As Nigerians continue to wrestle with the combined effects of insecurity and the dwindling fortune of the economy, the Federal Government itself appears to be in a fix as to the way to mitigate the threat of another looming recession. In this interview, Senator Rufai Hanga reveals the reason the effort being made to reposition the economy is not yielding the desired result.
According to him, there is a new phenomenon of one-chance syndrome leading to high propensity for stealing by government functionaries.
Security concern in Nigeria has assumed a befuddling dimension. Lately, Southern Kaduna has been under the siege of bandits, killing and maiming people on a daily basis. What do you think of this situation?
I don’t know whether there is sabotage from somewhere because this is becoming too much. I think it’s more than meets the eyes. Today, government will tell you they are doing this, they are doing that, but things are getting worse by the day. It is escalating, it is becoming too much. Not only that killing is going on everywhere, even kidnapping has come back. It is now risky to go to Kaduna through Abuja road. In fact, it has degenerated to a point that kidnappers go from house to house kidnapping people in front of their families and demanding for ransom. Recently, a colleague of mine, a senator, was kidnapped, the family had to pay N30 million before he was released. He was there in their custody for more than one week. The man is a poor man; he didn’t have up to N3 million. So, they were selling things to raise money, people had to come to their aid with donations until they got N30 million to get him out. It’s very scary. This issue of Service Chiefs is worrisome. I don’t know whether there is a dissension within the security apparatus of government itself because some people are due for promotion, but they can’t move anywhere. Some were even retired before their seniors. I am not sure these people are not folding their arms. Security needs everybody’s contribution. A tree cannot make a forest.
Even if you are a head, no matter how intelligent you are, no matter how polished you are, you need inputs from your subordinates. You need a lot of ideas to succeed. But are we sure the junior officers are not folding their arms only taking instructions? Are they not becoming robot, doing only what they are being told to do instead of using their own initiatives? I think those who are close to Mr. President should go and tell him to take a second look at this issue of Security Chiefs. It is difficult for one to conclude on what is actually happening. People are becoming very jittery because the insecurity is increasing by the day and calamities are coming from all directions. I wish those who enjoy the listening ear of Mr. President should go and see him to retrace his steps on these things.
In the face of all of these, Nigeria is on the verge of another recession.
(Cuts in) People are saying on the verge, we are already in a recession. The figure they are quoting for inflation is not true. It’s much more than that. By the time you go to the market to take price samples of commodities, you will know that it is much more than what they are reporting. Unemployment is also increasing. The strength our currency is degenerating by the day. Naira is almost at par with CFA.
The latest report says that CFA is 108 per cent stronger than the value of the naira. Are you aware of that?
What are the parameters for determining that? What does Niger and other French-speaking countries have more than Nigeria? What do they produce? What are the measures for determining the value of these currencies? If you sit down to analyze some of these things, you will know that we have more to show in terms of GDP than all these countries. But we are here sitting down and people are deceiving us. We are sitting down and people are determining things for us. Where are the people who can advise this government to say look, this is not how to do things? Unfortunately, the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emiefele, is not helping matters. Most of these things are supposed to come from the CBN. But non-professionals are telling him what is not and he is accepting it.
Some weeks back, the CBN had actually assured the people that the economy would pick up again by the last quarter of this year. But the latest report says the economy is shrinking by 6.1 per cent. Is that forecast really feasible?
The economy has shrunk much more than that. In fact, it has shrunk by more than 10 per cent. The problem is that the Economic Advisory Committee set up by the government is not being listened to. I heard one of the members of the committee complained that the committee is almost useless because they are not being listened to by the President. They were asked to meet quarterly. How can a committee as important as that be meeting quarterly like a board of ordinary committee? They are supposed to monitor the situation on a daily basis, they are supposed to have a window to report the happenings in the economy and advise government on continuous basis. But they only meet four times in a year. And no single member has a right to say anything until they meet. Even the Chairman of the board cannot act alone. So, by the time they meet, things have already gone terribly wrong. I don’t know who are making all these decisions.
Part of the reasons the value of naira is dwindling is the alleged manipulation of the FOREX. The CBN itself is aware of it, but appears to be helpless; can’t do much to check it. Why do you think it is so?
