‘The Parliament is Doing the Needful to Help Curb Insecurity’
Udora Orizu holds a discussion with the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Defence, Hon. Babajimi Benson on salient issues, including the ongoing secessionist agitations and worsening insecurity
Alot has been said on the issue of insecurity, but the country’s security situation is getting worse, what exactly is your committee doing to proffer lasting solutions?
We are doing a lot, recently we met with the parents of the students abducted in Kaduna. We’ve had behind the scene meetings as well, a lot is going on. Security issues are best discussed behind closed doors. We also know that the insurgents, bandits or kidnappers listen to TV attentively as well, they tend to pick up information from what we say, they also watch debates of parliament. You can be rest assured that under my leadership we are doing the needful, we are working well with the security agencies and the service Chiefs, they are very cooperative and passionate as well. We are doing our possible best.
Recently, one of your colleagues said party affiliations sometimes prevents lawmakers from criticizing the government in power. An instance was seen when Senator Remi Tinubu verbally attacked his APC colleague, Smart Adeyemi for saying the current security challenges is threatening Nigeria’s existence. What do you have to say about this?
I don’t think so, I have seen a lot of cases where we criticize the government of the day. I always say, the people outside of government are greater in number than the people in government. We criticize, because we serve the interest of the citizens, I do not feel that if the government is not doing right that we should keep quiet. A number of times, the House of Representatives that I know spoke up in support of the Nigerian people.
What are your thoughts on the calls for secession?
I’m not in support of it because I have seen the carnage that war does, I have gory pictures, I wasn’t born during the time of the civil war, but i have seen gory pictures of what happened in Rwanda when the Hutus and Tutsis were at each other’s throat. I have listened to generals who described what happened in Sierra Leone and Liberia, so I don’t wish that for any Nigerian. What I wish for Nigeria is that we can all sit down and speak the truth to one another. There’s a new generation coming up, we don’t see tribes, I have got fantastic friends from Fulani, Igbo, Ijaw and so on. So we don’t look at people from their ethnicity, our diversity should be our strength. I’m sure a lot of countries look down on us and say these people they don’t know the power they have, they are very diverse people, they have Igbo people who are traders, who are inventors, who can manufacture, they have people from the north who are expert agric farmers, who can do animal husbandry, they have people from South-west who are super administrators. We have so much potentials that we are busy looking at mundane things instead of using our strengths to our advantage. Singapore has the kind of issue we have, they are heterogeneous people, different parts. Muslims, Christians, Malay and they all come together. Singapore has moved from 3rd world country to first world.
What do you think about the calls for impeachment of President Buhari, do you think he deserves to be impeached?
We live in very challenging times, Every part of the world is facing one issue or the other, if it’s not COVID-19, it’s war and so on. I think the leadership must also buckle up, to whom much is given, much
is expected. We can do a lot better. Election is around the corner, so rather than make Nigerians worry about impeachment and the uproar it will cause, I think we should just focus on how to finish strong. There are railway lines that are ongoing, there’s second Niger bridge, Lagos Ibadan expressway and so on that are ongoing. I think that we should ensure that we focus more on those infrastructures development and make sure they are completed. I will also like to beam my searchlight on states and local governments. Local governments are the ones closest to the people also need to be empowered one way or the other. In other times, local governments build fire stations, universities, hospitals, I have not seen that happen in our time, and these guys are the closest to the grassroots. If a local government is functioning in sambisa etc, those youths who come out of school and they don’t have a job, if the local government is functioning well, I think the carnage we are experiencing will reduce. At times we blame everything on the Executive, what has the last mile achieved? how have they performed? let’s scrutinize that as well. I’m not holding brief for the executive, they can also do a lot better, but let’s scrutinize down below as well.
What are the chances of the All Progressive Congress (APC) winning Anambra election in November?
Anambra has been an APGA state, anyways it could go either way, it could go to APGA, APC or PDP. But we are still the party in majority, I pray that Anambra people choose best person to lead the state. Let them go there, let internal democracy thrive, let the people elect the person of their choice. Any party that wins so be it.
Can you briefly talk about your Bill on National Census which was recently passed for second reading?
Yes, the Bill is seeking to alter the provisions of the 1999 Constitution to specify a time frame for the conduct of the National Population Census. It’s quite unfortunate that Nigeria does not have a good history of census, especially since after independence. You will recall that the last population census conducted was in 2006, and the exercise was enmeshed in a lot of controversies, which was not good for a country that aims at developing.
So this Bill when passed, would set a time frame and help the country to conduct population censuses for the purpose of effective planning and development of the country. Another advantage includes adequate budgeting for the exercise and provision of personnel since the time frame is fixed.