By Anthony Ogbonna
Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial district in the Nigerian National Assembly, Senator Dino Melaye has said that the president should not be the Minister of petroleum because it is affecting good governance delivery.
Senator Melaye also, in his views, gave the position of the 8th Senate on the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal, the rejected acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu as well as his views on the recent in-house disagreement in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
Recall that the while the senate rejected on several occasions, the confirmation of Magu as the substantive head of EFCC, the senate, particularly with the motion raised by Senator Melaye had forced the President, Muhammadu Buhari, to suspend Mr. Lawal after he was found guilty of complicity in the finances meant for the welfare of the Internally Displaced persons, IDPs in the north east.
Senator Melaye who had earlier given a report card of his representation of his constituency- Kogi West- also spoke on what the Senate has done in taming corruption. He also spoke on the disagreement recently revealed as going on at the NNPC, involving the Minister of state for petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru.
Senator Melaye who gave the statement while speaking with the National Assembly TV anchored by Bamikole Omisore also said that there is a serious limitation to Senate powers as regards fighting corruption but said amendments could go a long way in correcting such.
Below is the interview:
You talked about corruption which brings us to some of your motions which have to do with corruption and Manitoba deal, motion on the TSA which has led to the retrieval of over 2.3 trillion which some have said has been the biggest achievement of the 8th Senate.
Right now, what is really trending both online and in traditional media is the NNPC. I remember you raised a motion on discrepancy, subsidy payment, non remittance.
What is this Senate doing about Corruption?
I want to start by saying Corruption is the bane of our development as a nation. Nigeria is where we are today because of corruption. Our roads are bad because of corruption, our hospitals are mere consulting clinics as a result of corruption. Education in this country is at the lowest helm because of corruption.
As I speak to you today, Ghana just completed their second National cardio therapy centre. In terms of population, Nigeria with a population of over two hundred million, we do not have a single National Cardio therapy centre. The most annoying thing is that in the Ghana Cardio therapy centre, we have 34 Nigerian Cardiologist currently working at the Ghana Cardio therapy centre. All this is happening because of corruption.
If we do not fight corruption, if we do not tame corruption, automatically there will be no development at any strata of our national life.
I am passionate about the fight against corruption because, without fighting corruption, we cannot get anything done and that is why you find out that most of my motions are anti-corruption based because corruption has been a cankerworm drawing us backward as a nation and I want to salute the eight Senate under the able leadership of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, because since the inception of democracy in Nigeria, no senate has come out with articulated approach to fight corruption.
Saraki has manifested his anti-corruption posture before he emerged as the Senate President. We would recall that Saraki moved the motion on fuel subsidy during the seventh assembly which blossomed into the probe of fuel subsidy which eventually led to the subsidy protest in 2012.
I want to say that corruption is the bane of our development as a nation. Every one of us must concentrate on fighting corruption and also making sure that those responsible for this act are prosecuted. Senate exposed the corruption in the office of the SGF, we have done a lot of expositions on corruption.
I urge the executive to act on the resolution and reports of the Senate on most of our investigative hearing, by such collaborative effort on corruption, development will be achieved in this country.
There is this rumour that there isn’t much of a smooth working relationship between the Executive and the legislature. I remember when the senate started probing the SGF on the North East issue; could you enlighten us on what has happened since Senate raised that resolution and what are the expectation from the Executive and the Senate as well?
The truth of the matter is, anyone expecting a robust relationship between the executive and the legislature doesn’t mean well for our democracy.
Democracy is not designed that the executive and the legislature be husband and wife. It is designed for us to have frictions because, the responsibility of the National Assembly is to checkmate the activities of the executive.
The auditors are not meant to be friends with those they are auditing. We are to critically examine and evaluate the activities of the executive by oversight responsibilities.
The executive must accept our roles as senators, as people who evaluate their activities and also accept responsibilities in terms of implementation and resolutions from the senate and that has not been happening.
There has been this conversation that the report from the Senate is just a mere suggestion. What is your take?
The report from the Senate is not just a mere suggestion. Section 80 of the constitution is very clear. It has given the senate the power to investigate and that means the report is empowered by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It also gives the National Assembly the power of summon and also fine private and corporate bodies and that fine will be seen as a fine by a competent court of law.
Resolutions from the senate is not just a beer parlour submission, it is enforced by the constitution. If we conduct investigations and we have a resolution, it’s important for the executive to treat such as a matter of urgency and to implement such resolutions.
I investigated the SGF and he said I am saying rubbish, he insulted my personality, at that point, the executive did not make any categorical statement and later, the executive found out themselves that the senate is right and they went ahead and suspend the SGF.
With the resolution from the Senate and the report by the Vice President, what is the current position of the suspended SGF?
I will say the posture of the executive on the issue of the SGF is totally against the fight against corruption because if you punish one of your own, it will send a positive signal to others out there that it is not business as usual.
The continued silence of the executive even after the report on that matter has been ready for months is a negative signal to the fight against corruption and also many other resolution of the senate including that of Magu and so many others that the senate have taken concrete resolutions on.
Some Nigerians believe the refusal of the Senate to pass Magu is going against the fight against corruption, could you please shed more light on that?
We have no other country to call our own but Nigeria and we must be patriotic and sincere to our approach to issues of national importance. To start with, my analysis of the Magu situation is that Magu came for a job interview.
When you are going for a job interview, you go with two mind sets, to get the job or not. What will make you get the job or not is performance, we must be sincere.
Those that watched the Magu interview live should ask themselves, did MAGU actually perform well in the interview?
The answer to this is ‘no.’ MAGU could not expressly or articulately state the laws establishing the EFCC.
