Buhari can’t be a cor­rupt petroleum min­is­ter – Kaoje

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - By Muideen Olaniyi

Bala Bawa Kaoje is a for­mer Min­is­ter of Sports and a for­mer Na­tional Trea­surer of the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP). The for­mer Deputy Chair­man of the Pri­va­ti­za­tion Com­mit­tee of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives be­tween 1999 and 2003, in this in­ter­view, speaks on the anti-cor­rup­tion drive of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari among other crit­i­cal is­sues.

Re­cently, the pres­i­dent gave an or­der that some agen­cies should be au­dited. Some peo­ple be­lieve this is per­haps nec­es­sary ahead of the plan to try the trea­sury loot­ers. What is your take on this?

To be hon­est with you, that is one of the state­ments that has made a very large per­cent­age happy. We can­not be seen fight­ing cor­rup­tion with­out tak­ing se­ri­ous ac­tion that will make peo­ple to be afraid of con­tin­u­ing in the line of cor­rup­tion. The only way to make peo­ple afraid is for the gov­ern­ment to show the se­ri­ous­ness to in­ves­ti­gate the loot­ers, get the amount looted and then try them at tri­bunal. I be­lieve most of them will be sen­tenced and our money will be re­trieved from them. That will be a de­ter­rent to other peo­ple who think that the eas­i­est way to make money is to loot the Nige­rian na­tion. There are many Nige­ri­ans who have made a lot of money through loot­ing be­cause they feel that noth­ing can be done. They feel one can steal any amount of money they want to be­cause it is the or­der of the day. What will hap­pen is that they will be taken to court. Then, they will do plea bar­gain by pay­ing some amount of money and then go back home to en­joy the greater part of the loot with their fam­ily. Buhari is say­ing no to this. He wants to try all the loot­ers. We will be very happy when this starts. If spe­cial courts or tri­bunals are set up to try these peo­ple, you will see how far that will go in fight­ing cor­rup­tion in Nige­ria.

But do you think Mr Pres­i­dent will be able to clear his name if there is any act of cor­rup­tion in the oil and gas in­dus­try, hav­ing ex­pressed his wish to act as the petroleum min­is­ter?

The pres­i­dent will not be in­volved in cor­rup­tion. I can as­sure you. From his an­tecedents, es­pe­cially from the time he was a min­is­ter to the time he be­came Head of State to date, Buhari has never shown any sign of some­body who can be cor­rupted. For any­body to doubt Buhari in that re­gard, that per­son is mak­ing a mis­take. For me, it is the best thing Pres­i­dent Buhari can do at this point in time. This is so be­cause the rate of loot­ing or rather cor­rup­tion that took place in the Nige­rian Na­tional Petroleum Cor­po­ra­tion (NNPC) dur­ing the last ad­min­is­tra­tion is some­thing that has never taken place in the history of Nige­ria. So, it is more than what an or­di­nary man can think. The only thing Pres­i­dent Buhari can do in his fight against cor­rup­tion is to make sure that he puts his eyes very close to what hap­pens in that par­tic­u­lar in­dus­try. To put any other per­son and move far away from what is go­ing on will not bring so­lu­tion as quickly as we want in terms of rid­ding that place of cor­rup­tion. But with Buhari check­ing and cross-check­ing what is go­ing on and hav­ing a min­is­ter of state who re­ports to him on what is hap­pen­ing, we will be able to put an end to the prob­lems of cor­rup­tion within the NNPC. I sup­port the pres­i­dent’s stand to be the min­is­ter of petroleum for Nige­ria at this point in time.

Why are you wor­ried about the road main­te­nance strat­egy in Nige­ria?

