Kenneth Udeh, Abuja
Senator Peter Onyeluka Nwaoboshi (PDP, Delta North) says that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has incured an accumulated debt of N1.2 trillion.
The Senator who is also the Chairman Senate committee on NDDC added that the Federal Government was owing the NDDC N1.4 trillion as a result of accumulated debts by past to the present administration.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Daily Sun‘s KENNETH UDEH, the Delta North Senator was very clear in explaining the financial constraints limiting the performance of the Commission in Nigeria’s oil producing states. He urged the Federal Government to pay up the debt owed the NDDC to allow the Commission to meet up with its development agenda. He gave assurances that the NDDC would focus on critical areas.
Senator Nwaboshi also bared his thoughts on major issues of national import, including Nigeria’s 59th Independence Day anniversary, the rule of law, economic policy and Democracy.
How would you assess the progress of the nation, in terms of economy policy and democracy, with regards to the 59th Independence anniversary?
“In my own perspective, the economic growth of Nigeria is very bad. Unemployment rate is very high, youths are lamenting angrily all over the country. The pace of Nigeria’s economic growth has dropped to its lowest point. But we can’t pin the blame on one particular government, because it is a continuous system. Since 1960, we have had different governance.
“In terms of economic policy, unsustainable maintenance of policy is the major problem we are facing in Nigeria. A government will introduce a particular policy, but when another government takes over they will abandon the previous government’s policy and create their own new policy. That is why we have so many abandoned projects in the country. For example, a road that is under construction in a particular state will require completion from the new government, but the new state government will abandon it with the claim that it is a federal road, so it can’t be completed by the state; while the Federal Government will be attending to other projects. Meanwhile, it is still the innocent masses that are paying their taxes that will end up at the losing end, because they are the ones using that particular amenity.
“I watched a program on TV recently, where someone was arguing that Nigerians don’t pay tax, so they are the problem. Whereas, the government is the problem and not the people…”
In your capacity as a sitting senator, what efforts are you making to tackle these challenges?
“A senator’s major duty is to make law(s) and we are trying to make those laws in order to better the life of the citizens. One thing is to make the law, another thing is for the people to implement the law, and for people to accept the law. It is always difficult to implement a rule in Nigeria. No matter how law is formulated to favour the people, some people will still act against it.
“However, we still continue to do our best, by making new laws and fine tuning the existing ones in order to improve the people and make Nigeria a better place.”
How will you assess the nation’s development in terms of Democracy, electoral processes and mass orientation in holding their leaders accountable?
“Democracy has grown; anybody that tells you that Democracy has not grown is not telling you the truth. The reason I said so is because the political awareness of the people has increased. If you go to polling centres during elections, you will see the improvement in terms of the number of people that come out to vote. It will be difficult for anybody to plan a coup in this country because Nigerians are very conscious and they now have much knowledge about Democracy.
“If the right consciousness of Democracy (government of the people, by the people and for the people) can be instilled in the psyche of every citizen of the country, I am very sure that we will have rapid progress. If you observe, when a military leader is ruling, they use military style to direct the affairs of government, leaving no room for checks and balances. For example, when Obasanjo was the military leader, he had that military mentality, he did not understand why somebody will be questioning his actions as a leader. Because, in those days, they made use of the supreme military council. Of course, he was the head of the council, so their decision becomes the final decision. But when he became a civilian leader, he fell deeply in love with the National Assembly assembly, allowing them to do the proper checks and balances; so, that shows that our Democracy is growing. Even the present government gives room for Democracy. For instance, in 2015, during the election of Senate President and Speaker [of the House of Representatives], the people elected to those positions were not the choices of the ruling party, even though they were members of the majority party.”
As the Chairman of the Senate Committee on NDDC, what is going to be your ambition for the next four years?
“The NDDC supposed to be an interventionist agency, created to intervene in certain areas of life of the people. I cannot categorically tell you that the NDDC has been a successful story, but I can assure you that it has made positive impacts in the life of so many people. In many areas in the Niger Delta, majority of the basic amenities present in those areas today were made available by the NDDC. Awards of scholarships, employment opportunities, fund payments are done by the NDDC. From this perspective, I will say it has been a success story. But judging from another perspective, abandonment of projects will still be linked to the NDDC.
“However, [despite] the NDDC being run by the taxes paid by oil companies, the government is owing the the NDDC N1.4 trillion as a result of accumulation of debts from past governments to the present one. Even when Jonathan was in power, FG didn’t pay up the necessary funds to the NDDC.
“The NDDC has a total debt of N1.2 trillion. So, before criticising the NDDC, try to take their constraints into consideration. My idea is to make the NDDC focus on the critical areas affecting it and concentrate less on pressing ones.
“We will also try our best to convince the Federal Government to pay up the debt they are owing… It is either they pay the funds they owe, or they clear off the outstanding debt in order to make the NDDC start a new chapter.”