Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: 'Additional States Counter Productive'

interview

Hon Agi Jerome Aduojo is a philanthropist and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).He has been an advocate of social change and youth empowerment. In this interview with OSBY ISIBOR, he spoke on the review of the 1999 constitution, Ribadu report among other national issues.

As the country gears up towards the amendment of the 1999 constitution, what aspects of the constitution do you think needs to be reviewed?

Yes, there are some aspects that need to be reviewed. First, the issue of state creation is uncalled for. We don't need more states for Christ sake. Why wasting our time and resources to ask for states. Many states are beggars; they are not viable. They are 100% dependent on the crude oil sharing formula. What are we creating more states for? Who are we pleasing? The 36 states and the FCT is enough, let's challenge them to bring alternative sources of revenue. The governors are running around looking for oil money, they can't promote agriculture; they can't promote industry and technological advantages in many states that have such. They can't promote solid mineral mining and investment in places that we have these deposits. They can't promote tourism, yet they are calling for more states. Creating more states is counter productive and will not do us any good.

Creation of states they are clamoring for is for selfish agenda, because some of them who cannot be governors in their place want a state to be created for their political ambition. That's what they are fighting for. I pray Nigerians fight against this state creation and rather dwell on fighting for creation of local governments. That is what we need; we need more local governments. That's where development will reach the grassroots. And then, make the local governments autonomous, so that we see how best they can impact positively on the people.

Then on the area of our unity, the six geo-political system is really affecting us that we are not becoming productive. Because everything we do, they say federal character. Let's look for merit first before looking to satisfy people. Let's go for merit, professionalism, patriotism, passion, zeal and commitment. Let us address these issues and look at quality and merit overriding that of federal character. Again, the issue of revenue sharing formula needs to be addressed. The constitution should have an entrenchment whereby our leaders can be properly checked. Giving a full immunity to the president and the governors is not acceptable. I would advocate for a 50-60% immunity clause.

And the aspects of appointments should be taken care of. Let's have a constitution that specifies that in ministries for example, you must have professionals there. There are some ministries that not just a politician you take there; you need professionals there. Like the power sector, health, education, science and technology, you need professionals there.

Controversy has continued to trial the recent report of the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force headed by Nuhu Ribadu. What do you make out of this whole issue?

For many people that know my stands on Ribadu as a person, I have never given him any pass mark for performance right from EFCC. I have maintained my stand that people argued with me and tend to disagree. But I am happy that it is gradually going to unfold what I was standing for. That this man is not as what he was portrayed. I keep challenging anyone that say Ribadu did well at EFCC to prove to me one case that Ribadu had conclusively began or finished. Every case was politically motivated and that is why none of them stood the test of time.

And if you noticed what they said about the report, is like they are throwing back the job to the government; to search out the culprits and prosecute them. So what have you done? There are issues of things not done right and some figures not properly investigated. So, meaning whatever report that was coming was like half-baked report. So the government has no choice than to discard the report. And some people are taking it that they did a good job. They did no good job; they failed us. Ribadu failed us as the head of that committee; let him admit that. So, I am happy for this report; the last is yet to be held about it anyway. But while we are watching, we see that what they did there was a charade and inconclusive. It was below the standards of their expectations by Nigerians.

The Ojone Foundation, how far so far in meeting up with its mission of providing community services and youth empowerment?

The Ojone Foundation is gradually growing by the day even though we are limited by funds. Because the funds we are using presently to bring about our activities to bear has been from the contributions of board of trustees members from their own meager resources. And God has been helping us, we've been doing greatly. Like you know, we've been providing reading desks for so many primary schools, especially in the entire Omala Local Government of Kogi State and some other local government areas in the state. We have been doing that for some years now; it began in 2007.

We have been providing agricultural empowerment and encouraging youths and women to go into farming. We've helped them in one way or the other to procure fertilizers, chemicals and hybrid seedlings to enhance their productivity. Presently, we are trying to find a way to the Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development to be able to bring these fertilizers and hybrid seedlings closer to the rural people, especially in Kogi State where the Ojone Foundation is presently working on. We are trying to solidify from there before we go national and international.

And in the aspect of partnering with community development associations, we've partnered with Adejuojor Development Association to bring the Australian Embassy to renovate and rehabilitate the dilapidated and abandoned dispensary in the village which has today become a centre of health promotion not just for the village, but the entire neighbouring communities.

Again, through the Australian High Commission we were able to bring about portable water for the people of Adejuojor which has been completed and undergoing test running now. Then, the MGDs project on motorized borehole, we were able to get through Senator. Attah Idoko to influence the MDG to site that borehole in our community. Then, a member in the State House of Assembly provided another one in the village. So, presently we have about three boreholes about to service the community.

Also, the Ojone Foundation is presently building a computer centre at the Community Secondary School in Adeduojor. We hope to finish it before the end of this year and hand it over to the community. And for the widows who have no means of survival, we have to provide them foodstuffs and little cash to empower them. We also visited the recent flood victims at Gbagana and we donated some relief materials to them. We visited the Kuje Prison in conjunction with a branch of Redeemed Christian Church of God on October 1. We gave them lectures and provided some things to them. It was really impactful and worthwhile. These are the things we've been doing and we hope to do more by the help of God.

How will you describe the recent development in Kogi State in respect to the impeachment of the speaker of the State House of Assembly?

It is really unfortunate that this is happening at this time. The former executives that were impeached, the speaker and his colleagues actually showed some signs of not representing the people as they should. You can imagine the House being on recess and could not cut short their vacation at such a time that flood ravaged the entire state. The president came to visit and commiserate with us and yet none of them showed up to welcome the president. These are many of the allegations that were tendered by the group that staged the impeachment. It was really bad, the House became almost dead. The speaker was forced to reconvene the House from recess at which point his impeachment was moved. So, I support that group in its entirety because the reasons are clear and genuine.

But the unfortunate twist there is that the House of Representatives jumped in and took over the House. It is a slap on them. I expected that the House of Assembly members or the new Exco so to say, should have sued the House of Representatives for infringement on their independence. Because what the constitution said is that the House can take over any state House of Assembly in a case of state of emergency.

There is no state of emergency in Kogi State. This is an issue within the House that nobody has told them that it has escalated beyond them. It has happened in other states, why didn't they go there and take over or lockup the Assembly? It is really unfortunate and handiwork of mischief. And sadly enough, we have representatives in this Federal House of Assembly who should have forestalled this act by their colleagues. But it was unfortunate that they allowed them to do that and it is a dent on their image.

So, I call on those newly elected officials of the House to demand for their rights. And if need be they should go to court and sue the House of Representatives for infringement on their independence. The best they could have done was to play a mediatory role and it showed that they came with another agenda by this act. It is a fragrant abuse of power.

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