Agitation Should Not Be Labeled As Criminal Activities – Saeed | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


Agitation Should Not Be Labeled As Criminal Activities – Saeed

Posted: Jul 18, 2016 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Haruna Yunusa Saeed, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was Accountant General of Kaduna State and Executive Secretary, Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). He contested for governor in 2011 and 2015.In this interview with JULIET OYOYO, she spoke on the activities of President Muhammadu Buhari,  Biafra agitation, anti-corruption war and other sundry issues. Excerpts:

This administration recently celebrated its 365 days in office but Nigerians have insisted that there is really nothing to celebrate. As a stakeholder, how would you assess the government so far?

We have had 16 years of the PDP regime and these have been quite an uneventful years and. We have been moving in the wrong direction which kept getting worse by each passing day until this government came in. So, you can imagine that it is not just having the civilians that have been weakening the system and making the system so poor, rather, it goes beyond that. The military era was one of terrible governance and it affected the system as they had no long term plans for, they never knew how long they were going to stay.

One question that should be addressed is:  is the new government addressing the impunity and the cancerous corruption that has affected us? To me, the answer is yes. This government cannot, in the first instance be looked upon as a corrupt government. There is a great departure from what obtained in the past. What happened in the past is being addressed in the way and manner recoveries are being made. It is a twin approach; stopping corruption and correcting the ills of the past, is the other milestone that we can talk about.

Again, let us look at the issues of our dependence on a mono-economy. Oil has remained the major source of Nigeria’s income and foreign exchange earner as well. This government came with the promise to diversify the economy and to an extent, has been put on the table with agriculture being given a new look. Attention is also being focused on the mining of solid minerals in a more sincere and honest manner in order to genuinely boost the economy. There is also a more conscious effort to ensure that our industries are brought back to stream.

Joblessness is another issue. In the past, you would never hear of an open employment even while we had the issue of the Immigration employment scandal that resulted in the loss of lives and yet, no employment. It was a scam but now, we have opportunities this year alone as the police and the teaching sector have begun employment already. Also, some people are being assisted with loans to start businesses.

Again, one other issue that has been addressed by this government is security which is very paramount. We need to secure the country before we can manage it. As at today, the Nigerian boundaries have been secured. We now have a Nigerian state that had been hitherto, been subjected to some losses in some states especially in the North east where about 14 LGs which were initially lost, recovered. Now all our boundaries have been secured. The integrity and sovereignty of the nation has been regained with the people back to their farms and even some of the IDPs gradually returning back to their respective homes.

The people of the North East are gradually returning back to their daily lives. Although we might have challenges here and there such as the Biafra agitation and that of the Niger Delta Avengers in the South-south, these are all threats that have political undertones. They are just expressions from persons who want to get attention from government as they have been getting it in a crooked way in the past and continue in the same order. By and large, security is now available and all we need do now is to consolidate.

Another issue was the loss of integrity by the nation before the international community. Nigerians had been soiled and called bad names all over. But, because of the new leadership we now have, people and nations now have a new confidence in us and are willing and ready to do business due to the commitment, transparency of the new leadership in place.

Do you share in the notion that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, taking into cognisance the issues of insecurity in the Northeast, the Niger Delta, the Biafra agitation and the likes? How would you advise the government?

A mix of approaches has to take place. When you have a set of criminals doing all sorts of things, you don’t just fold your hands and say ‘let us negotiate’. You have to find a way to apprehend the culprits; punish them so and be sure that they are dealt with. You don’t allow criminals to continue to be on the rampage as if the country is made of lawlessness alone. That aspect has to be dealt with. On the issue of agitation, it has to be taken seriously and divorced from criminal activities. It needs to be taken seriously because in every society, there are issues that affect everyone. That is governance.

You have to understand that it has to do with the needs of a people and provide those needs in a way that you don’t short-change others in other areas.

It is a mix of the two. You punish those that have done criminal acts and you look at the agitation of the people agitating and know what is right and see how you can best meet their yearnings. This has to be so. In a whole, I don’t believe that we have eminent danger ahead of us in the sense that, these are mild issues as Nigerians are peace loving people and they want to be Nigerians and be in Nigeria and carry the Nigerian passport all over wherever they go.
For those doing things wrongly, his expression is there and believes that the society is not going to punish him for it because, he believes that he has been unfairly treated. But then, we have to understand that Nigeria is above personal interest.

