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BusinessDay 08 Apr 2018

22 C002D5556 Sunday

22 C002D5556 Sunday 08 April 2018 Politics ‘Nigeria has capacity to inject $2bn for completion of Ajaokuta Steel’ Rt. Hon. Dennis Amadi (PDP-Enugu) was appointed chairman, Ad-hoc Committee assigned to investigate accrued interests from the sale of power assets involving some banks and operators. In this interview with KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Amadi, a certified engineer speaks on various issues ranging from Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, series of court injunctions cum interference with Legislative activities to the agenda before his Ad-hoc Committee which kick-starts this week. Excerpts: As a certified engineer and legislator, what was the underlying factor that prompted the House’s intervention in the resuscitation of Ajaokuta Steel Company? Well, if you remember at the inception of this 8th Assembly, we had to draw a legislative agenda to intervene on some critical sectors of the economy to move Nigeria forward and this Assembly as ably led by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, a man who has the passion to move Nigeria forward economically and to bring sanity to the system; in terms of corporate governance and every other thing you can think of. Having said that, part of the revival issue is to get the low hanging fruits and when you talk of that Ajaokuta specifically is at the nerve centre of the recovery of our economy both for the immediate and in the long run. Ajaokuta is the centre that will interface with various sectors of our economy to automobile to manufacturing which ever sector you can think of and because of the comparative advantage we have as a country, where the bulk of the raw material is within reach at Itakpe iron ore at Itakpe. It has been a colossal loss to the country that has the potential to be a major exporter of steel to still be dependent on importation of steel both quality and substandard we receive in our markets today. It is at the heart beat of everyone of us at the House of Representatives to ensure that we put on record, a turnaround of that sector and you know as being projected by the minister that Ajaokuta is 98 percent completed and we cannot just wish-away that mileage which has been achieved over the years. So in line with that, you keep hearing the issue of conception upon conception it has become a recurring decimal in the turnaround of that plant and from one company to the other and from one tying up a project to the other and what is the sector that is bearing the brunt? Nigerians are the ones losing. So because of that, the Speaker had embarked on oversight in February, and on the spot assessment was done. And he got information beyond what is being read on the papers and insight into what the issues are and the way forward. How will you describe the refusal of some ministers to appear before relevant Standing Committees to defend the 2018 Budget proposals? This is people’s parliament and a country being governed by Constitution and from what happened when the ministers were invited that the House then passed a vote of no confidence in the ministers and today’s plenary, some other issues have come on the table. The issue of relationship with companies at the centre of the concession, especially the consultants that are being highlighted to be in touch with the auditing and the processes involving that concession; where such is being alleged that such companies have been indicted in some other countries, for issue of integrity test, issue of corporate governance. Also, it was being mentioned that one of the companies being mentioned has a cross relationship in terms of being mentioned to have executed one of the two projects undertaken when the current Minister of Steel was in charge of his home state. So in view of the additional information that came up today, it became additional information to the committee that has been set up to investigate that matter. But the major point you have taken home today is the resolution that Ajaokuta is not that due for concession and what we should be talking about is to complete the project and now plan on the management of the project and partnership with well acknowledged managers of steel plants. How ready is the House and indeed the National Assembly to appropriate as much as $1.5 billion for the completion of the Steel company as alluded to by the experts invited to speak at the sectorial debate? Absolutely, we have the capacity to raise the fund. The revenue base of the government in terms of the internally generated revenue is improving daily and people are having more awareness in terms of tax issues, both as individuals and corporate entities; if not for anything, to grow Nigerian economy. It will take Nigeria 20 years to achieve the mileage that has been so far achieved in Ajaokuta more than 15 to 20 years ago as a matter of fact. It is a rare feat for any country in Africa to achieve that mileage. So in terms of raising $2 billion to revive that plant, it is something our government should be able to do. You have a lot of funds tied here and there that can be injected in Ajaokuta and get people employed-direct l and indirect labour in terms of market outreach and multiplier effect to boost the economy. If you remember that part of the issue we have today that has derailed the take off of Ajaokuta is the issue of we being compelled to use substandard steel. You see buildings collapse and we lose human beings and casualties at work site. This is as a result of the quality of steel being used Amadi in construction. You see Nigerians going to use iron or metal that corrosion has taken over, cans of drinks and different kinds of things that end up in melting companies that are scattered all over the country. That cannot even achieve 20 percent of quality steel for the Nigerian economy. But if Ajaokuta had been on board, we would have been a regional hub for Africa; we should even be able to supply steel beyond Africa. But what’s your take on the allegation that the Federal Government is being held down on the project by some external influence? I wouldn’t say there is an external force but if you look at