BY HENRY UMORU
In this interview, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP, Delta North) speaks on his relationship with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and Senate President Bukola Saraki, the issues he has with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the rift between governors and federal lawmakers from their states, among others.
In specific terms, can you tell us one or two things that you have done which really impacted on your people?
My primary duty here as a senator is to make laws. In that area, I have sponsored more than eight bills in the Senate, including the Amendment of the NDDC Bill 2017. When I came in, I read through the NDDC Act and discovered a lot of shortcomings in the Act and, being a lawyer, I decided to look at the whole NDDC Act. One of the shortcomings was that the gas processing companies were not paying any money to the NDDC for the past 17 years. I took up the issue of the amendment and the Senate passed it and it was taken to the House of Representatives and they also passed it. On December 29, 2017, the President assented to it. Having assented to it, the gas processing companies have now accepted to pay and, presently, they have paid their 2017 dues to the NDDC and, in the next couple of weeks, they will pay their 2018 dues. To that extent, I have been able to contribute to the funding of the NDDC which translates not only to my constituency but also to all the oil producing states. For example, I understand that they paid about $28.5million for 2017. I don’t know what they are going to pay for 2018; if you convert what was paid in 2017 to naira, you know how many billions my ingenuity has brought to the NDDC. Even the $28.5million they paid for 2017 is still shrouded in controversy because we have written to the LNG to give us their budget for 2017, and we will subtract their gas field and we will then be able to calculate three per cent of what is left. And as the Chairman of Niger Delta Affairs Committee, we have oversight over the NDDC which means we look at their bills and NDDC has done a lot of projects in the nine local government areas of my senatorial district. I also understand that the Amnesty Programme has trained over 91 persons from my senatorial district, and they are now empowering them. That has never happened to Delta North before.
The NDDC is known for presenting its budget very late and towards the end of the year. Have you addressed this?
Like I said, I sponsored two bills and the Amendment of the NDDC Act 2003; now the NDDC Act does not stipulate the period within which NDDC is to submit its budget and that is the problem you had before and, because they always passed their budget late, before they start implementation, the year is almost gone.
What is your relationship with your governor and the political stakeholders in Delta North?
I have a good working relationship with my governor. We formed the PDP together with others in Delta State and became commissioners at about the same time under former Governor Ibori. I am the first State Secretary of the party and then became the State Chairman for seven years and four months, making me the longest occupant of that office in the history of the PDP in Delta. I resigned to contest the Senate seat. So I have been around for a while and I have had a good working relationship with the stakeholders.
Your party at the national level has put in place the Prince Uche Secondus led-NWC, yet key stakeholders like Professor Jerry Gana, Professor Tunde Adeniran, among others, have dumped the party. Does this not mean that all still is not well with the PDP?
PDP is a big umbrella and people are free to go wherever they want. Maybe what they wanted in the party they were not able to get it during the convention and they believe they should leave. Prof. Gana is somebody I have a lot of respect for. Let us not forget that they did not quit when we met in Port Harcourt where we had some crisis, but we tried to make up. So if they are going to SDP and APC, they seem to have agreed with the position of the PDP to remove the APC from power. I don’t have anything against that. And I believe that ultimately we will come together.
If you are to give a blueprint to the Seriake reconciliatory committee and the Secondus NWC, what will that be?
One of the challenges in politics is how to manage differences and I think the Governor Seriake Dickson committee is doing very well; he has reached out to those aggrieved asking them to come back to where they belong. But it is not only in PDP that you have crisis; in the APC, they just demolished a senator’s house. I know there is no fundamental problem in the PDP and at the right time all of us will come together.
What is your position on the alleged plan to remove Senate President Bukola Saraki as well as the action of Senator Abdullahi Adamu and others who stormed out of the chamber following an amendment to reordering of elections?
I can tell you that any move to remove Saraki will be difficult in this 8th Senate. I think they are ten (aggrieved senators) and they need 56 senators to make any move. I am happy however that Senator Abdullahi has apologized to the Senate. Some of them are my friends. I don’t think, for instance, that somebody like Benjamin Uwajumogu is interested in removing Saraki. I don’t also think that Binta, who has a long standing relationship with the Saraki family, is in the mood to remove Saraki; but that does not stop them from airing their views on issues in the chamber. And I know that one of them has an ambition, hoping that if they remove Saraki as Senate President… even if you remove Saraki tomorrow, it will take the whole Senate to decide on the successor. On the reordering of the 2019 elections, I think Nigeria is too big to have a bandwagon effect President.
What can other states learn from Delta State against the backdrop of the rift between federal lawmakers from some states and their governors?
If you look at Delta State, one of the things you would learn from us is respect for leadership and also for followership. Let me give you an example; in 1999 when a group of young men in Delta came together to form the PDP, Ibori was not the oldest but he became the governor and we elected Senator James Manager as the first State Chairman of the party and I became the Secretary. Ibori as governor did not act like Mr. Know All. We would meet at caucus level, discuss issues and take positions; sometimes we will overwhelm him and he will defer to us; in fact we virtually gave him the Secretary to the Government in his second term, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan. So you can see that we built a group where there was mutual respect. And we respect our leaders, we respect Chief E.K. Clark, for instance, when he speaks to us; we may not agree with him, but we treat him with respect just like other leaders in the state. Even my colleague, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, cannot look at Ibori’s face and insult him. As an APC man, he goes to Ibori’s house and consults with him and Ibori treats him like one of us. Politicians in other states should learn that respect begets respect.
What is your message to your people and, as you are entering another era after the 8th Senate, what is your next political journey? And the issues you have with the EFCC, what do you make of them?
I don’t blame the EFCC, what they are doing is investigating the petitions written by some people against me and I believe they will do what is right; where they fail, the court will do what is right. I have not breached any law. Delta State government is there, so I will leave them to that one.
Whether my opponents are involved, that is their own cup of tea. I am a lawyer of 28 years standing. I know what is right and I know what is wrong. I don’t get myself involved in fraudulent things. Some of these irresponsible boys, when they don’t see you, they ask you for money and if you don’t give them, they try to blackmail you.
They claim to have documents from Customs which they cannot authenticate, so they have nothing. Look at the recent one and I am happy your paper corrected it, what concerns a senator in the award of contracts, a senator does not award a contract, a senator does not verify a contract, a senator does not pay for contract. How do I get involved? They said due process was not followed; this is a petition they wrote as far back as April 17, 2017. Even Vanguard advertised the job and people tendered, there was open bidding. Now some of the companies that participated in the bidding have been sympathizing with me, some even threatened to go to court because I am being defamed, and I don’t know them. Anytime the EFCC invited me, I went to them, I presented documents. They said I supplied brand new equipment, the company that owns the property went to court, the court said the property was properly bought, that there was no money laundering. Delta State government said what they gave them was brand new equipment; so all the allegations don’t bother me. Whatever you may want to say, the proper thing is that there is a court of law and I have confidence in the judiciary. No amount of blackmail will distract me and nothing will also stop me from helping my constituents. And the fact that somebody is my brother or my colleague or is my associate does not disqualify him from doing any job because I am the Chairman.
What is your next journey after the 8th Senate?
I leave that to God. In my life, some of the things I fight for, I don’t get them; it is some of the things that I sit down in my house, all the positions I have occupied in life, I will just sit down in my house and people will come and invite me. I have served my constituents well and if they give me the opportunity again to serve them as senator, I will be more than willing; they are my employers, so they should assess me. But first my party members will nominate me if they find me worthy.