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Only tested, trusted candidates should be elected in 2023, says Hon. Bagos

Hon. Dachung Musa Bagos represents Jos East/Jos South Federal Constituency of Plateau State on the platform of the PDP and is the Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Anticorruption. He spoke to PHILIP NYAM on the just concluded legislative and transparency and accountability summit and other national and local issues

 

What was the objective of the justconcluded legislative transparency and accountability summit organised by your committee? What was the House looking at?

 

The issue of transparency and accountability is a huge challenge in different sectors of our economy. Even with the existence of the EFCC, ICPC, BPP and other bodies established to fight corruption, people are still cutting corners and engaging in shoddy deals at the expense of the generality of Nigerians.

With all the efforts being made by the parliament in the provision of enabling laws, corruption still exists in government circles – ministries, departments and agencies and of course, the private sector.

This is certainly a big minus for our economy. And if we do not entrench transparency and accountability in the oil sector, which is the mainstay of our economy.

First of all, the committee on anti-corruption is not working in isolation; we work in collaboration with other stakeholders and the oil and gas sector is such an important area that we decided to convoke this summit to ensure shared understanding among critical stakeholders of the evolving oil sector chain in Nigeria- looking at the overall vision, obligations, responsibilities and modus operandi.

So, the essence is to explore the significance of transparency for the effectiveness of the repositioned sector with a focus on data transparency, compliance, fiscal transparency, licensing through competitive bidding and all that.

The summit was also aimed at creating an atmosphere of transparency and accountability that will facilitate smooth operations in the sector and strengthen the interface between the House Committee and the new entities.

It was in this way that the anticorruption committee in its commitment to eliminate corruption from the system, transparency and accountability summit became imperative. I want to assure you that the House of Representatives committee on anti-corruption is committed to ridding Nigeria of corruption; a phenomenon that has stunted national growth and limited shared prosperity. I want to commend the NNPC Ltd under the leadership of Mele Kyari for its transparency by publishing its monthly financial operations.

This is unprecedented, unlike in the past when the financial reports of the company were shrouded in secrecy. I urge other players in the industry to emulate what Kyari is doing at NNPC Ltd.

What we were told by experts and indeed the government was that by the time the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) comes into force, corruption would have been drastically reduced in the oil sector. Do you also share this perspective?

You see, part of the objective of this summit is to unlock and maximise the potential brought about by the PIA in the oil sector.

So, PIA is important in laying a solid foundation built on transparency and accountability. And transparency lies at the centre of all the important and integral conversations on the pathways to deliver the full or holistic potential across the oil sector value chain.

That was why it was crucial to bring together a summit lawmaker, NMDPRA, NUPRC, NNPC Limited and the key actors in the anti-corruption space- EFCC, and ICPC to discuss the evolving sector. So, what we did was basically to look at the critical success factors as well as redefine expectations in this new era, as it is no longer business as usual.

All with a transparency and accountability lens.

The Federal Government has been crying about oil theft and it seems, not much has been achieved in fighting the menace. Is your committee looking at this angle?

Absolutely! We are much aware of the damage oil theft has done to the sector and the Nigerian economy at large. You were at the summit too and I believe you listened to NNPC Ltd Group Chief Executive, Mele Kyari. Nigeria was losing at least 460, 000 barrels of crude per day and this is amounting to $ 700 million monthly.

And more than $3.3bn roughly £2.9bn has been lost to crude oil theft since last year and this is at a time other oil producers are having petrodollars splurge but Nigeria can’t even meet its produc-tion quota. The nation’s economy is hemorrhaging because of oil theft; this is humongous and really disturbing. How can the nation survive this? So, we are concerned and would continue to support and encourage the relevant agencies of government to tackle this head-on.

The NNPC Ltd is also collaborating with the security agencies in stemming the menace of oil theft too and I think it is yielding results.

In the past Assemblies, the National Assembly lawmakers were accused of padding the budget but recently, the narrative has changed with the Ministry of Finance on the receiving end. What do you make of this?

I am happy that this has come to the fore for all Nigerians to see. Most times, attention is always focused on the lawmakers while the executive is largely seen as the angel.

 

But the revelations coming out today have shown who is actually padding the budget. Our committee is following up on the revelations and at the last count, the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning was being accused of inserting over N423.8billion in the 2023  budget proposal in some ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

You heard when the Executive Secretary of NUC, Professor Abubakar Rashid, told the joint Senate and House committees on Tertiary Education and TETfund at a budget defence that N12 billion was inserted by the Ministry of Finance into the NUC’s budget. Also, the Ministry of Defence has alleged that the ministry of finance inserted N10.8bn into their budget.

