Judex Okoro, Calabar
Legor Idagbo, Deputy Legislative Budget Committee Chairman in the House of Representatives has said that with the All Progressives Congress (APC) three years in office so far without the promised change, Nigeria will fare better with PDP in power, come next year.
On the Legislature-Executive feud, Idagbo, who represents Obanliku/Obudu/Bekwarra federal constituency, said they are not in any way antagonising the presidency as most Nigerians allege, but that the system provides for checks and balances which cannot allow the executive to work as if they are on their own.
How will you rate the National Assembly, particularly the lower House, considering the fact that Nigerians have been critical of it in terms of its performance?
I think this assembly, I stand to be corrected, is arguably the most vibrant assembly. If you look at the number of bills and motions sponsored in the 8th Assembly, you can see that it outnumbered that of the 6th and 7th Assemblies. Do remember that the consciousness of Nigerians is very high. Considering the fact that a sitting president was voted out of power in 2015, then you should know that Nigerians are yearning for good governance. Besides, there is so much pressure and lawmakers cannot just afford to fail their people. So, it’s no longer business as usual. Our people are putting us on our toes and so as representatives you are bound to sponsor bills and motions that would impact on the lives of the people.
But most Nigerians see the lawmakers as always antagonistic of the presidency. Why is it so?
I don’t think so. You know our work is tedious; our resolutions are far reaching. So, we cut across all genres of government when making laws or carrying out oversight functions. And in doing that you must expect bickering in some areas. Besides, there is a system of checks and balances. Therefore, you cannot allow the executive to work as if they are on their own; you must check them, you must make sure they are doing the right thing. Our duty is to call them to order; find out what the people want and tell them these are the yearnings of the people. For instance, the presidency came up with the zero based budget policy in 2016 even though that was not achieved. But we kicked because zero based budgets have to be a bottom up approach to budgeting. In other words, it entails going back to the people and asking them what they want. So, we have this symbiotic relationship with the executive. Let them see us not as enemies but as people that came from somewhere with the yearnings of the people.
2019 is around the corner, do you think your party, PDP, has the capacity to retain power in Cross River State and possibly take over the centre too?
In Cross River I think the party has not done too badly. Yes, we may not have been perfect but you can see a leadership that truly has the interest of the people at heart. You can see a leadership that is struggling within the limits of its resources to be able to provide good governance for the people. The projects are in the pipeline and will be delivered to the people in 2018. I’m impressed by the endorsements for the governor and the party because if you are endorsing the governor, you are also saying the party has done well. At the right time, the people will take the right decisions.
For PDP at the national level, I will let Nigerians be the judge. However, if we compare where we were when the PDP was in government in terms of our well being, resources available to us, economy of the country as a whole, most Nigerians will agree with me that we were better off as a nation during the governance of PDP that we are today. Some people may say that it is the damage the PDP caused that is affecting the country today. I do not know where in the world where people go back and blame past administrations because when you are on board, you draw a line and take things up from there. You should be able to say that in my two-and-half years in office, this is what I have achieved that is better than what the other person achieved. If you cannot say that, then you cannot, genuinely in good conscience, come back and ask the people to vote for you for a second term. That’s clearly my thoughts and I feel that Nigerians are wise enough to know that they will fare better with PDP in 2019.
What efforts has the state caucus in the lower House put in to tackle the poor state of federal roads?
We have moved motions that concern Cross River State as a whole. My first motion on the floor was the complete rehabilitation of Calabar – Ugep – Katsina Ala highway, a federal road. But the budgeting of N200m for rehabilitation of Calabar – Ugep – Katsina Ala highway is laughable. It shows that the federal government has no interest on delivering on the project. But today, I am happy that we have been able to capture about N4bn in the budget for federal roads rehabilitation. For now, Ikom –Ugep is completely rehabilitated; from Mbok Junction-Katsina Ala is being rehabilitated remaining Ugep to Calabar. We are also working for the release of funds for the dualisation of Calabar-Itu-Ikot Ekpene road.
In the 2016 budget, we had the provision of N6bn for the dualisation of the Calabar – Itu – Ikot Ekpene road and the contract has been awarded to Julius Berger. Even though Julius Berger has not reported to site, we are trying to see how in the 2018 budget we can capture a more substantial portion so that by the time we get to 2019, we should be able to start substantial work on that road. So, we are saying while you dualise Calabar-Ikot Ekpene, also dualise it to Aba which is the commercial hub to make the road more economically viable. In any case, if the Calabar to Katsina Ala road and Aba to Ikot Ekpene federal highway are all in good shape it will solve most of the economic problems we have in the state.
You’re barely three years as a federal legislator, how has the experience been?
It has been quite a learning curve with challenges. Why I say it is a learning experience is that in the national assembly when you get there, you have to study the ropes. you have to know what your primary assignment as a legislator is, and try to live up to it. You are supposed to successfully fight on the floor of the house on behalf of your constituents and for your state. Amidst all these, we try to see how welfare of Nigerians can be better through sponsorship of bills and motions. For me, I have sponsored 12 bills including persons with disability bill, boundary commission act adjustment bill, sexual offenders’ bill, prisons reforms bills and creation of offenders against minors’ bill.