…says Niger Delta is time bomb waiting to explode again if nothing is done
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA – To urgently rescue Nigeria from pangs of poverty and under development, the Senator representing Bayelsa East in the Nigerian Senate, Mr. Ben Bruce on Friday gave hints of a possible high powered meeting between the Senate and President Mohammadu Buhari anytime next week upon his return to Nigeria.
Recall that President Buhari left the shore of the country on May 7 for a follow-up on his medical consultations.
Though, no specific date had been officially given for the president’s return, speculation is however, rife of his possible return next week.
Speaking to Vanguard on Friday on the State of the Nation, Bruce who fumed at the incremental hardship agreed to the feelings that Nigeria has seriously lagged behind in its developmental strides in the last two years, saying that the country was momentarily in a big trouble.
According him, a lot of public policies have become antiquated and could not drive Nigeria’s economy in a 21 century world.
He said: “Nigeria has not really made any progress in the last 2 years. I think we are in big trouble right now. When the President gets back, we would need to sit down with him and have a conversation. There is no point having a conversation with anybody who is not a president.
“I am thinking the Senate. We will have a conversation. A bipartisan team will go and meet with Mr. President and have a conversation with him. Not APC senators meeting the president but the Senate meeting him and have a conversation on the future of Nigeria. That’s what I am gonna propose. That we sit down with him and discuss the issues. He’s the president and you can’t change that and I respect constitutional authority. He is the President of Nigeria and we will sit down with him and discuss the problems facing the country. In 2019 when there is another president, that will no another issue. But right now, he is the president and we need to sit down with him and discuss the issues. I understand he will be here next week.
“Let’s talk to the President directly. I think it is important to speak with the President Buhari.”
On the issues to confront the President with, Senator Bruce said it was all encompassing.
“All the issues affecting the country. This is my proposal. I am going to sit down with the Senate President and say, look, let’s sit down with the President. He’s not an APC President. He’s president of Nigeria. So, I don’t want say APC governors, senators seeing him. He should see Nigeria not APC. This is what I am gonna request, hopefully it will be granted and we are gonna have a conversation.
“Everything agitates my mind. The economy is in trouble, there is inflation, unemployment, schools, every year, a million kids cannot go to school. Automobile policy of Nigeria is 1922 policy. Mass transit policy is 1825. Our educational policy is 1942 policy. Are you kidding? We are in the stone age. These are not caused by him. I don’t want to accuse anybody but previous government did a lousy job. You have a educational policy set up by the colonial masters, have you changed that? Do you have a policy on Power, Health? Name one rich man who does not send his child, or himself to be treated abroad. You spend millions of Naira in Ghana every year on education. You have the health stories in India. So, what is going right? That has to be dealt with. We need to discuss it. I am not a critic, not here to run down anybody but I have a solution to our problem”, he said.
The Senator who hails from oil rich Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta region stated that the zone is a time bomb waiting to explode.
He said that the agitations were becoming so serious that an urgent dialogue between the agitators and the federal government needed to hold.
He said: “I think there should be a discussion. The Niger Delta is heavily underdeveloped. There is a lot of people to blame. In the past, federal government, state government, NDDC, everybody made a terrible mistake about Niger Delta. Nobody is exempt. It doesn’t matter whether you are military, PDP, APC, whoever, everybody is guilty. Now, I cannot erase the past. The past is the past but going forward, the area must be developed. There has to be a programme to develop the Niger Delta. And dialogue must take place for the place to be developed. I cannot look at a young man who is dying of poverty and say he has no right to agitate.
“I have no right to say that and at the same time I will not encourage him to go carry a gun and kill somebody. At the same time, I am encouraging the government to understand there is a time bomb that had exploded several times and the next time, it explodes, there will be no oil for anybody. So, I urge everybody to sit on a roundtable and resolve the problem and should be focusing on developments not enriching individuals. I will never support enriching individuals.”
Senator Bruce also regretted that devolution of power Bill didn’t pass in the last constitutional amendment voting by the National Assembly.
He however gave a glimpse of hope that the Bill would be revisited when the National Assembly resumes from its 6 weeks holiday.
The Senator also expressed the same optimism on the two gender Bills: Indegeneship/Citizenship and 35 percent affirmative action for women as Commissioners and Ministers that failed during the voting exercise.
“I voted for devolution of power. But I think there was not enough education. A lot of people didn’t really understand it. I think we moved too fast. But the Senate President has said when we come back, we will sit down. I think a lot fears from our brothers in the other parts of the country. So, I don’t want to blame anybody on that issue. I think we did very well with the Bills we passed. When we come back, we may explain it properly to those who have opposed it. I think there will be consensus and it will pass. I am confident about that.
“One of the senators got up and said, look in his state, they don’t have enough qualified women and we burst out laughing. I don’t wanna run down anybody. But I think we need to educate people. Don’t assume everybody is as smart as you are or as liberal as you are. I think the biggest mistake is that you have a collection of people we need to educate and tell them that gender equality is the greatest gift you can give a people. It doesn’t destroy anybody or take away the right of a man. So, instead of attacking them, let’s educate them. I don’t wanna run down anybody. Let’s educate them”, he said.
Speaking on the performance of N-Power job which is one of the social intervention prgrammes on job creations, Bruce who is also a business magnate likened the scheme to a waste of financial resources.
“When you spent 75 percent of your budget on current expenditure, I have a bill coming up which will limit expenditure by 50 percent by law and it will pass. You have DGs flying first class. You have people traveling all over the world to have meetings. Why can’t you have meetings in Nigeria? I saw the budget. Do you know the waste in the budget? If you run Nigeria as private company, you will fire 75 percent of people who run the country. Go and see the budget, it is total waste and this has been going on for a long time. It has nothing to do with APC”, he said.