Thursday, 3 May 2018

I will sponsor bills for additional states in Southeast—Nzeribe

Image result for picture of Chuma Nzeribe
Chief Chuma Nzeribe, a two-time member of House of Representatives representing Ihiala Federal Constituency, recently declared for Senate, Anambra South Senatorial district. In this interview with selected journalist including Chima Collins, he said he would sponsor bills for creation of additional states in Southeast amongst other things.

For the very first time in the country's history all the security headship are in the hands of the North; and the South East is completely emasculated. What do you have to say on this?

The situation is worrisome as it is against provision of the nation's Constitution. That's why we continue to appeal to Mr President Muhammadu Buhari to use his good offices to appoint at least one Igbo man as a service chief in one of the core services of the nation's military establishments. We make this appeal for the President to see that we are being cheated and therefore consider positively our appeal.

The IPOB, MASSOB and other pro-Biafra groups and the Biafra question. What is your view on this?

The whole agitations in Igboland take its roots from the issue of marginalization. What you see here is a deliberate attempt to deny access to the South East of benefits of governance, of development and of representation in some sensitive and strategic fora and positions of national discuss. Whereas the end for geobalance is structurally and copiously embedded in the nation's constitution. While some zones have seven states, like the North West. Others have six. Only the South East has five. The deficiency of two states is a huge revenue loss . Just check how much that accrues to each state every month. Check the amount of component local governments. My estimation is that we are being denied of about eighty local governments councils that should accrue from two states that ought to be created from the South East.
So look at the revenue stream to the states and to local governments councils and the monthly Federation Allocation Accounts committee and you will then see the quantum of losses being suffered by the South East. Then you go to the issues of national politics. While zones with seven states have times three senators making up twenty- one senators, like the North West; the South East has only fifteen. Also, the Constitution says that each state will have a Minister. Therefore in the South East we have five Ministers, while the North West have seven Ministers. Likewise we have forty-three members of House of Representatives, the North West has ninety-three. The disparity is just too large and unhealthy. That's why I said that it is structurally embedded. We must look for a legislative solution to the issue. Since the national Constituent Assembly (Confab) has recommended for the creation of at least one more state in the South East, the leadership of the South East caucus should sponsor a bill to the floor of the National Assembly seeking for the creation of additional state in the zone. 
You must not continue to wait for the executive to do that for you must not continue to wait for constitutional amendment periods to do that. You must have to sponsor a legislation, let's move it up and see how far we can go to realize the real friends and the real enemies of the people. 
That way you start addressing the Igbo question. The Igbo question is not the issue of Igbo presidency, no. Igbo question is lack of representation, inferiority of states, inferiority of local governments, denials of revenues accruing to the South East. That is what I call the marginalization of the South East. It should therefore be addressed in the larger context of the Igbo question.

Sir, beside your rich political and administrative experience from serving in government and two-time strategic membership of the House of Representatives, what other reasons motivate your aspiration for the Senate?

There should be two platforms if you nurse a Senate ambition. Those platforms must be as it interests the Nigeria State, while the second platform would be as it interests your own people(Constituency). At the national level, there is urgent need for people with experience in the legislative chambers to be able to guide the process of transition; the nascent essence of democracy. Without the legislature there is no democracy. Because it is usually the first casualty any time there was change of government.
So we need experienced hands that would look for constructive engagement with the executive arm of government, rather than confrontational ones. We need people with the requisite experience to address the Igbo question. What are the specific interest of the Igbo man? The average Igbo man does not really care who is the president. He cares about that person who will create an enabling environment for him to carry on with his trade, his politics and his social activities. This is because we are upwardly mobile nation. Besides that, there is the problem of lack of development in the South East geopolitical zone. So we need legislators who will engage deeply with the leadership of the National Assembly and the leadership of the executive; to be able to do key life-enhancing projects in the zone.
By such key projects, we talk about power stations, major railway trunks, major highways, and above all, the river transportation. Take where I come from, Ihiala-the Ose-Akwa in Ihiala, Ose-Moto in Odekpe in Ogbaru are the deepest natural harbors in the whole of Nigeria and it lies only 28 nautical miles to the Atlantic Ocean. Yet it is not dredged. So you need to have a vision to open up the Urashi basin and link it up to the Atlantic Ocean; and open a new vista of trades and development in the area.
You are looking at perhaps 8000 square kilometers of sparsely populated lands, clean wetlands; with fresh water reservoirs that can make way for all-year-round commercial agriculture. But you need to dredge our river. You need irrigation too. If you watch, River Niger is the only major river that didn't flow directly into the Atlantic Ocean, that's why you talk about the bifurcation of the Niger. You need to have a major opening unto the Atlantic Ocean so that increase sea-borne activities, sea-borne maritime activities. There is a lot of money to make in sea transportation, even more than crude oil, which the area also harbors in huge commercial quantity. There are other maritime activities that are all these while being neglected, yet this presents the most fertile lands in the who of Nigeria. Made fertile by over two thousand years of alluvial deposits.
Just look at the stretch from the Futa Jallon highlands upto Urashi, going deep down to the Atlantic Ocean. These are very rich agricultural lands. But it needs to be opened up. You go to Orumba, another part of the Anambra South senatorial zone, you will see natural wetlands ideal for commercial rice production. Yet what you have all this while is household subsistent rice farming activities in the Orumba plains.
So you need a legislator who will highlight the need for national food security, the need for Nigeria to develop the Urashi Basin and the Orumba Basin as centres of excellence in agricultural development in Nigeria.