why my colleagues are directing their energies on the Minister, it is on record that the quality of companies coming for this giant project to be conceded to them to manage that they do not have the capacity and technical knowledge, financial and managerial ability of any sort to manage the plant of that size. So it is not the issue of external influence, but it is an issue of scope. When we are also appointing people into sectors that are critical to our economy, we should also profile such persons to ensure they have the depth of knowledge and the passion to manage those ministries. It is the issue of passion; I refer specifically to the Ministry that is in charge of that process, if they have the requisite qualifications and insight of the projection of what this will do to our economy, I am sure they will have a change of mind in their thinking. How will you assess this administration’s policy on economic diversification? One thing is to have theoretical projection of that diversification and another thing is to have a political will to ensure that it is done effectively. When we talk of the diversification, we have achieved a little growth in the agric sector. But the way it is today, we have not been able to structure the interventions in agriculture to get to the root of the basic people. It does not filter down the line of peasant farmers, middle tier farmers, retail farmers that are within and all over Nigeria. They are not getting these benefits that are coming, in terms of intervention, grant and any social measure that government has to improve the lives of the citizens. What are the underlying factors fuelling the rancour between the Legislature and the Judiciary, as it relates to the recurring cases of court orders? We believe there are three arms of government: the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive. It is the duty of the Parliament to make laws and amend laws. So if there is an abuse of court processes, that tries to derail any arm of government from carrying out its statutory duties, that will be very inimical to our democracy. I don’t think that a Court will have right to tell a Parliament what they should do and what they should not do in terms of making laws for the interest of Nigerians. What’s your schedule for the assignment given by the House to probe allegations bordering on recovery of accrued interests from sales of power assets during the last administration? The Committee was mandated to carry out investigation on alleged suppression on remittance of interest accrued on the sale of Power Holding Company that has been privatised or sold on the floor of the House. I had moved a motion asking for investigation into the suppression of interest element attached to volumes of billions of naira. It actually affected some few banks playing within our country and as a Committee, we have just been appointed by the leadership and effective from next week, we will begin to put our acts together to take-off. The fulcrum of our mandate as a Committee is to investigate the alleged nonremittance of accrued interest due on the proceeds of sales of assets of Power Holding, the GENCOs and the DISCOs. There are specific banks where these proceeds were deposited by the buying public.

Sunday 08 April 2018 C002D5556 23 Politics ‘This govt has failed; Atiku is the best option for Nigeria now’ An emerging pressure group in the Niger Delta, Technocrats for Nigerian Progress (TNP), says the Buhari administration has failed and that Abubakar Atiku is the right person to come in to repair and re-unite Nigeria at this point in time. In an exclusive interview with IGNATIUS CHUKWU in Port Harcourt, the co-founder of the group, Josiah Gershon Dagogo, a onetime lecturer, administrator, communications consultant, now an activist says security of lives and property has become the most important issue on the burner, saying only Abubakar Atiku from the North is serious with restructuring agenda. Are the Technocrats forming a political party, pressure group, or they just want to be noticed? Certainly not to form any political party, but to offer help to anyone who wins, no matter who that person may be. The group is starting from the Niger Delta but is open to all Nigerians. Niger Delta is like any other part of Nigeria. We know that the story of the Niger Delta has been made to appear like that of agitation for resource control and restructuring, etc. but we are for issues that affect everybody in Nigeria. The burning issues at the moment are security and restructuring so that all parts of Nigeria could feel reassured to pursue national development. How do they assess the present administration since elections are coming close? Well, I put it straight; the first function of any government is to protect Nigerians, their lives and property. In this area, this group would tell you straight up that the present government has not done well at all. They campaigned to come and do better but they have not done well at all. Killings happened in Enugu, Benue, Kogi, Adamawa, etc. then you begin to ask, what is the FG doing with funds and intelligence? The government has failed. It has not lived up to its billing. They need a lot of help, but we do not know if they will accept; intelligent ideas, etc. We hear persons from some neighbouring countries are now in Nigeria, even having voters’ cards. Some were found last week in Port Harcourt. Many aspirants are indicating intentions to take over, are there some that you support? I do not want to play politics with issues of security. The present administration needs help in security and any administration coming will also need help. I want to be non-partisan and every selfrespecting Nigerian should look at it that way. We should admit that there is now an urgent need to save Nigeria in terms of security and national unity, trust and cohesion which can only come through restructuring. Atiku came here last two weeks to declare intention; has your group anything to say? Abubakar Atiku is the one that can unite Nigeria. Nigerian poli- Dagogo tics is now all about religion, ethnicity and age. Now, some people make it look like if you are old, you have committed a crime. The question is; is it every old man that has stale