Again, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Faruk said N206 billion was inserted into the Ministry’s 2023 budget by the Finance Ministry. I learnt the Presidency is also investigating these sordid allegations.

As a lawmaker and a stakeholder in this country, I am saddened by this development for this to be happening at this time when there is hardship in the land. I believe that with these discoveries, Nigerians will agree that the legislature is actually working to plug all the loopholes by uncovering these insertions and as we continue going through the budget estimates, perhaps more will be discovered and this is good news for democracy.

Unfortunately, when we ask questions, some people tend to criticize us and accuse us of harassing the executive. But this is the beauty of democracy and the advantage of the legislative role of oversight. As legislators, we have the constitutional powers to audit the budget and make inputs but when we do that some people say we are padding the budget.

Now, it is the executive agencies that are accusing themselves of budget padding. We will not rest on our oars until all the insertions in the budget are identified and removed to give us a clean and workable document.

The electioneering campaigns have  kicked off in full force, but the use of foul language and fake news seems to occupy a larger part of the process. How comfortable are you with the quality of messages passed across to the electorates?

Well, every well-meaning Nigerian is concerned about the verbal attacks employed by some candidates in their electioneering campaigns.

Although, in politics, you look at the weaknesses of your opponent and exploit them to your advantage but I do not subscribe to character assassination and language of slander. I want all contestants to base their campaigns on issues and let Nigerians know what they have on the table for them.

A lot of our people are going through hell. Just last week, a report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that 130 million Nigerians are poor and this is not good for the ears. So, we expect politicians to tell the electorate how they can change this unfortunate story if elected into office instead of dwelling on insults and frivolities.

My advice, especially to the major political parties, is that they should sell their manifestoes and work plans to Nigerians and stop spewing insults, concocting lies and causing crises.

There are stories that some political parties are kicking against the use of BVAS and the electronic transfer of results by INEC. Do you support this stand?

No, I do not support those calling for manual computation of results. INEC should be allowed to deploy electronic transmission of results in order to minimize manipulation and other electoral malpractices. Nigerians are now highly conscious of their rights and will be going out well-informed in the 2023 elections to pick their leaders.

So, INEC should not give in to the antics of people who want to rig the elections.

 

Our youths are ready to take back their country and are mobilizing seriously and we must therefore give them a chance to make their choices without let or hindrance and INEC must ensure that their votes count. Everybody should be allowed to answer his or her father’s name in the forthcoming general elections. I expect INEC to improve on and replicate their performances in Ekiti and Osun in the next general elections.

And I would advise the electorate to elect people who are tested and trusted and who could bring development to their constituencies or states. They should not vote for the highest bidder but cast their votes for honest and transparent leaders who have identified with them and are ready to deliver on good governance.

You talked about the youths, how connected are you with your constituents in your quest to return to the House?

I am on ground and at home with all my constituents being the youths, elderly men and women. In fact, if elections were conducted tomorrow, I will win hands down. I am a grassroots politician and mind you I am also a youth and have benefitted immensely from their support and they have not abandoned me. I want to let you know that Jos south and Jos east federal constituency is for PDP and Plateau State is for PDP.

In other words, it is the PDP and other parties in Jos. My people vote for competence and capacity and honest leadership and that is exactly what I represent. I have  the full support of my constituents and they are just waiting to reaffirm my elections come February 25, 2023, by the grace of God. I have so far delivered on my promises to them and they are very happy with me. We are a peaceful people and do not play politics of bitterness. Violence has no place in our constituency and we play the game by the rules. I am confident of victory.

Insecurity is still a big issue. Do you see the 2023 elections holding with the current insecurity in some parts of the country, especially in places like Plateau state?

Yes, you are right, insecurity is still an issue of concern. There are still attacks and killings going on in parts of Plateau State. Though the security agencies have promised that they will provide adequate security, we want their promises to be backed up with action.

As legislators, we have been doing our best in alerting the executive and the security agencies; we have passed several motions urging the security agencies to deploy enough personnel to troubled and vulnerable areas. In spite of this, the attacks are still there.

About two weeks ago, the Mai Katako village in Butura Ward of Bokkos Local Government Area was attacked and some people were killed and farmlands were destroyed. We want an end to these senseless killings and the perpetrators apprehended, tried and punished. I believe the 2023 general elections will hold as planned and I do not pray that anything should stop the elections.

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