What about the effects of these policies of government on the masses, especially the downtrodden?

The policies of government brought about hardship in some aspects, in particular, the increase in the pump price of petrol and increase in the unit price of power. These are two areas that should have brought hardship to the people that have a multiplier effect. When it comes to the pump price, everybody is a beneficiary or user in some sort of way because you either transport yourself, or transport goods or, you consume the transported goods and invariably, in a number of times, you find that the people have increased the price of their goods and their services. Then, in the case of power, things are the same because some people have to produce and pay for that energy.
So, they have to break that costs in order to arrive at their final selling price. Invariably, you find people being discomforted because of such increases in prices.
But, what is important is to have a country that is not for a few; a country that is for all. No policy is meant for the enrichment of certain groups of people specifically targeted. The policies that are made are to keep a balanced playing field for everybody in the country. Not an import regime where people never imported anything but they came and asked for payment for nothing and asked for subsidy that they have not earned.

What is your take on the failure of the federal government to reveal names of looters on May 29 as earlier announced by President  Buhari?

First of all, when a government says “we shall”, that doesn’t imply the  President must be the mouth piece. If the President says that, “we or  this government”, it does not mean the President must open his mouth. If the Minister of information says anything, it is not Lai Mohammed that is speaking. It is the government that is speaking. If you say the information has not come out as at May 29th, yes, there is an alteration in the date but who bears it does not matter. Whether Lai Mohammed or anybody else, it is the same government; but, I would say, it is not yet an issue.
Being in government means certain things must take place differently. For instance, if there are no convictions, things would be based on assumptions. You may know that this person has stolen but you don’t have judgment against him.
So, it is not the same as saying that certain things have happened and to be based on assumption. From what we have seen so far, people are being taken to court. In this situation, you find out that somebody has been given money; there are no lies about that. Out of $2.1b, somebody has paid millions. That, “I gave Mr. Y $500”. There is no lie about that. But, seeing in somebody’s account bank account or, in the registry of properties, houses and what have you and you assume automatically that the man has stolen. To me, you need to wait and get the judgment of the courts, not that you should let go of such information.
Of course, it will come to the public domain the moment the case goes to court that somebody is being taken to court based on A, B, C and D.

The PDP led government whose members are being tried, have alleged that the funds in question were campaign funds and that the APC have not declared how much they spent and therefore, people are saying it is more less a selective trial and persecution. What is your take on this?

I think there are two issues here. One is not to talk about the funding of campaigns and the money spent on the campaigns.
This government is not probing campaign funding. What is being  probed is mismanagement of money meant for arms purchase. You distribute monies meant for arms purchase. So, when somebody says he has taken it because it was given to him for electioneering campaigns, nobody is asking why you gave him to go and do campaigns. That is not the issue. Why did you give money meant for government for campaign? So, the source is the issue, not the end. Not the application for now.

Of course, we know there are offences which somebody else can deal with. How campaign funds are raised, how campaign funds are utilised and a whole set of different issues. Where we are today is that people have taken money belonging to the state and they have shared it out. And then, people who were given said it was for campaigns.

Governor  Nasir ElRufai and Senator  Shehu Sani are embroiled in a battle of wits. What have been the attempts by stakeholders and leaders of the party to reconcile both men?

This is what we have said a number of times; the absence of a party organisation in the state. Great numbers of those in the state party executive committee are no longer there. Prominent among them is the state chairman who is now the State’s Deputy Governor while the Secretary of the party in the state is now a Commissioner; Quite a number of them. Nearly 80%  of the members of the state executive Committee are not there. So, you don’t have a vibrant party in the state for them to perform that kind of role. It has reached a situation where the government decides who is a stakeholder and not the party itself.

So, if the government decides who is a stakeholder or, who is a top echelon in the hierarchy of the party, how can anybody come and say let us sit down and resolve issues affecting the party? The party is looking at things, either that the governor is not on the right track or, that the Senator is not on the right side. There has not been anything because there are no structures. By and large, we have said that it is one misnomer. The absence of the party’s executives has killed that window which we could have used to mediate among the two of them. But, it is very important for people to understand that differences do exist even within a political party, especially when we have a number of persons and parties coming together as a group, into one party.
So, there will be trying moments whereby, people will disagree, secretly or openly. There will also be a time when it gets obvious and some will leave the party and then, understand themselves and agreements are reached and people will respect each other, within the party.