Gyang Bere, Jos
Former Member of the House of Representatives, Bitrus Kaze has advised politicians from the South East to make friendship across Nigeria to actualise their dream of producing the President of Nigeria in 2023. Kaze said the South West produced President Olusegun Obasanjo while the South South was represented by former President Goodluck Jonathan. In this interview, he also noted that the North produced late President Umaru Yar’Adua and now President Muhammadu Buhari, both from the North West, arguing that it is imperative to consider the strategic importance of the South East for the Presidency in 2023 in the interest of fairness, Justice and equity in the country.
Do you think the budget of 2020 will cushion the effects of hardship among Nigerians?
Talking from experience, having served in the National Assembly, every lawmaker knows the wheel of lawmaking rotates gradually if you are at all going to consider a good law and the financial bill; what we call the budget is a yearly bill. It is an important bill because it doesn’t live for two years, subject to the provision of the Constitution which is that, if you don’t pass the next one in good time, you can use the figures of the previous one until such given time. I am not sure what the budget really contains especially coming from the fact that the Senate President has said whatsoever Buhari brings, they will pass. Maybe, this is one of the things that they brought and they pass but the impression that has gone out is that this budget is not in the best interest of the people except the government. But the government serves the people and not vise versa and we will see how they will implement it.
There is a controversy over the figure that is contained in the 2020 budget for the renovation of the National Assembly, don’t you think N37 billion is too much for that Job?
I don’t really have issues with the figure, not so much the impression that the figure given out is a shouting figure; there is no question about that and when you have that shouting figure for a complex like the National Assembly, I assume that it is not the Senate wings and the House of Representatives wings which are what we call phase three in the National Assembly. The first phase is what we call the white House; if they want to renovate the white House, I may understand but definitely not the new wings. That being the case, the questionable N37 billion figure is a shouting figure but why I said I don’t have a problem with the figure is that there is a due procedure irrespective of the amount; if there is a competitive bidding by contractors and they bid and it is done transparently, Nigeria will be able to see that there will be a competent contractor that can deliver for less than N9 billion if there is objectivity. But in a country where many people are becoming unemployed, where against the promises of government, power supply is receding, roads are getting worse, corruption is not being fought, when the people are suffering more, I tell you, if it is N3. 7 billion, the people will cry out. Before 2015, everybody assumes that Buhari will turn Nigeria to a construction site and the construction of infrastructural development naturally generates employment. Where you are investing in an area that will touch the people directly, even if it were N3.7 billion, they will complain. But if due process has been followed, you will see a competent contractor quoting less than 10 percent of the figure but we cannot deny the fact that there is a huge cry against that.
President Buhari has signed into law the financial bill which increases vat charges to 7.5 percent, do you think that will improve the economy coupled with the previous hue and cry from the masses?
This is a government that came on the basis of promises, to make the Naira equal to a dollar; this is a government that promised to give 2 million Nigerians employment in one year; it promised to give allowances to the elderly, but things have grown from bad to worse, from N197 in June 2015 per dollar to now N360 per dollar. CBN has injected a lot into the foreign market and yet we are not seeing improvement in the value of the Naira. Despite that, the President now proceeded to sign a financial law that increases vat; you do that only when the economy is bubbling, only when more people are finding employment, when it will not bite, when people wouldn’t remember that there is any vat at all, because more is going round and more food is there on the table. This is a government that has described the labour force of our country as lazy youths and upon describing them as such, there is no employment, and what is in the hands of the people, is being taken off. This is a government that spoke about single treasury account, claimed they have recovered billions from looters, from criminals, from saboteurs but where is the money? What are they doing with the money? When you are taking about financial law, this is a government that expended over one billion dollars on security; this is the same government that is looking forward to borrow externally and the question is, where is the money going to? We are not seeing the project, life is not getting better, the standard of living is worsening. You will begin to ask, is this a government that has the masses in mind at all. They said that they have increased the minimum wage to N30,000 and I just mentioned to you the value of Naira to dollar. It is just like they have made it N18,000 because N18,000 in 2015 is worth N60,000 right now. The value has fallen three times, so if you are telling me N30,000, they actually made it in value less than N30,000. What surprises me is that virtually all the bills that free the democratic space, Mr President is not interested in them. Nigerians are lucky that the freedom of information bill was passed previously, otherwise, this President wouldn’t have signed it. The electoral Act was presented and represented to the President four times and he refused to sign but the financial bill, immediately it came, he signed. The President and the government of APC is showing that it cares less about the feelings of Nigerians and that it just simply cares about what it feels, that is all.
The governors of South West came up with a regional security outfit called Amotekun and the Attoney General and Ministry of Justice has declared it illegal, was he right?
