Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
A member of the House of Representatives, Brown Randolph, has said that the All Progressives Congress (APC) does not stand a chance in the 2019 general election in Rivers State.
Randolph, who represents Bonny-Degema Federal Constituency of Rivers State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), told Daily Sun that his position is based on the fact that the ruling party has nothing to campaign with, in the state.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari accused the National Assembly of delaying implementation of projects in the country by not passing the annual budget on time. How would you react to that?
The truth is that the National Assembly is not a rubber stamp. It is a different institution, which has its way of doing its work. Nobody dictates to it how it does its job. It works according to the order and rules of the parliament.
What are the constitutional requirements for submitting a budget? The executive is supposed to submit the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) to the House six months to the end of the financial year. It is when the MTEF has been passed that they can submit the budget. They are blaming the legislators; the MTEF was approved by the Federal Executive Council in the meeting shortly before the budget presentation in December. So, who is to be blamed?
If nothing was done about the MTEF, until a month or so to budget presentation, when do you expect the House or the legislature to pass the MTEF? The role of the executive is to send the budget proposals. The power of appropriation belongs to the National Assembly. Those who prepare the budget, who are they representing? They represent nobody. They are appointees of the president. So, there is no issue of the National Assembly bringing extraneous things into the budget. We look at their proposal, the one that is good, we allow, the one that is not good, we discard.
How would you assess INEC’s preparation for the 2019 general election?
We are scared stiff, whether they have the capacity; whether they are building on the gains of the past. This is a situation where they seem to be teleguided in their actions. We have presented three bills on electoral amendment, which were rejected by the president. What were his reasons? We are afraid that the election of 2019 may not be free, fair, credible and acceptable, the way things are going.
Look at what happened in Ekiti State. Look at what happened in Osun. When we thought that we have learnt from what happened in Ekiti, suddenly, election (Osun governorship) was stalled. And harassment, intimidation, votes buying became the order of the day. I fear that that is what the ruling party will take to the general election.
We pray that the 2019 elections do not fail. Our party, the PDP has been shouting to the international communities. Somebody was removed from the INEC operations department and there are agitations that the person should be brought back. What does that tell you? Somebody wants to be funny somewhere. Some people want to do dirty job, in order to hang on to power.
Rivers State is one of the states to watch in the 2019 polls. In your view, does your party, the PDP, stand any chance in the state?
The PDP will definitely win Rivers because the opposition in the state does not have one single structure in Rivers State. What will they campaign with? When we were following politics in 1979, during the NPN days, the states that the NPN did not win, that the UPN won, they set up government liaison officers or presidential liaison officers. Through those agents they were attracting projects to the states. But what has the APC-led Federal Government done in Rivers State? What are they going to campaign with?
Governor Wike has things to campaign with. He has done roads. He renovated schools. He has built hospitals. So, let APC Federal Government mention one thing that they have done in Rivers State. They said they want to do Ogoni clean up, where is it? Nothing to show! Let them say one thing they will campaign with in Rivers State.
On the 12th of October last 2017, the minister of Works, went and flagged off the Bonny-Bodo Road. The earlier contract was cancelled and re-awarded in 2014 by the Jonathan administration to Julius Berger at a cost of N120billion. Unfortunately, Jonathan did not come back in 2015. The present administration now signed a contract with Julius Berger in October 2017, and NLNG is bearing 50 per cent of the cost.
A lot of things are involved. Number one, the period the contract was signed, was the same period the minister signed a contract with the Dangote group for the Apapa-Oworoshonki end of the Lagos Ibadan Expressway, with a tax recompense of 10 years.
I had to take it up with the Federal Government that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; that they should handover the whole project to the NLNG, since there is a funding problem. Let them give NLNG the whole project to fund, with tax recompense. It is over a year, they have not done anything.
Why do think the Federal Government is out to punish the people of Rivers State? Anything that concerns the people of Niger Delta is not a priority to the Federal Government. We are the goose that lays the golden egg, but are left to suffer. We have been raped. We are just like an old woman that they have sucked the breast and after the breast is flat they abandoned her. Until there is fiscal federalism, until the issue of resource control is allowed, until the issue of restructuring is addressed, we won’t get justice.
Lagos contract was awarded to Dangote. Bonny-Bodo Road contract was awarded to Julius Berger. How much of the government funding have they released? NLGN has released the whole of their money. All the loans that the Federal Government has taken, how much of it has been taken to fund projects in the Niger Delta? They made so much noise about Ogoni cleaning, where are we in Ogoni cleaning? But it is a time bomb.