First of all, on the is­sue of road main­te­nance, I can say the ef­fort is not good enough. It is not en­cour­ag­ing. Fed­eral Road Main­te­nance Agency (FERMA) was brought up by an Act of Na­tional Assem­bly. From the time it was es­tab­lished to date, one can con­clude that the work of main­tain­ing our fed­eral roads is be­yond FERMA. So, we must have a re­think about the way for­ward. In my view, we must re­vert to our nor­mal way of main­tain­ing our roads. What do I mean by that? I mean that the Fed­eral Min­istry of Work should reestab­lish a depart­ment of road main­te­nance that will have a bud­get on yearly ba­sis to main­tain our roads. Al­ready, the Fed­eral Min­istry of Work has branches in all the states of the fed­er­a­tion. So, this depart­ment should have their sub­sidiaries in other states of the fed­er­a­tion by main­tain­ing the fed­eral roads in states. Bud­getary al­lo­ca­tions should be made on yearly ba­sis. The way we are mov­ing now, it ap­pears there won’t be an end to pot­holes on our roads in Nige­ria for­ever un­less we change this sys­tem. If we want to work to­ward zero pot­holes, then we must go back to that sys­tem we are used to and take it se­ri­ously by pro­vid­ing a bud­get for that pur­pose on yearly ba­sis. We also have to make sure that the right peo­ple are used to man these ar­eas so that our roads will con­tin­u­ously be main­tained when they re­quire main­te­nance. If not, it will be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for us to have good roads in this coun­try. This pro­posal I’m mak­ing should be repli­cated in all the states. One other as­pect is the re­turn of toll gate. Gov­ern­ment can­not pro­vide all the monies for all the ser­vices it has to pro­vide for its peo­ple. The only way per­haps the gov­ern­ment can do it is by in­ter­nally gen­er­ated rev­enue. The toll gate can pro­vide, to a rea­son­able per­cent­age, the amount of money that will be re­quired to main­tain our roads. We must re­vert to toll gate in Nige­ria. De­vel­oped coun­tries still col­lect tolls on their roads. It is that money that is be­ing used to main­tain those roads. We can­not say that we are so rich here in Nige­ria that ev­ery­body should use the roads and spoil them with­out con­tribut­ing to the main­te­nance of the roads. Ev­ery­thing is left for gov­ern­ment to han­dle. I don’t think the gov­ern­ment is be­ing fair to it­self. We must re­vert to toll gate. These toll gates must be au­to­mated since the pres­i­dent is fight­ing cor­rup­tion. Nige­ri­ans are back­ing the pres­i­dent on his war against cor­rup­tion. So, what­ever we are do­ing to­day, we must ap­ply tech­nol­ogy to do it so that we re­duce the in­ci­dence of cor­rup­tion in the sys­tem. If these toll gates are re-es­tab­lished, there should be a way to con­ces­sion them out to re­spon­si­ble com­pa­nies that will con­struct the gates. The com­pa­nies will also au­to­mate the gates and col­lect these rev­enues on be­half of gov­ern­ment and en­joy cer­tain ben­e­fits over a cer­tain pe­riod of time. By this way, we will be able to have zero pot­holes along our Trunk A or Fed­eral roads within the coun­try.

Do you think the Cen­tral Bank Nige­ria (CBN) has done well to pro­tect Nige­ria?

My con­cern here is on the is­sue of con­sumer pro­tec­tion re­gard­ing the ex­change rate of naira to other cur­ren­cies in the coun­try. This is an area that is very wor­ri­some. It is wor­ri­some in the sense that the pa­pers keep telling us that the CBN sells, for ex­am­ple, the dol­lar at N197 to a dol­lar to the Bureau de Change. The pa­pers also tell us that the Bureau de Change sells the dol­lars to Nige­ri­ans who want buy in ex­change to naira at N223. If you sit down and look at price dif­fer­en­tials, you find out that the gap be­tween the CBN and the Bureau de Change is very huge. There is a need for that to be looked into by the CBN in or­der to see how to get the right value for the ex­change rate of naira to a dol­lar and pro­tect Nige­ri­ans who must use the dol­lars, pound ster­ling or euro or any other for­eign cur­ren­cies. If the CBN looks closely into this, I be­lieve the ex­change rate might be a lit­tle bit fairer than it is to­day.

Why are you con­cerned about the es­tab­lish­ment of com­pa­nies in Africa by Dan­gote Group of Com­pa­nies?

On the ef­forts be­ing made by Dan­gote Group of Com­pa­nies as it opens up many ce­ment fac­to­ries in Africa. It is a very com­mend­able move by Dan­gote Group of Com­pa­nies. I join mil­lion of other Nige­ri­ans to com­mend Al­haji Aliko Dan­gote for hav­ing this fore­sight. How­ever, it is im­por­tant that Nige­ri­ans get to know the ef­forts of the com­pany in giv­ing a fair share of the work­force to Nige­ri­ans in such fac­to­ries in the African coun­tries where Dan­gote is es­tab­lish­ing its com­pa­nies. If you look at China or Chi­nese in­vestors com­ing to Nige­ria, which­ever projects they are fi­nanc­ing, you find a large num­ber of Chi­nese work­ers on dif­fer­ent lev­els of the es­tab­lish­ment; se­nior, mid­dle and lower cadre of work­ers. All of them are brought from China to Nige­ria in or­der to work. That is a good thing be­cause the Chi­nese are be­ing pro­vided em­ploy­ment whether their com­pa­nies in­vested in Africa or else­where. That is help­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment to re­duce un­em­ploy­ment in China. So, Dan­gote should equally do the same thing when they are ne­go­ti­at­ing with the gov­ern­ment of Tan­za­nia, Ethiopia, Zam­bia, Cameroon, Sene­gal, South Africa and a host of other coun­tries where they are in­vest­ing. They need to get a rea­son­able per­cent­age of Nige­ri­ans who will be posted to those coun­tries in or­der to work to­gether with the in­di­genes of those coun­tries. By so do­ing, Dan­gote Group of Com­pa­nies will fur­ther help the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment to re­duce the level of un­em­ploy­ment in the coun­try. They are try­ing their best within the coun­try. They should do the same thing out­side the coun­try, where they are also in­vest­ing like other na­tion­als are do­ing.

Bala Bawa Kaoje

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