I’m A Bit Skeptical About The Direction Of This Government-Okeke | Independent Newspapers Limited
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I’m A Bit Skeptical About The Direction Of This Government-Okeke

Posted: May 30, 2016 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Collins Okeke, lawyer and programme /legal officer, Human Rights Law Service, in this interview with AUGUSTINE ADAH, speaks on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in the past one year and other issues. Excerpts:

 Do you believe the government would provide palliatives to cushion the effect of fuel increase on the people?

Unfortunately, we have not seen any measure put in place by the government to cushion the effect of fuel price increase. From what the CBN governor said yesterday that they would take the foreign exchange to the open market, it is possible that we have not seen the end of fuel increase in the country.   I am a bit skeptical about the direction of this government but I believe things would change within the next few months.

How do you rate the administration on combating insurgency and fighting corruption?

I would give pass mark to Mr. President on the war against Boko Haram. But I am a bit worried about what is happening in the Niger-Delta. My worry comes from the fact that government appears confused over what to do and bring the militancy to an end.    In the area of security, the government appears to have made  a bit success in tackling Boko Haram but there are other areas like the ravaging Fulani herdsmen who are hacking down people and destroying property  that we expect the government to take action which we have not seen anything from the government.  On the fight against corruption,  I would score the government average, though it is too early to assess. I think the war against corruption involved a bit of decisiveness which I have seen in the government, but I am a bit concerned about the role of the judiciary in the fight.  It is important that the judiciary should recognise its roles in the ongoing war against corruption in the country.   I am also a bit concerned about government’s respect for court rulings. Government must be prepared to obey court rulings and judgment at all times.  If the different arms of government can work together harmoniously, I believe Nigeria would be able to win the war against corruption.   But I have not seen the needed coordination between the three arms of government in the fight against corruption. It appears, the president has what he want to do, and the legislative arm has its own different interest and the same with judiciary.

We what is happening in the PDP, do you think opposition parties in Nigeria would live to their expected role?

PDP in Nigeria is a party that was hurriedly put together without considering the ideological differences of the founding members. Fortunately for them, they were in power for 16 years which made it impossible for us to know some of the differences, but now that the party is out o power, some of the differences have started manifesting.  It is unfortunate that they were unable to get their axe together. I am not really interested about PDP, to me what is happening is an opportunity for other political parties to take the centre stage and continue the role of opposition in the country.

 How do you assess the performance of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration in Lagos since the past one year?

I think Ambode is doing very well; he has surpassed my expectation for Lagos because when he came up with the idea of building over a thousand roads in Lagos I thought it was one of the political gimmicks but I have seen that a lot of works is going on in the past one year. My hope is that the good work would continue throughout the tenure. But I may have to be a bit concern about the level of transparency in Lagos. A lot of things are done in the state that you don’t understand how the government arrive at the decision.  In the area of infrastructure, I think Ambode has done well but they need to do more especially in the area of transparency and corruption.

What is your take on the high cost of maintaining political office holders in the country?

I think it is the height of the greatest problem we have in this country.  How do you explain a system where the minimum wage is N18, 000 per month and those at the National Assembly are buying new cars?  We also learnt that Mr. President is still keeping the 11 fleet of his presidential jets; we are also hearing that ministers are flying in presidential jets. There is something fundamentally wrong with the approach this government is adopting in its attempt to cut cost. Cutting cost should not only be on areas that affect the poor people. Cutting cost should be democratised in such a way that everybody should feel the pain of what is happening in the economy.  As we speak, those in the state assemblies, members of the National Assembly are acting as if the economy is doing well and it is not.  The only people who are feeling the brunt of poor management of the economy by successive government in the country appears to be poor people.  For me I am more worried about government’s claim of cutting cost of governance because if you want to cut cost, it should be across board.   I am amazed that some people still talk of cookies in the office; many of us don’t even have cookies to eat at home. Many people in this country cannot afford three meals in a day and government is talking of reducing the cost of cookies in offices.  I challenge you to go and check the budget for food in the presidential villa, it is still very high. So if the government is interested in cutting cost it should be across board, everybody should feel the impact of the bad economy and not for only the poor people. The unfortunate thing is that we have not seen the impact of government’s claim of cutting cost in the life-style of those in government.   Buhari came on the mantra of change; I hope we would be able to see that change. The change must reflect in the attitude of government officials, change in government expenditure, change in government behaviour , but we have not seen that. Though progress seems to have been made, but we need to do more.

Do you believe that in the next three years, the present administration would be able to deliver on their campaign promises?

I still have some degree of confidence in the government. I understand why the government is struggling; it is because of its newness. As I said earlier on, Buhari may have his direction on the economy as I observed that he preferred a regulated economy as opposed to some leaders of the party like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who appears to be better disposed to the policy of privatisation.  I am sure he would suggest that the government should de-regulate foreign exchange and petroleum sector, but Buhari would prefer some level of regulations. That is not my own concern; the concern is that they need to agree together quickly because the country right now is in state of mess.    I expect to see new roads being constructed because at the moment, there is no infrastructure initiative by the present government. All we have been hearing from the present administration is that they will do this and that; it is time for us to start seeing what they promised they would do.