Gyang Bere, Jos
Chairman, House Committee on Navy and Member representing Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam in the House of Representatives, Yusuf Adamu Gagdi has said the Federal Government has not done well in the aspect of funding to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria. He disclosed that the National Assembly will summon the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, the Accountant General of the Federation and anybody who participated in the disbursement of funds for accountability.
How do you think Nigeria can get out of the current global pandemic?
It is not all about Nigeria, you call it global pandemic, it is not a Nigeria pandemic, it is something that affects the entire world; and when you asked me about COVID-19, my heart bled; my heart bleeds for the world and my heart bleeds for Nigeria because I am a Nigerian and my heart bleeds for the future of this country, future in the sense that leaders are guilty. If you look at the way COVID-19 ravages the lives of Nigerians, take it or leave it, we have not invested well in it, our leaders have not been fair to Nigerians including myself, we don’t prioritise, we are not proactive, we only react to issues when they seem to be overwhelming us. When you talk about budget for healthcare and budget for education, people will tell you no, that money will be voted for government agencies and departments that might not have the kind of security that our health system and education sector will have. But again, some of us will be exonerated because I stood in the floor of the House during the budget, as a first term lawmaker in the House of Representatives but not a first time lawmaker and told them that the amount of money voted to educational sector, to health care system is grossly inadequate. I raised my voice and asked Mr. Speaker to look into those things because these are institutions that you can’t see what is coming but you have to be proactive. Again, I think that there is something that we are doing that God wants us to change, for God to pause the entire world, we have our private parts that we have been covering but God decided now that we should cover our private parts; our private part now is our mouth, there is a spiritual message attached to that. People should think beyond COVID-19; there is something He wants us to learn; there is something God wants us to stop. Until and unless we go spiritual, humble ourselves before our creator, ask for His mercy and forgiveness, I do not hope that there is any solution to COVID-19.
We have had cases of people transporting the virus from one state to the other even with the border closure and some people have blamed the security agencies for not doing their job, do you share the same opinion?
You can’t fault them, we should appreciate the security agencies even though there are those who compromise; you cannot generalize this situation. As we speak now, everybody is locked in his house, the security men are at the checkpoint under the sun and under the rain, trying their best to protect the lives and properties of the citizens, do you now generalize it because there is compromise on the part of one or two persons. In every system, there are bad individuals including Journalists, National Assembly members, House of Representatives and so on. We have that in every sector in the country. In every organization, we have the bad eggs and because there are bad eggs, will you throw away the compliment of good men who are doing good job because of the bad eggs, no. I left Abuja and have gone to different parts of this country, I have gone through the screening of COVID-19 after the isolation of 14 days and I was satisfied COVID-19 free. I went through prior to the lockdown, spent a week in Calabar, a week in Lagos, a week in Port Harcourt and a week in Bayelsa. I spent virtually four weeks outside Abuja visiting all Naval formations. After that, I quarantined myself and subjected myself to the COVID-19 scrutiny and I tested myself of COVID-19 and I am free of the virus. But then assuming I have and I was privileged to have Military officers on my Convoy to Jos, do you think any security officer will stop me on my way coming to Jos, no security officer will do that, we should not blame the security officers for transporting COVID-19 because we have very important persons in the society who feel they can smuggle themselves to any part of the country with their families at any time they want, the blame is to the entire people. You don’t isolate one segment of the society and crucify them for something that everybody is responsible for. I have said it also, that Government and governors cannot provide palliative for every Nigeria; this is the time for everybody to make sacrifice, people are complaining of the lockdown, the consequences of non-lockdown is grievous than the consequences of the total lockdown; there is need for people to appreciate what the governors are doing, especially the governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong who was the first to enforce total lockdown in Nigeria and the state still under lockdown and I appreciate the citizens of Plateau State for supporting the governor and I don’t want the blame for the porous border should not be on one side.
We should also blame ourselves, how are we respecting the social distancing, do we know who is the victim of the virus, go to our banks and market today and see how people are crowded in one place.
Are you comfortable with the bill on the infectious COVID-19 bill in the National Assembly now, do you think that should be the priority of Nigerians now or we should be looking for a way of getting the vaccine in Nigeria?
Yes, this is a bill and a bill has a process, I have explained this severally. When a bill is presented, it has a process of first reading, second reading and third reading and after that, if it is in the Senate, it has to be agreed on by the House of Representatives. It has to also be forwarded to the Senate to agree on even if sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and after the two chambers have agreed, it has to be forwarded to the President to sign, so why are Nigerians screaming over that bill in the National Assembly.
There are rules that are an exception; you want to acquire ventilators, the rule says you must itemize everything and approve fund in time for the President to buy them. At this point in time, do you want the President to write to us, we do public hearing and follow all the procedures before we get all these things. If we are going to go by that, then a lot of people will die before you get what you want; in time of an emergency like this, some rules need to be suspended to save lives and that was why Mr. Speaker suspended some of our rules and allowed the bill have accelerated hearing. Some people believe that Mr. Speaker is the House of Reps, Mr. Speaker is the Senate, Mr. Speaker is the President, they forgot that even if we adjust our rules to accept the quarantine Act, what about the vaccine. The vaccine is just one aspect of the bill, if the vaccine is not a good thing, that can be deleted at the public hearing but allow other aspects of the bill that will benefit the Nation. Nigerians because of politics, because some people don’t want Mr. Speaker, reacted to the bill and emphasized the aspect of Vaccine as if the bill is a vaccine bill while it is not. It is about the control of infectious disease, that is the title of the bill, to amend the control of infectious diseases -tuberculosis, Hiv and other infectious diseases were adjusted to meet the present reality and some people are shouting about vaccine as if the bill is a vaccine bill.
What is your assessment of Federal Government’s fight against COVID-19?
They are doing well, Nigerians are technically sound, they are doing well in some aspects but when it comes to disbursement of funds and resources, they have not don’t well. I can’t believe that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs has shared all the money she claimed. At the appropriate time, she will account for it, the Minister of the Humanitarian Affairs, the Accountant General of the Federation and everybody who participated in the disbursement of the fund will be invited to the National Assembly to justify what they have done.
How have you helped your constituents in terms of supplying palliatives to cushion the effect of the lockdown?
I have done my best, I have given them what I have. With that, I have developed some thick skin to be deaf and dump to some criticisms; some people have called me names just to bring down my reputation but I have a way of responding to them. The teething trouble I have passed through in my political life has helped me to be where I am. I am not scared about what people will say but again, I will be talking for myself. People should look at my antecedents from the State House of Assembly and the beginning of my stewardship at the National Assembly; why did I call Christians and distributed two trailer of rice during Christmas time in December, was it COVID-19, why is someone seeing two trailer of rice now and relate it to NEMA, that it was NEMA that gave me? Has NEMA ever distributed anything without their representatives and if I am a representative that will go to NEMA and get the needs of constituents satisfied, then I will thank God; in everything that I do, I leave my opponent to God.