Is not surprising that neither the local/state government nor any of the several persons who had been representing these areas had drawn any attention to these gaping realities?

Well, it depends on the strategic vision. It depends on those who seek to represent us. Because if you are committed to service, if you have the need and drive to serve your people, you will look for those areas where your people have comparative advantage. And be able to present it in the important fora; both to the executive as well as to the leadership of the National Assembly for them to see the need to invest in these sectors. It is really nobody's fault if your legislator do not project and highlight those areas of your need. And beyond that, you must have a vision on how to solve these problems. That includes -how do I attract the federal government's attention and the need to invest huge money to build up our rice fields, irrigation projects and the dredging of the Niger. Go to the Congo and see how huge the water volume running there and see the number of people that make their living along the Congo River. But here, on the contrary our Niger is drying up and nothing is being done about it. It is so sad. Come down to Onitsha and look at the land patches and little islands scattered all over the middle of the Niger, to the extent it now seriously endangers the existence of the Niger bridge. Because when you have these islands they direct the water flow towards the bank's where you have steel stations that previously held the bridge in position now flowing due to underwater erosion.

The Anambra state governor, Willie Obiano has just commenced his second and final term in office. What advice do you have for him?

Gov Obiano has done well, especially in the area of security. With that he has restored the confidence of investors in the peace, security and liberty of lives and property as well as their investments in the state.

I support him one hundred percent. He should also consolidate and improve on his initial achievements. That is reason all citizens hope he will leave an indelible mark behind and voted massively to reelect him on Nov 18,2017 governorship election in the state. But he should endeavour to complete all projects he inherited from the previous administrations especially the ones started by the Mr Peter Obi's administration.

I urge all well-meaning citizens of the state to cooperate with him, and support his transformation strides to enable him deliver all his campaign promises to the people.

Dredging of this Niger had remained topical for years, from virtual every federal administration to another. Ironically nothing serious appear to be coming so as to open up the river to navigational, trades, transportation and other maritime activities.

I will certainly make it a priority area when I get elected into the next Senate.

In other climes, active representatives were often encouraged to make a career out of the Senate or House of Representative. Because it encourages being ranked, consistency, focus and enhanced achievements. How and when would we begin to see it like that?
I had been in the government of Anambra state, and also a two-time member of the House of Representatives. So I see myself as richly experienced enough to go to the Senate. More so, if you look at the politics of the South East zone, it's not actually being dominated by career politicians as such. But you see a lot of people with vast experience in the industry and Commerce coming to make huge impact in the nomination of their friends and cronies as candidates. That seem to impact negatively on quality of those who aspire to the National Assembly because these rich big men stay four years, not minding about the party will appear at nomination times with bags of money to insist that their wives, friends, cousins and other relatives be nominated for party elective offices. This is unlike in the North where you see career civil servants being encouraged to move up to represent their people. And you hardly see businessmen aspiring for any of these offices. Look at the likes of the Dangotes. You don't ever hear of Dangote fielding his brother, wife, cousin or in-law as member of any of the legislative houses or even governor. Not even to campaign for any of the positions himself. But it's virtually the norm in the South East. But I believe that with time some of these things will be overcome.

Nigeria under the APC for three years; can you say it's been so far so good, when compared with the days of PDP's first three years?

Given the circumstances, I believe Mr President has given his best to the office. But in our peculiar circumstances, his best is not good enough because the core issues of governance like the economy and the security need careful attention. From the circumstances of the rising insurgency, militancy agitations and the likes of Boko haram/herdsmen menace Nigerians are not happy have not been given adequate attention. Bill Gates of Microsoft the other day told us we need more investment in human capital. You need to develop your educational sector, as much as the infrastructure. So it is for the government to really sit down and look at our frameworks for drawing up the budget to see whether they are addressing the needs of the nation. And in this area am going to make very visible contribution in the Senate.

Fight against corruption was the bedrock on which the APC rode to power in 2015. Are happy so with the achievement of that fight?

