcare, it will definitely affect people in the FCT.So such towns can not be ignored. Most of the people working in the FCT are living in Nasarawa.Labourers and even senior officers whose houses were demolished either within AMAC, Kubwa, and other towns have all moved to Nasarawa state towns.

We need to intervene and provide infrastructures such as water, roads, schools, hospitals and light for them. Nasarawa state government is trying but the need of the area is too much for then to handle alone. As a matter of urgency and necessity, the Federal government must come to the rescue of Nasarawa state in the development of the areas.

Because of the influx of people from Abuja to Nasarawa towns, insecurity of lives and properties has become a major concern. The minister of FCT must cooperate with that of Nasarawa to provide security for the areas. There are certain areas (Angwer) where armed robbers attack every day and we can't allow this to persist.

But sincerely I am happy that the governors of Nasarawa, Benue , Kogi, Plateau states and the FCT minister are putting there heads together to see how to control crime in this area. Also some non governmental organizations are coming to assist the state in developing roads and other infrastructure through the Millennium Development Goal programme. We must also thank the governor of Nasarawa state for his efforts to improve the quality of life of the people.

Can you assess the performance of Governor Aliyu Doma of Nasarawa state so far?

It will be very difficult for me to start assessing him without you saying I have a bias. You can get to know if he is doing well or not if you should ask the common man on the street. But let me say without any sentiment, the man is doing very well.

I tell you, Nasarawa state is one of the poorest states in the country. The resources we get from the federal government is not much and our internally generated revenue is nothing to write home about and still the man is providing good road network, hospitals, schools etc.

He is tackling most needs of the state and we are very pleased with him. In my senatorial zone alone, he has contracted three major roads and work is ongoing right now on those roads.

There Is the Kokona junction road through Agwada to Loko Udege, Keffi Panda road and the Nasarawa-Toto road. These road constructions are spread all over the three senatorial zones. You can also attest to his urban renewal programme that is set to make Lafia a modern city.

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