Says Rivers gov’s seat belongs to PDP
By Emman Ovuakporie
Hon. Kingsley Chinda is the Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Customs. He represents Obior/Akpor Federal Constituency of Rivers State. A legal practitioner, Chinda speaks, in this interview, on Rivers political crisis, the National Conference and other matters.
You moved a motion on the floor of the House on the need for the President to interface with the Academic Staff Union Polytechnics (ASUP) to end the on-going strike embarked upon by the union. This is the seventh month of the strike action. How do you feel about the strike?
It is really unfortunate that we have to close down our institutions of learning. I think we need to do things to avoid the closure of our institutions of learning because the time we lose during these closures can never be recovered. I followed up after I moved the motion and I can state that the strike was suspended but it resumed about a month or two later.
I am working on a second motion to find out what our House Committees are doing to ensure that our decisions and resolutions are not only enforced but that we are also seen as a proactive House. I say this because some of the anomalies in the system ought to have been corrected by this arm of government. If it is a minus for the government of the day, it is also a minus for the legislative arm because we are part of government.
What do you think is the solution to the killing of students like the one involving students of Nasarawa State University and the one that happened in the diaspora
The purpose of government is security of lives and property and that is why we have come together to submit our sovereignty to a few persons to manage our affairs. It is because we do not want to live in a situation where survival of the fittest will become the order of the day. Therefore, when you see avoidable deaths taking place in the society, the confidence of the people in government will continue to be eroded.
I keep praying that our society does not degenerate to a level where it will now be every man for himself, that is a lawless situation. That can happen if we allow avoidable deaths to continue to increase in our polity. As a responsible government which the legislative arm is part of, we need to sit down and talk about it and do something. I do not think we are doing enough. These deaths are avoidable. Take the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) issue; everybody has been blasting the Interior Minister, Abba Morro.
We have a House Committee on Interior and also the Human Rights Committee, and that of Labour. What did we do when the recruitment started. We owe Nigerians the responsibility of oversight. Were we not informed of the recruitment? Did we ask about the processes that will be adopted in the course of the recruitment? We would have found out that a consultant was engaged; we should have gone further to interface with the consultant.
Again the House of Representatives passed a resolution that no applicant should be made to pay any fee, but the contrary happened. I think there was an act of negligence, not just on the part of the minister or the comptroller. I believe that every Nigerian must play a role so that this country can move forward. I do not believe in the blame game.
There has been peace in your home state of Rivers. No pro or anti Governor Amaechi groups clashing with the police. What would you ascribe this current peace to?
Sincerely, I do not think Amaechi is an issue as to talk about pro and anti-Amaechi group. I am a member of the PDP and not anti-Amaechi. It is about the opposition and ideology, if you believe in a cause politically and you want that cause to be voiced.
In Rivers, clearly for some time, we have enjoyed what you call peace but you can also agree with me that the security situation is one that calls for concern. There have been several cases of kidnapping and also several internal problems. It is not the way it used to be because those behind propaganda, giving wrong information have gone to sleep. If they have been heating up the polity, then they would have been calling press conferences, so if we continue to play politics without propaganda, I think the state will continue to enjoy peace.
Recently, Governor Amaechi claimed that not a single project was earmarked for the state in the federal budget. He also said the state is not getting its fair share of attention from the federal authorities. What is your take on the claims?
I would have been glad if you make assertions with facts that Rivers State is not getting its fair share from the present administration. Let me be quick to state that it is an indictment on me because one of the social contracts I entered with the people of Obi/Akpor is that I will ensure that Federal Government presence is felt in my constituency. So if the governor says that there is no federal presence in Rivers State, it means that those of us from the state sitting here at the National Assembly and sitting over the national budget are sleeping.
The information is wrong. In my constituency, we have federal government presence, we have the model primary school, we have 13 of such schools in Rivers that have been constructed by the Federal Government. I have one in my constituency, we have road projects, NDDC is there. When you say there is no federal presence in Rivers State, it is unfair and a way to heat up the polity. It is unfair when you start mis-informing people especially at our level. We should not be economical with the truth.
Ahead of the 2015 elections, do you think your party the PDP can defeat the APC in River State?
I don’t think APC exists in Rivers State. I say so clearly, the governor was elected on the platform of the PDP, he moved over to APC. Allow elections to come, let us see if APC can produce a governor in Rivers State. As far as I am concerned, the seat of governor still belongs to the PDP, unfortunately, this same governor has benefitted immensely from what we are talking about. I was one of those who supported.
When Celestine Omehia was elected, the Supreme Court held that it was PDP that won the election not Omehia and Amaechi was sworn in though he did not contest that election; today Amaechi elected under PDP has moved to APC.
If I were in his shoes, honourably I will resign and if I so wish present myself again if the law allows me.
Amaechi as an individual is a member of the APC, but the seat of governor of Rivers belongs to PDP; if you now say the state is an APC state, I find it a little difficult to accept. To the issue of elections, let the elections come so that we won’t be beating our chest, but let me also say it clearly that in Rivers, it will be one man, one vote, one governor one vote.
As a member of the Committee on Customs, are you satisfied with the level of income that the agency said it generated in 2013 during their recent budget defence and their projection for 2014?
Clearly it will be better in 2014 because we are also trying to plug some loopholes that we have observed in the system. There are also some government policies that have affected the revenue profile of the Customs. One of such policies is the rice policy which is aimed at encouraging local farmers. I think for 2013, Customs was slightly below projection but, in 2014, it will certainly be better because the controller-general is working very hard to ensure he meets the 2014 target.
The National Conference is presently on-going, Constitution review by the National Assembly is also on. Is the legislative arm going to wait for the out-come of the confab before it concludes its work on the Constitution. What also is your take on the issues raised at the confab being subjected to a referendum?
I am not a spokesman for the National Assembly and not in a position to say what the NASS will do; the matter has also not come up on the floor of the House for us to debate it. However, I can give you my personal opinion on the matter. My take is that we need to continue with what we are doing. There is no law that states that you can amend the Constitution just once in a session.
If we have cause to make additional amendment, we will still allow it to pass through the normal process after-all, whilst we are working, we still have Bills that on amendment of the Constitution are not captured, they will still be attended to. The National Conference is a welcome idea.
It also goes to show that government is responsive because majority of Nigerians have been clamouring for a National Conference.
On the issue of referendum, as we speak, there is no provision in our Constitution that supports referendum, so I think the decision of the confab will still come back to the National Assembly.
What that means is that we at the National Assembly are sincere, once the referendum bill comes to us, we should pass it as a matter of urgency, because I cannot stand on the floor of the House and oppose those who elected me, but it should still pass through the normal procedure in order to give it legality, else somebody can go to court to say that whatever has been done is illegal and unconstitutional.