I do not understand what informed the Attorney General’s position but the Constitution of Nigeria described two people as holders of Chief security officers of their jurisdiction -Mr. President and governors of states; that is not subject to the wishes of the office of the Attorney General. Secondly, before the South West conceived Amotekun, Hisba has existed in the North since the days of Sharia crisis in 2003. I am not aware that the Attorney General previously or any Officer of the Federal Government has declared it illegal. So also the Civilian JTF, in fact, they have equipped the Civilian JTF. When Boko Haram came, the government of Goodluck Jonathan sought the attention of foreign government so that Boko Haram will be described as an International terrorist Organization but the likes of President Buhari then came up and said it was injustice to the North, and that it was an attack against the North. In Lagos, we had called it the neighborhood watch and it has been operating for quite some time. Before Amotekun, governors of the South East equally decided that they will restore what they call forest guards and their reasons were similar to what gave rise to Amotekun. There was constant attacks of innocent souls and destruction of properties. Even here on the Plateau, under the previous government, w worked hard and got Operation Rainbow, a local security outfit; some people didn’t want but by the grace of God, it has survived. If you look at the country carefully, Amotekun is not really a novelty; it has simply joined it’s ranks, Hisba, Civilian JTF, Operation Rainbow, Forest Guards and Neighbourhood watch. The only thing that Amotekun has done, is really to show preparedness; they bought cars, they organised the launching of security outfit in the South West and governors showed determined and seriousness to support the outfit. If a government led by a former Military General that promised to end Boko Haram since 2015 December has not been able to do so five years after, what moral right does such government have to disallow Chief Security Officers of the South Western States from taking steps that will protect their citizens. To my mind, it is a disservice to this country for the Attorney General and Minister of justice being part of government that has failed to protect people to do so; he has not declared Boko Haram illegal, he has not declared Fulani herdsmen illegal, he has not declared unknown gunmen illegal; it is people who seek to protect themselves that he has the guts to declare them illegal. The message going out is that, are these people happy about the killings in this country? Otherwise, the rightful persons for them to declare illegal is the unknown faces, the one they have failed to prosecute, the one they are doing what is called deradicalisation programme for, not those who have come up to defend their citizens. For me, Amotekun is an idea well thought out and it is much welcome.
Do you think Amotekun as a security outfit will be able to curtail kidnapping, herdsmen attack and other forms of criminality in the South West?
If initiatives such as Amotekun, Forest Guard, Neighbourhood watch, such as Operation Rainbow, Civilian JTF, Hisbah were not helpful, why have they not been disbanded; they have been tested. I do know that the elders of Borno and the government and people of Borno have always spoken about Civilian JTF. The thing with security is that nobody will understand a locality like people who were born and bred in such locality. To my mind, the intervention such as we have seen in the South West if it is given necessary support, will help solve the problem of these kidnappers; the kidnappers are not ghosts, Boko Haram members are not ghosts; they are people who are known, they are people who existed with people before they went underground. In my view, this kind of initiatives should be encouraged so that they will provide support for government and the police and security forces should join hands with all forms of community policing to help phase out kidnapping. I do not know why the Attorney General described Amotekun as illegal but this was even before Amotekun fired a single shot against any criminal; it presupposes that the Attorney General suspects that Amotekun will be a criminal Organization but he didn’t suspect that Boko Haram is such.
The Supreme Court recently passed a judgement with respect to Imo state Governorship Election which was in favour of the APC, how best can you describe that development?
Honestly, it was not just a surprise to me but shocking. I have not been able to find the word to describe how disappointing that judgement is but undoubtedly, this must be the new next level of the lowest descent for the Judiciary. They were not talking about the second run up, not even the third, but they are talking about the fourth. There is simply more than 230, 000 votes that overturned the result; this is just to get to the APC President’s party man; this is unfortunate and very disappointing, I sympathize with our former Deputy Speaker, our former colleague, Ihedioha for the injustice he has suffered in this matter. The judgment is very shocking to some APC members; this is simply irresponsible to my mind. I am saying so because I have taken time to check the figures carefully, that the former figures for which INEC originally declared in the March 9 election, that there was an average voting of 220 voters by polling unit, but this figure that has been awarded to the new Governor, that there is an average 550 voters per polling unit, that is to say per polling unit, 388 nearly 400 polling units voted almost 100 percent for a particular political party, that is suspicious, no death, no traveling. That is not all, if you compute the additional figure, if you look at what INEC released as total accredited voters with the cancelled votes, you will be talking about 930,000 votes; that is to say 130,000 votes over and above the number of accredited voters, how can that be justified and unfortunately, that is the pronouncement of the Supreme Court. Where did the Supreme Court get these figures? At best, they would have cancelled the election, because even by the excesses of this figure, you cannot justify that anybody will win election with over voting and we have seen several courts judgement where election has been nullified with over-voting but this is a Supreme Court judgement.