It is not possible to check manipulation of forex now because of the way people are stealing left, right and centre. The currency has gone this bad because there is much more naira chasing the dollar. Some ministers do nothing now than buying houses. For instance, in Kano now, some of our ministers are buying property. Property worth no more than N150 million they will buy it for N400 million. And they usually pay in cash because they have the money. These are the kind of people that will go to Bureau De Change to buy dollar at any rate. So, the price keeps going up. They are converting naira to dollar because if you amass this kind of wealth and decide to keep it in naira, it will be a whole full of one bedroom. So, they have to convert it to dollar they can easily hide. They don’t deal with banks, they deal with cash. They buy houses and pay in cash. They are looking for all possible ways to hide their loots. You need to see some property they bought in Kano. They are hiding away from people. If they see you, they will quickly hide because they don’t want you anywhere close to them so that you don’t know what is happening. There is nobody that is close to them before that they are dealing with now. They don’t allow people move close to them because they don’t want you to know what they are doing. They have fronts who are buying property for them. It’s unfortunate. Everybody is rushing to have a field day. There is one term which they call one-chance. Everybody is rushing to have one-chance so as to have his own share of the national cake.
You mean there is one-chance syndrome within the government circle?
Yes, one-chance. The moment you enter government, you just rush in to get what you want because you’re sure that nothing will happen.
In this case, do you then see the National Assembly doing enough of oversight functions? After months of inactivity occasioned by the COVID-19 lock down, the lawmakers are still going on annual recess. What time do they actually have to perform their legislative and oversight functions?
This National Assembly is one of the worst in the history of this country. They do selective jobs. Even if they are in recess, if something comes up, they will rush back to come and do it so long as something will come out of it. All these investigations you see them do, they are doing it to get something. They are compromised. We have never had a terrible National Assembly like this in our history. It is unfortunate. They behave as if tomorrow will never come, but they have forgotten that 2020 and beyond will not be like yesteryears. This time around, there are groups that will revisit many of the things that are happening now and people will certainly come to regret.
Some five states-Katsina, Taraba, Borno, Bayelsa, and Kebbi- have been declared insolvent by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) due to their poor performance in Internally Generated Revenue less than 10 per cent. What is the implication of this amidst the threat of another recession?
The problem is that most of the governors are just stealing, they are not doing anything. I must tell you this, 50 to 70 per cent of federal allocation to states is being looted. Allocation alone cannot be enough for government to pay salaries, do infrastructure and other things. But many of them cannot generate anything from nowhere. Things are happening in this country. The more you look, the less you see, the more you see, the less you understand.
According to RMAFC, even the federation account is being overstressed. Is that also not alarming?
It is because of the way money is being dished out as a result of the security situation in the country. My major concern is the way we keep on borrowing. Instead of going aborrowing, why don’t we tighten our belt? Buhari shouldn’t allow this borrowing to continue because the more we borrow, the less you see of the purpose for which they borrow. I tend to agree with the arguments of those that are anti-borrowing. I am really convinced that we shouldn’t borrow any more. And we shouldn’t allow our governors to borrow because some of these governors have serious mental cases. A sane person will not do some of the things these governors are doing. They will borrow money and you won’t see anything they do with it.
Where is Nigeria really headed with all of these?
We are heading for the rock. If we continue like this, we are going to the point of no return. By the time we reach the rock, nobody knows what will happen. Right now, a lot of damage have been done on us in the country. I pity the President. I assure you, 90 per cent of what is happening, he doesn’t know because they don’t allow him to know. I only believe that the new Chief of Staff will not allow this to continue. I am sure; he (President) is deeply disappointed with certain things. He must be bleeding inside of him now.
This is a man most Nigerians had thought to be a messiah they needed. How would he be remembered after leaving office?
If he allows things to continue they way they are, he will leave no legacy. And that is the most unfortunate thing to happen to somebody who had had a good will like him. Nigerian people unanimously reposed confidence in him and voted for him blindly so that their expectations can be realized. But unfortunately, some people caged him. I think he is free now from that bondage. He had been in bondage, but I think he is free now.