Hon. Raphael Nnanna Igbokwe, representing Ahiazu/Ezinihitte/Mbaise Federal Constituency in Imo State, elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is the Chairman Young Parliamentarian Forum and House of Representatives Adhoc Committee on Review of Petroleum Pump Price. In this interaction with IGNATIUS OKOROCHA, the lawmaker on the verge of defection bemoans the neglect of the South-East in the 2017 budget and appeals to Ndigbo to vote massively for APC in 2019 to get access to development. He also speaks on the crisis in PDP, the glaring fraud in the petroleum industry among others.
We gathered the South-East got the least allocation in the 2017 budget. How far is this true and how much was allocated to the zone?
It is regrettable the zone had the least allocation in the current budget. Take for instance in the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, almost 60% of what is in that ministry’s budget is in the South West and it is highly regrettable. This action goes to confirm the fears of a lot of Nigerians and South-Easterners that the government is not friendly with the zone.
The issue is on one hand that elections have come and gone, we are all Nigerians and the constitution makes it clear in section 14 (4) that the conduct of business in the affairs of government shall be carried out in such a manner that gives every area a sense of belonging and build national unity and loyalty. We have continued to stress this. We will continue do our best, yes democracy is about number but it is also important to ask, what do we learn from this? So, tell me how many South-Easterners would be in the room where the final decision would be taken on what goes - by the executive. The Minister of Budget, the Minister of Finance, the Head of government, the Secretary to Federal Government, the Director Budget etc.
Maybe, that is why the South East zone should borrow the words of Rochas Okorocha and start to look inward on how to integrate themselves into the mainstream of the ruling government. This is so that we can have people to speak for the Igbos in decision making period and that is the truth. Maybe, this is one of the ways to compel Ndigbo to start looking inward to establish a survival strategy.
That will help the South-East decide how they can survive the onslaught. So, I think this is a foot for thought, if we had known that this would be applied in the distribution of infrastructure, perhaps we would not have put all our eggs in one basket.
How much was allocated to the zone?
Well, I can’t give you the exact amount but there is a total neglect of the South-East in the 2017 budget and we should start by calling our sons and daughters who are in this government and asking them how well they have defended the interest of the Igbos in the general affairs of this government.
So until we start holding our people accountable, I don’t think we will be making progress. In the same way I have been called by different groups in my constituency asking me what do you have for us in this budget? That alone has kept me on my toes. I am looking forward to see how to accommodate them in at least giving them a fair share of what is available. We know that we can’t handle everything but at least by the time the budget comes out, all the whole areas will have a sigh of relief.
There is no doubt that the crisis in your party, the Peoples Democratic Party has deepened. How is it going to affect the voice if opposition in the National Assembly?
Well, it is rather unfortunate that we have allowed ourselves to be in this crisis up till now. But at this point, I must tell you clearly that there is no crisis within the leadership of the party now because the court has made a pronouncement; and as law abiding citizens and a party that believes in the rule of law, we should be seen for once to be respecting to the decision of the court because judgement must come one way or another. And before this judgement was passed, there was this assumption that any party who wins, the other will rally around him. So, now that there is a leadership as pronounced by the court, headed by Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff, I want to enjoin all party faithful to rally around him. It is very unfortunate that we found ourselves in this position. It has really affected the very foundation of the party. The governors, being the only strong structure of the party in place, ought to be calling the PDP members in their parliament because this is another critical area that helps to build public opinion, and this what the current ruling APC did very well during the PDP regime.
There is widespread speculation that you have defected to APC, is it true?
I have not defected but the truth is that, for now the greatest support I am getting to perform my functions is coming from the APC members. I am the most senior from Imo State and currently the leader for Imo Caucus. My activities here are being supported by the APC. I am not a chairman of any committee, neither a deputy but those who have found it worthy to co-opt me in their committees to give me a sense of belonging and to support me are all APC members. No PDP member’ not even one had thought it necessary to assist their colleague who has not been accommodated as a PDP family.
So, do you expect me to be having a romance with people who don’t like your political progress? The answer is no. And I am getting very great support from Governor Rochas Okorocha; he recognizes me as the caucus leader of Imo, he gives me my due respect. He assists me any time I call on him as the marketing manager for Imo State; the Governor is the marketing manager. He uses his good offices to assist me in accessing government’s dividends of democracy; infrastructure and support items for my people, he has always made himself available and you can see him any time.
But I can’t have access to my brothers in PDP; even here they don’t pick my call.
There has been this rumour that government wants to increase the price of fuel, and sometimes you see signs of scarcity even when the price is high. What is your ad hoc committee doing about this?
This is one of the reasons the ad hoc committee on review of pump price of fuel was set up. We felt that Nigerians are bearing the brunt of this increase in price. Before now we used to have subsidy, which government was carrying some of the burden. But as it is now with the removal of subsidy, it has been transferred to the pockets of Nigerians. And we are holistically looking at the cost structure; the cost elements that make up how the PPPRA or the government came to the price of N145 per litre. It is a function of certain assumptions of estimates or cost elements: cost of products, cost of financing, storage facilities, NPA, NIMASA. Nigerians are paying 084k which is the weighted estimated cost of NPA charges.
So, it is them that Nigerians a paying these monies to. And NPA is expected to pay efficient habour services, that can encourage vessels and ships to come in and berth. They also have to dredge the sea so that it can be deep enough to carry large vessels to come in. But on the same template, Nigerians are made to pay N5.02k for lightening service, which is the small shuttle vessel or daughter vessel going to the deep sea to pick products from the mother vessel.