He has no information on the amount he has recovered so far, he was not intellectually mobile and from the interview, Magu failed.
Our responsibility is to test him if he is qualified, if he has the capacity and capability to manage such an important agency. Apart from the issue of competence and oral presentation, the DSS is to Nigeria as CIA and FBI is to the America.
The DSS wrote a report and paragraph six of that report state categorically that MAGU is a limitation to the fight against corruption of President Muhammed Buhari and if a report is coming from the DSS against any Nigerian, the Senate will have no power to do otherwise.
Both the DSS and EFCC are under the Presidency, what do you think could have went wrong because the Senate constitute mostly of APC members and we believe that alone could get him cleared, what do you think went wrong in that situation?
I want to say that is Nigeria of yesterday. Nigeria is no longer about political party, I am a senator on the platform of APC but I am not an APC Senator, I am a Nigerian Senator. The party should have no role in the sincere development of a nation because parties will come and go.
Where is UPN,NRC, SDP and other parties today and how many parties in Nigeria are ideological based? So our interest should be Nigeria and not political parties.
My comments in the house isn’t about my party but to move our dear country forward. The presidency is not sincere about the issue of MAGU, it is compulsory that anyone that will get an appointment by the presidency must have security screening by the DSS.
We were also screened by the DSS, there are people that the DSS report has indicted and we communicated to the presidency and the presidency replaced them.
Even the ambassadorial nominees by the presidency, there was an appointee that was indicted and the presidency replaced him. Why is that of the MAGU different? I believe it should be a uniform law for everybody.
We do not just get a report, we got a second report confirming and affirming the first report by the DSS. And the DSS clearance from the DSS is a prerequisite for senate clearance.
Has this been the normal process for the EFCC bosses before MAGU?
It is a ritual, it is the normal thing, nothing different from what has happened before. The issue of MAGU borders on allegation of corruption, impropriety and compromise and for a man that will be chairman of EFCC, he must come out with clean hands. He should be a man of integrity, we must build a country where equity, justice fairness and integrity remains our watchword.
Can you shed more light on the anti-corruption bills that was passed by the Senate and the expectations we should have?
I want to say that the senate has done excellently well than any other senate in history in the passage of very responsible bills. I want to say that the bill we passed on anti-jungle justice is a very special bill.
The passage of PIB has been a difficult one in this country but it took an intellectual mobile of a Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki to fragment the bill and today, PIB, a phase of it has been passed.
This is a bill that has come to two or three senate and nothing was done. The passage of this bill will help to kill corruption in the oil sector, create proper regulation and enhance our economy as a nation.
The senate took a resolution on the corruption allegation in the NNPC, could you shed some light on that?
I was the first person to move the motion to call the attention of the senate on the level of corruption in NNPC and what we are seeing now is not different from what I raised then.
There is accusation and counter accusation between the GMD of NNPC and minister of state for petroleum. I read in the dailies that the EFCC are investigating the minister of state for petroleum.
If investigations are conducted, the only thing that can sanitize the NNPC is for proper investigation to be done and for the executive to have the rechargeable liver to implement resolutions and report from such investigation.
We have seen resolution from the senate on the SGF and nothing has been done. Nigerians are asking, what is the legal framework for the National Assembly to do something if no action is taken by the executive?
The truth of the matter is, we have legal limitations. We have a lacuna in the constitution where the powers of implementation on National Assembly resolutions lies with the executives. If we pass resolution from here and if there is no actions from the presidency; we have no legal teeth to move further.
We can only work in areas we passed law and the president refused to assent, after 30 days we have the power to veto but that is limited to law as regards that.
There is a serious limitation, it’s painful. Most of the resolutions by the senate are mostly rubbished or not attended to. I think there is a need to review the constitution to make National Assembly resolutions enforceable. If they become enforceable by law, we will make more progress.
Do you think cabinet reshuffle has anything to do with the Senate?
Cabinet reshuffle has to do with the ministers. We have strategic positions in this country that is manned by wrong people; a coach is as good as members of his team.
The President cannot be minister of petroleum, Minister of Internal Affairs but if he has good aides, the economy will move because these people will be working within their terrain. If a tailoring work is given to a carpenter, the output will be a beautiful nonsense.
The president must rejig his appointments. The president should forget about politics and bring out people with vigour, better hands that will get the job done. Such people should be involved in the process irrespective of the party they belong or their tribes.
The SGF misbehaved because he has never worked in any public service in his life before becoming the SGF.
The SGF of a country is the manager of the entire process of Governance. A man that is not imbibed and indoctrinated in the act of civil administration or the rudiments of public administration, definitely he will misbehave.
His appointment is synonymous to someone wearing an oversized shoe and this is applicable to other appointments in this government, there are a lot of nepotism in appointment in this government.
You belong to the same party which is the APC, are you saying your party is not having enough influence?
Like I told you earlier, it’s not all about party. Even the president is not an APC president but the president of the federal republic of Nigeria including the witches and wizards of this country. He is the president of everybody. Development process is national and no one should be partisan about it.
If you find a good man in PDP or APGA that can do the job perfectly, appoint him or her in the interest of National development than to bring an APC man that has no idea of what to do. Today in this country there is an organization headed in this country by a lawyer, what do we expect from such appointment? We have ministers that have no cognate experience at all on where to serve.
Do you screen ministerial nominees?
We just insisted now. Do you remember that I brought a motion on the floor of Senate to screen ministers? Now the president must attach their portfolios to us. If portfolios are attached, we can now ask questions in that area of discipline and see if he is capacitated, experienced enough, knowledgeable enough and has the technical know how to manage that particular portfolio. Except that is done, we will continue to run into crisis.