Again, the issue of corruption, sadly we do not use these words properly. You realize we talk of anti-corruption when we are actually talking about corruption. The fight against corruption in itself is corruption personified, corruption is like a cancer. It has eaten real deep into the fabric of this nation. It tends to diminish the quality of life, as well as all the improvements we had made in our national economy over the years. It sucks away a lot of economic energy from the system by transferring substantial public resources to private hands; by transferring these stolen resources to oversea banks thereby increasing economic activities in these various nation and diminishing the influence of our own money in our system. You cannot build capital, you cannot talk of going to bank for loan if the rate of savings in your economy, if the rate of investments in your own economy is very low. 
Because these stolen monies have to be hidden beyond the law. So the government has experienced a lot of challenges in this regard which I believe the next administration would have to put in sharper focus. Let us deal with corruption and poverty and see the nexus between the two instead of always shouting 'anti-corruption', 'anti-corruption'. Because the word anti-corruption in this regard is a misnomer, hence the need to make a clear distinction between that.
Such distinctions also in the area of security. You must make distinction, you must decompose between the issue of crime and criminality for you to be able to fight crime. You must know the nature of crime and look at the various aspects of criminality. There are some criminals that are susceptible to correction. There are the hardened criminals that you may need major state action to be able to put away from the society. Except you understand all these you might not be able to provide effective security. And you know that security is the main function of governance-to provide security of lives and property. 
The issue really has to do with attention the present government is giving to these issues are not adequate. It's probably not that they are unable to fight corruption, no. But that we need greater attention. Somebody has to constantly supervise and strengthen the institutions that are empaneled by the government to fight corruption.

Some days ago the PDP dared the government to name the alleged looters of the national treasury, after the party humbly apologized to Nigerians for its missteps when it was in power. Consequently few names of PDP leadership and even non members were released. This has ignited another round of discuss.

The list drawn up by the APC-led Federal Government and read out by the Minister of Information is misguided. None of those on that list has been convicted for corruption. And if government in its official capacity continues to label mere suspects or people who were called in for one interrogation or the other as being corrupt will even jeopardize the judicial process. Government is making unnecessary intervention in matters that are clearly in court already. You can see the case of Olisah Metuh who requires urgent medical attention but may be because of fear of what the government will say or do tomorrow, the courts are unwilling to give him bail to enable him travel out to take care of his health. But we all know that if the man, God forbid, dies the case will not continue. That will be the end of the case.
Nobody can vicariously take liability for Metuh if he dies in this matter. So government putting his name is repulsive because he's already undergoing  a judicial process. The honourable Minister is wrong. The courts ought to call the attention of such high government officials to these issues. You don't just interfere in the judicial process, especially when these are life cases.

Boko haram and herdsmen menace appear recurring and intractable. True?

No. I do not believe so. We have had challenges of insurgency before and it was curtailed. We have had occasions where herdsmen quarreled with villagers, and such were curtailed. But then, these things are on the rise because nobody is paying due attention to such. My advice is that the Federal government should appoint a responsible and responsive Deputy National Security Adviser to deal with these internal crises rather than leaving it to the multi-agency platforms currently being used to tackle them. A situation where today we claim to have defeated Boko haram and the next day we are asking for a billion dollar($1bn) to fight the same Boko haram; and next tomorrow they go and kidnap our girls or sack a whole council area and consequently ask for huge state ransom is not good for the nation.
I advice that Mr President should appoint one or two deputy National Security Advisers and task them with the responsibility of dealing with the issues of these internal disagreements like the herdsmen crises, like the issue of cases of confidence in the North East Nigeria, otherwise called the Boko haram. A lot of people have stayed for too long in the internally displaced persons camps and are very uncomfortable. The nation should be able to by now resolve these issues and return them to their homes in dignity and full state security cover.
It is not enough to criticize government, we must come up with solutions. I intend to be part of the search for solutions for optimal security attention to some of these issues when I get to the Senate.

Again, few days ago, one of the nation's most decorated retired former Chief of Army Staff who was also a former Minister of Defence, Gen T.Y Danjuma came up with a widely publicized media interview considered as very explosive. There he urged Nigerians to adopt self-defense if they must survive the present day security challenges, else we would be wiped out. Why now? Where has he been all these while until it got to his doorstep?

Gen Danjuma is one of the most highly regarded ex-military officers in Nigeria and has held so many public offices. So when he make such interventions in the body polity, they should be taken for what it is instead of government officials running all over the media to castigate him. They should be able to further analyze what he meant and find solutions to such.
He has drawn attention to problem in that part of the country and it should be looked into. We know there had been many internal strife and clashes between the Jukuns and Takums, etc as well other places in Taraba state, including the most volatile -between communities and the herdsmen over grazing areas. Even the issue of the new occupants of the Mambilla. These are live issues that need to be urgently looked into instead of resorting to name-calling.
Gen Danjuma gave it all for this country. He should be respected. I don't expect government ministers or even serving military officers coming out to openly castigate him. That is wrong. Government should study those issues and formulate ways to ameliorate them.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP)order for all to disarm, including legally established State Vigilante groups.

My attitude to the order is that the IGP was right. You cannot allow the proliferation of illegal weapons in any country. Such does not give room for proper internal security of the citizens. Vigilantes should be properly licensed and trained. Their arms should be properly recorded. Just as we used to be in Anambra state, the Anambra Vigilante services law strictly provided for proper accounting and care of these details. And there had never been any problem with the police in issues of licensing and bearing of arms by the vigilantes. They compliment the actions of the police. So it remains for the respective commissioners of Police to look at their local situations. I support fully the call for people to surrender illegal weapons. The word is "illegal arms''.
The illegal arms are offensive weapons and should not be allowed in the hands of people, who sometimes are untrained. They should surrender such at once.



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