Monday, 4 July 2016

Why govt may stop funding constituency projects, by SGF

Why govt may stop funding constituency projects, by SGF
Continued from last Thursday
What has delayed the appointments of people into Federal Government boards?
Let me tell you; it took some of the previous governments two years to make board appointments. Now, the issue of board appointments is moving faster than in previous governments. We need to do it very diligently. Up until September, only the president and vice president were running the country and their hands were too full for them to get engaged in board appointments. Then the SGF, Chief of Staff and quite some few others came on board, and it is the OSGF that co-ordinates all of these. The president approved the setting up of a committee late last year to do this. The first thing the committee did was to set up criteria for people who would merit being on a board in an APC government. We needed to get all the parastatals whose boards need to be constituted. Then we did what we called ceding, in the sense that we needed to share the boards in an equitable manner among all the states so that each state, as much as possible, would have its own fair share of board chairmen and board members. I think we started with close to 400 or 500 parastatals. It was not a mean job with board membership of, in those days, I think five to 6, 000 people -chairmen and members- from all the states and we decided to cede them in such a way that when it comes to a state, the board membership must also be representative of the local governments there. So, first, we ceded among the zones, then we said okay, maybe north east zone has 20 chairmanships and 1,000 board membership, then we go back and share the chairmanship in an equitable manner according to the weight of the parastatals because in government I understand there is Category A, B and C boards so that you do not end up with only Category C or A; so it is not a very simple job. While we were doing this, the government had to also look at the Oronsaye report which recommends the scrapping or merging of some parastatals. There was a White Paper by the former government on the implementation of the Oronsaye Report. So, this government decided to study that report which had very good merit in it because a lot of the parastatals were just doing nothing or were doing what others were doing.

So, in considering the Oronsaye Report, is there any likelihood of carrying out the merger or scrapping of parastatals?

Look, the Oronsaye Report is domiciled here as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. They did a good job, not necessarily that everything is acceptable. What happened to the Oronsaye Report is that they made their recommendations and took it to the Cabinet. By the time the White Paper came out, it appeared that only 40 per cent of the recommendations were approved for implementation by the White Paper. It appeared that every minister started defending his staff. So, for example, parastatals recommended for scrapping suddenly found themselves in the survival list, because government is like that. So, the Oronsaye Report was completely mutilated during the White Paper. While the activity in itself was commendable, as a government, it is only natural that we look at it in the context of our own objectives. So, we are looking at it. A lot of hardwork went into it, and we would like to study it and implement it in agreement with our policies.

Are you most likely to also look at the 2014 Confab Report in that manner?

Well, the government has not taken a decision on the 2014 National Conference. I understand that some Nigerians want it implemented but the government has been too busy with key areas of governance to talk about an exercise that we thought was essentially diversionary and a sort of, maybe, a ‘job for the boys’, because if you remember, it was reported that almost everybody in the committee got N7 million, and we consider it essentially as job for the boys. They probably produced a document that is good and commendable but I mean, this government is too busy with very more vital areas of governance, and we are not intending to spend our time reading reports. The exercise of governance is not about reading reports. The reports are here, so many volumes that for example, it would take me like seven days to go through. Economy needs attention I wonder what happens to my work while I am reading it; while the economy needs attention, unemployment is there, insecurity is there, people are blowing up pipelines and so on.
How true is the allegation in some quarters that you are responsible for the travails of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu?
Let me tell you, the Office of the Secretary to Government is the punching bag of everybody, and that is how it should be. My own understanding of the present government in relation with the opposition is such that the integrity of our president has been established over his almost 73 years as solid; you cannot assail it. So, the only option left for you as a ‘dirty’ opposition since you must attack the government is to attack those less known. And those less known that are easy targets, that they think when they attack them, they are attacking the president are the SGF, the Chief of Staff, Minister of Petroleum and the CBN Governor, for one reason. These are appointive positions; they are not elective. Probably, they think that “oh, if we make him look dirty, the president would sack me.” In my life, I have seen Ekweremadu for, maybe twice, and the second one, was incidentally, in a church in Yola. I do not understand the psychology of, when you are accused of something, instead of defending yourself, you waste your time hunting for who could have been the cause of your travails. If they remove Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President, how does that personally benefit us? Of course, while I was in the party then as National Vice Chairman, it was the party position that because we are the majority party in Parliament, that we should produce all the Principal Officers. To that extent as an APC member, I am not happy that APC has not produced the deputy senate president. It is an aberration, but the senators decided, which is their constitutional right, to create the aberration. The solution, if they need any solution would lie with them not BD Lawal, not SGF because I am not a senator. I am the SGF. So, whoever tells you that I am responsible for the travails of Sen. Ekweremadu is burying his head in the sand rather than running.
When is the president going to start dealing with corrupt persons in APC?

Let us be very sincere and reasonable. Obviously, to my mind, the preponderance of corrupt people would be in the PDP for one reason; they have been in government for 16 years and they were the only ones enjoying the booty, and they were doing it in a flagrant manner. Tracing my own (political) genealogy for instance, from ANPP to CPC and now APC, we were not getting anything. Nobody was giving us contracts. PDP were the ones in government; they were the ones the president was approving money for sharing; they were the ones that took government money to fund their election. This is the truth. APC had no access to government money to fund the president’s election. It got to a stage when PDP saw it clearly on the wall; you remember they even shifted the elections; it was so clear they were going to lose, and so they thought they could buy it. Throughout the last tenure of the Goodluck Jonathan campaign, their goodwill among Nigerians was on the decline and they were spending, and it got to a stage that they did not care about following the due process anymore because they thought they were in power and they thought they could buy their way through and remain in perpetuity. So, they became even careless about the manner they were taking the money. Remember Nigeria even borrowed $100million from the international market to fund the war on Boko Haram and they simply shared it. APC did not go to borrow anywhere. We were not sharing oil wells. We had no access to NNPC funds. So, if these agencies were converted into agencies for looting and pilfering, it is obvious that even if we had corrupt men in the APC, they did not have the opportunity to steal, and that is assuming we had. I cannot, in all honesty, say that all of us in APC are saints, but the truth is, we did not have access to funds to steal in the first place, and so we did not have opportunity also to reject the stealing. So, let them roast in their stew. Let them carry their cross. They can make all the noises and try to deflate APC, but our hands are clean by providence. Look, let us face it. If they arrest you, why don’t you say, ‘I shared the money with so and so persons’ and then let him turn out to be in APC? Those that they are arresting, it is from the interrogation that the information burst out. Let them leave us alone. This is just the beginning. They will return our money by the time we finish digging their soak-aways and bringing down their (overhead) tanks; we would recover our money.

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