‘2017 budget controversy not helping governance’
Two-term governor of Nasarawa State who is now a senator on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu, blamed politicians for the controversy over the 2017 budget and the security situation in Nigeria in this interview with George Opara.
Controversy over 2017 budget
Well, because I was a journalist and, like in the military where a soldier is always a soldier, a journalist is always a journalist. I believe in investigative journalism but there is not much of it happening today. Fortunately, The Guardian, not because you are here on interview with me, stands out as one of the few exemptions. The fact is that most media houses have thrown investigative journalism to the lagoon. But what I do know is that there is something called the Nigerian constitution. What I do know is that the issue of budgeting that we are talking about is provided for in the constitution. As far as I am concerned, the dispute you are talking about is a deliberate one. It is deliberately induced. It is like a pregnant woman who is overdue to deliver her baby; doctors have a way of inducing labour. But I think that the best thing to do is for you to go and find the legal interpretation of the provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as it regards to budgeting.
Yes, it is clear that the constituencies of the whole country elected the president. And it is one of his primary responsibilities to develop or generate the expenditure for each financial year and, bring it as a proposal. But the responsibility for making the law rests entirely on the National Assembly or parliament in every democracy; be it parliamentary or presidential system of government.
That is also the case everywhere you have parliamentary system of government like the United Kingdom (UK). They take their budget proposal to the parliament. And it is what they bring out finally that the prime minister will work with. Even in the United State of America (USA) that is what happens. There is no way the president will bring a budget proposal and expects that as he brings it, we take it, swallow it, good or bad. Nobody does that in parliament. We were elected. And what we do is not confrontational with Mr. President because we have the responsibility to look at it. You should know that the president could not have gone to every constituency to generate the budget proposal he brought to us. Even the technocrats who did it for him, you think they have no interest?
We know this as a matter of fact. We were also elected. Don’t we have interest? We are not confronting the president. It is the role the constitution we all swore to preserve and protect, assigned to us. But it may not be pleasant to some people. The fact of the matter is that we did it and the Appropriation Bill has been assented into law. It is no longer in our court. We played our role and the Acting President has assented to it. I am sure he did so in consultation with President Buhari.
So, we have a budget that we enacted and it has been assented to by the president. Those of us who are ardent believers and supporters of President Buhari will advise our fellow countrymen and women to try to recognize this constitutional division of powers for the arms of government. The situation being generated by the budget controversy does not help governance. Nobody in his good senses will confront the president to be rude or insubordinate or whatsoever because he is the Chief Executive of this country. As a lawyer, I recognize that and I respect that.
Delay in implementation
No, no, no. There is no delay in implementation. You have to know that the budget has just been assented to about a week ago. Naturally time has been lost. We are in June already and halfway in the financial year and something must give way. Our capacity to spend prudently, our capacity to observe due process, will be put to task. That I know and I am sure that the technocrats behind the government, the Civil Service is strong enough and is able to come up with the implementation of the budget that will make for full implementation. For your information, last year’s budget implementation was in the region of plus and minus, 85 percent. And that is the best budget implementation record since the end of the Nigerian Civil War of Yakubu Gowon’s era. We should beat our chest but because we are a bit weak with the media. We don’t blow our trumpet.
On insecurity in the land
Well, I think when you compare two situations in terms of the allocation in time; the security situation in the country today is better than when the previous administration was in charge. For sure, we have scored some plus with the problems posed by Boko Haram terrorism. As a result of that, there is relative peace of mind amongst our people that the kind of sad occurrences of bomb blast in different parts of the country at different times have definitely declined sharply. The other aspect of security, which has to do with kidnapping and similar crimes that bother on security in the country, has also recorded some measure of success.
If we consider what we went through during the time of former president Goodluck Jonathan, one would not but accept the fact that we made appreciable progress in terms of security. This government believes very strongly that over and above every responsibilities of government, the issue of security of life and property is predominant. And no effort is being spared as far as I understand and know to ensure that we live up to the expectations of that doctrine.
The menace of herdsmen
That’s another dimension. Unfortunately, it has taken a scale that surprises everybody. For me, based on my personal experience, herdsmen/farmers clashes; I think there is a lot of political upbeat on it. There is a lot of politicking that has been brought to bear on that problem. I don’t deny the fact that we have the problem of herdsmen/farmers clashes. But this is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. If the scale is more than what we witnessed in the past, I probably will admit. I will agree. But the fact of the matter is that it is not a new phenomenon, at all. But because it has been so heavily politicized, it is being presented as if it is a new thing happening in the Nigeria political, economic and geo-political space. I think it goes a little deeper than that.
What we do know and I think one is old enough to talk with some level of authority on this issue. I grew up in predominantly agrarian and modern societies up north where you deal with farmers and herdsmen everyday of your life. And what we used to know is that once there is a conflict, in this case, when the interest of the farmer is trampled upon by the herdsmen cattle grazing and straying away on farmland to destroy the farmers crops, we try to get the complainant whose crops the cattle have damaged and the Fulani man whose cattle strayed away probably by the carelessness of the herder. We bring both of them together before the nearest traditional institution and determination is made as it regards the quantum of loss. They are priced and the herdsmen would be asked to pay for compensation to the farmer who suffered losses. And they will do so willingly and with handshakes.
But somehow, what we have seen since 2015 general elections is a new development over the herdsmen/farmers issue. And it was so heavily politicized particularly after the elections and declaration of results. I have no apology for saying it. It is a statement of fact. And people started organizing tribesmen, clothing them and getting them to come out and make pronouncements as stakeholders. Some of them are crowd for sale in Abuja. We know them. They are just mobilized for a fee. They give them transport fare and get one or two men from the place where the complaint is coming from but the preponderant of them are not residents.
I remember as chairman of Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development that we organized public hearing on this matter when it was new, to know the public opinion about it, asses the depth of the problem and how to come out of it. In the course of the public hearing, I will never forget when one or two guys got up to address the hearing and told their place and local government area, reporting that they lost over 820 persons. And I asked them how many people have died since their village was found up till date. What is the population and size of the village? How come in this country anybody, any group of people will come to eliminate physically over 820 persons within a space of, maybe, one, two weeks or even six months? And there is no evidence of their graves where they were buried.
Some people make statements just to aggravate and heighten emotions because the matter is sensitive. And in our recent past public hearing, I was dismayed and shocked that people will leave Nigeria to organize crowd for sale in UK, Paris in France, USA and even Canada on the issue of farmers/herdsmen clashes in Nigeria. In one of the scenes, we saw the Biafra flag. What bearing has Biafra flag got to do with the problem of farmers and herdsmen for heaven’s sake?
So, there is a lot of politicking. People who lost elections make so much trouble out of the situation. I am not denying the fact that there is a problem but so much propaganda has gone into it. I read in some newspapers where some ethnic nationalities went as far as complaining that Buhari is a Fulani man and that since he came to power all these things started happening. That is false. Yes, Buhari is a Fulani man and there is no apology for being a Fulani man. The herdsmen/farmers clashes have been going on even before Buhari was born.
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