‘Why we’re against emergency rule extension’
Sen. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan (APC, Yobe North) chairs the Senate Public Accounts Committee. In this interview, Lawan insists that the emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States should not be extended. He also speaks on the allocation of N2 billion by th
Late last year, you raised objection on the allocation of N2 billion by the Federal government for the North East development initiative, it now seems that nothing was added in the Senate since you raised the matter before the Senate.
I have thought after the debate on the general principles of the budget for 2014 where we clearly indicated that the N2 billion proposed by the government for the six states of the region was simply inadequate and does not show seriousness and commitment to the plight of the people. The Senate was unanimous that the N2 billion was very inadequate and will not make any meaningful and significant impact and that it was going to be increased.
The budget was presented and passed with the proposed N2 billion retained unchanged and I had cause to still bring the issue before the Senate again but the Senate had forgotten that it accepted the argument and the submission by those of us from the North East that the amount needs to be improved upon. Thank God the Senate President and indeed everybody accepted that there is need for improvement on the N2 billion. I am very optimistic that something will be done about it between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Some say the government’s intention was not genuine since N3 billion was given to Nollywoood and others like that. What is your view?
If leaders from the North East allege that the region is neglected by the Federal government I think to a very significant extent they are right because we deserve some serious attention from the government. We deserve serious intervention but when people see N2 billion allocated to the entire region and at the same time, you are giving so much money to others even though we are not against giving N3 billion to Nollywood, but if you look at the disparity between that and the huge amount of money given to 30,000 ex-militants as allowances and the amnesty programme close to N70 billion you cannot really understand how this happened. Give us what we
deserve, Federal Government can do much more better than that. If they refuse to give us what we deserve, the National Assembly members are Representatives of the people and therefore know better where the shoe pinches and we can do better than N2 billion. I am hopeful that given the reception by the Senate President to the issue, something will be done.
But the document has been passed, don’t you think it is belated?
No. I don’t think it’s belated. Something will surely happened.
But the Senate President said that this must pass and that something could be done later maybe through supplementary appropriation…
No, no, no. It can be done at harmonisation level. It is not belated. I am very confident. And I believe in the sincerity of my colleagues led by the chairman of the National Assembly who has consistently insisted that the parliament, must champion the cause of the ordinary man and today there is no any ordinary man than the people of the North East who have been troubled by lack of job, insecurity and at the risk of losing their civil liberty. So we are the least favored in Nigeria today.
But even the N2 billion is a counterpart funding meaning that the States and the local governments may have to come in. Are you okay with such arrangement?
I am totally against provision of N2 billion as counterpart funding making it worse. This goes to show clearly that there was no consultation between or any serious meeting point between the Federal government and our states which are affected. The Federal government should have done more by inviting our states to hear from them the things that they think will bring some reliefs and succor for the people. This is an indication that the FG has not been engaging our states.
This is an eye-opener and a wakeup call. And a chance for us to review the way things have been going between our states and the centre, perhaps we need to make some presentations on that kind of interventions we want from the Federal government.
I intend to bring a bill very soon that will seek to establish a sort of development intervention fund for the North East and my idea is that the Federal government should bring in some money with the specific projects in mind, the states can participate interms of setting the agenda of the Federal government because Governors are in charge of their states and they know the issues. And the states compliment it. I believe that the President especially some of those who advise him may not be sensitive to our plight as a people but he is an elected President and he is supposed to be sensitive to our feelings.
Emergency rule is approaching one year, do you think there is the need to extend it?
I don’t know who is making the clamour but as far as I know people who have been under the emergency rule in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe have said by May 2014, it will come to full circle and that will be 12 months and that should be enough. When we say state of emergency should not be extended, we don’t mean you should go and withdraw the security forces from those states. The Federal government could even deploy more if they want but they don’t have to have State of emergency in place before they operate.
People in our states have cooperated with the Federal government and the security agencies since May 2013 and by May 2014, it would have been full circle. What we need now is not extension but deployment of resources to our states to continue with good jobs that the states government have been trying with little resources to provide job opportunities for the youth who constitute the bulk that are being recruited to do harm to the society.
If the President brings a request for extension, will you oppose it?
Definitely. I am against it and I will oppose it. There must never be any extension of the emergency rule in the three states and if you must, you must also declare same in Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, and Nasarawa States where people are being killed on a daily basis in their hundreds. Only recently, the army had a massive operation in Nasarawa which is not under emergency rule, yet they went and conducted the operation. If there is an insistence then there will be about 12 states to be under the emergency rule otherwise, there must never be any further extension because we have cooperated enough. We don’t need any emergency rule before the military operate and we are prepared to help the security agencies to succeed. I am sure the President will be advised not to bring any request on that again.