Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara opens up to CHUKS AKUNNA, Executive Director, on several topical parliamentary and national issues. While laying out his total support for anti-corruption war, he concedes that parliamentarians are not saints but Nigerians also with their own shortcomings – in this concluding part of the interview
On the issue of the Peace Corp Bill - virtually all body language of relevant Executive Agencies seem to be against it - stating issues from lack of funding and lack of need for it. But Parliament still went ahead to pass it. Why does the Parliament think there is need for a Peace Corp in Nigeria now?
On the Peace Corp Bill, like I said, we mustn’t agree always with the Executive, when they are talking about funding. The National Assembly was convinced that within the structure for the funding of the Police, Civil Defence, that was the same argument when the Civil Defence Bill was before the House, that it could not be funded, that they were divulging some of the powers of the Police to the Civil Defence; that it would never work and at the end of the day all these were surmounted and now we have the Civil Defence.
One of the issues that continue to worry Nigerians is the issue of local government autonomy with NULGE insisting that as far as they are concerned there should be autonomy for the Local Governments. Is it possible that under your leadership, there could be an amendment of the Local Government Law to ensure this autonomy is attained?
The current system is not working and if we keep sticking to it and expecting it to work someday, I don’t know who termed it as the very definition of foolishness - for you to keep doing the same thing and expect different outcomes. It has become a system whereby some have constituted themselves into middle-men along the lines. They grab the resources meant for the development at the grass-root and appropriate it the way they deem fit, and there is a twin evil - that of State Independent Electoral Commissions that gave birth to this. It is a total mockery of democracy for elections to hold even in the local government and you say one political party won all the seats. I have never seen where democracy is mocked like in Nigerian local government elections. So I don’t know how we can continue to mock ourselves that we are practicing democracy at the third tier of government. We all know the reason for the insistence that one political party will win all councillor and local government chairmen seats, so that at the level where the middle-men are hijacking.
What is the current status of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB)? What informed your recent push for the reduction of petroleum and kerosene?
The PIB has gone through first reading. We’ve had to segment the Bill because we used to lump them together, but in most cases, some issues are pulling against each other and so there is much interest. So, we want to deal with the regulatory sector of the entire sector first of all. We believe we can get this one done because there is not much controversy. After we are done with the regulatory aspect of the sector, we can now move to the operational aspect and to a reasonable extent, I am convinced that we’ll be able to get the job done before the tenure of this present national Assembly lapses. On pushing for the reduction of prices of petrol and kerosene, well we all know the importance of these products to our people, when prices of petroleum products go up; prices of virtually everything go up. And kerosene you know is the major fuel in most families, so we cannot over emphasise the importance of these two key products.
There was a Motion on the Floor of the House and we set up an Ad-Hoc Committee to look at all those issues that the they lumped together that led to the escalating prices of some of these products, actually the high cost of the product are not all related to the landing costs. Sometimes larger vessels bring these products and berth somewhere in the high seas, then the products are conveyed to the ports or where you have storage facilities via lighter vessels, it’s actually the cost of transporting the products from where the big vessels berth and how much they pay per litre of those transporting it to the storage facilities that are adding the toll on this storage facilities. We thought maybe if we look at some of these things and delve into the process and insisting that the right thing be done by cutting the cost of all these other things that add to the landing cost of the product that we will be able to have some reduction and that is what we are pursuing. For us we all know the importance of these products, if the prices of petroleum products go down, you can be sure that most of the things we do will reduce like a tomato seller who tells you her wares is N2,000 and you complain will tell you to check how much transportation costs, in some cases they even tell you then prices of dollar has gone up as if dollar is involved in their farming.
We can’t leave here without touching your home State Bauchi. There’s the assumption that you can’t visit your State as you are on exile; that the relationship between you and your governor is not cordial because you are eyeing 2019. What is really the crux of the matter? Why are you not working in harmony with your governor?
On this matter I can give you a straight answer that I am not on political exile anywhere, I can go home any day, anytime that I like. I went home in December and very soon I am going home. So I want to use this medium to announce to everybody that I am going home. So those who think I am already on political exile, that is not the case at all. As a Speaker, you know that virtually every week, Members are having functions, and I have to be there every week, so it’s not easy to escape from those schedules. You need to fulfill your obligations to members and work closely with your constituency. But it’s something that is always in my mind, my constituents are very close to me and I am close to them even though I can’t be there every day, otherwise I won’t be the Speaker, the Speaker has so many other responsibilities.
On my relationship with the governor, I don’t think anything has prevented me from working harmoniously with him, maybe he should be asked the questions. For me, he is someone I supported. Everyone in the state knows, if it was not for very few of us, with all modesty I can say this, God uses people and God used us to put him where he is and we will be fools if we use the same hands we used in building him to this position to destroy him. Having said that, it doesn’t mean we will agree to work where we have no agenda.
So the governor is not doing well?
You have said I am on exile, you may go to Bauchi and do your own verification and see things for yourself.