ideas, or is it every young man that has good ideas? These are the issues we must ponder on. The major issue is ability to rescue Nigeria. In the past, most of did not give him any chance but now he is sounding reasonable. He is talking about restructuring. He is a unifier, not a divider. He is a gift to Nigeria at this point in time. He will restructure Nigeria and there is nothing wrong about that. It is not about dismembering but rearranging Nigeria. Some of our friends feel uncomfortable about this the word restructuring. They should have nothing to fear. I used to be a lecturer at some point and I used to travel up to Zaria in Kaduna State. This shows how wide the country is. To sit in Abuja and to think about progress and development in Afikpo in Abia State or Bonny in Rivers State is a long shot. The present arrangement is unitary. To have a Principal in Abuja who thinks he can decorate all the nooks and crannies is not possible. There is too much poverty and suffering. Restructuring will change some of these things and put people wherever they are and pay taxes to develop where they are. The time to restructure Nigeria is now, and Atiku may just be the right driver. Others may be paying lip-service, despite his age. What major things outside resource control would you like to see in a restructured Nigeria? In think the Nigerian presidential system should be reworked because it is too expensive, it even prohibits many people of ideas from throwing their hats into the ring. We need no more than 145 deputies or Representatives; that is four per state. Only 36 of them will make up the Senate. The party with the majority forms the government. Our present system is obtuse and unwieldy. The grassroots need to wake up and fend for themselves while the FG will do four things: build Atiku himself has made one or two mistakes because some of them who benefited from the PDP left in anger, and that is not good critical infrastructure, handle diplomacy, taxation, law/order, and justice enforcement. All others should go to the states, county or city management committees. Is there any evidence that any man who mentions restructuring will be the new messiah? There is no evidence per se but there is a problem here; the way our political parties are arranged and the way the oppositions run their affairs, there is problem. I met Obed Mblaba in Durban in South Africa in 2010 and I did not understand their political system. The ANC is an old political party of over 100 years, arranging and re-arranging itself to be ever strong. They score those they elected into office on their platform right from their parties. If you do not meet a cutoff point, you do not get re-elected. That is what Nigeria needs to do quickly. We told Mblaba that the next time we would come, he would be doing a second term. He said no, that he had been scored poorly by his party on all the four areas; so, no second term for him. Imagine! South Africa knows who will be next to rule; after Nelson Mandela, they knew it would be Mbeki, Zuma, etc. Now, Cyril Ramaphosa is there. They have a system. Imagine when in Nigeria when President Umoru Musa Ya’Adua died, we all felt it would come straight to Goodluck Jonathan, but it became a serious matter. Was it astro-physics? I do not know what nature Nigeria is made of; simple things do not work here. Our parties need to reorganise to make for internal democracy, we must begin to assess political office holders to find them fit to continue. Until this begins to happen, it would remain a problem. Do we have the competence to score those in power? What competence do we need? Just to say, this is how much you have received, how did you spend it? When money is well spent, it does not hide. We may not have the will to direct our leaders aright but that’s the only way to go. It can be done, starting from the parties. Only those that can win elections from integrity should step into the public space to seek power. That is where to start. How does Atiku stand in the PDP to win the presidential primaries? I would not know exactly because Atiku himself has made one or two mistakes because some of them who benefited from the PDP left in anger, and that is not good. But now that he has come back, he looks like the best man for the job. He comes from the North East and has a good organisation. He has a chance especially by how the present administration has performed. It is not going to be a piece of cake; he has to work hard for the votes. Don’t you think; here we go again, choosing people blindly, only to regret? How else do we choose? Atiku has been around, from public service to governor to vice president for eight years. So long as we are prepared to vote him in, he will get there. Except to say, how do we manage him when he gets there? How do we ensure that other than flying the restructuring kite, he can keep to his promise so that this country will actually be managed for all people? That is the assignments for us all including the media. Through media reports, a government can sink, just as the present government will not have a chance to come back due to media reports. The people have had enough. I don’t remember in my life such an era of unwarranted attacks, suffering, etc in this country. I do not know how for example, Sam Ortom of Benue State will persuade his people to vote for them a second time. Is Rivers State sure for Atiku, since he came here first? He made the choice of Rivers State perhaps because of the charismatic nature of the governor here, Nyesom Wike, and his development projects. Wike has been on the side of justice so far. There are 36 states but we got lucky he chose us. Even the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, came here and gave kudos to Governor Wike. I think we owe so much to Wike for the recognition Rivers State has got now. Is there any other matter you want to add? Rivers people have to defend their votes. People should not just sit in hotel rooms to write election results. It cannot be tolerated. It happens only when good men do nothing, then bad men ride into power. People should not just sit at home but get out there and defend their rights, if they had any at all.

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