Hon. Mufutau Egberongbe, a member of the House of Representatives representing Apapa Federal Constituency, recently organised an empowerment programme for his constituents. He spoke with journalists at the occasion on some issues of national interest ranging from the continuous borrowing by the federal government to financing the budget; the recent pronouncement of Operation Amotekun as illegal by the federal government, among other issues. The Gazelle News.com’s DARE OJELADE was part of the interview session.
You have given out some empowerment items today, which include seven motorcycles, seven sewing machines and six tricycles. Was there any criteria used in selecting the beneficiaries?
On the 9th of December, I had poverty alleviation and skills acquisition programmes for my constituents, most of the beneficiaries were females and elderly ones. So now, we felt it is the turn of the good boys, they are vibrant members of our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and some of them run transport business, so I feel we can only make them better by giving them these motorcycles and tricycles.
And what I have done is not really targeted at individuals because most of them are in groupings and with that, the items won’t be sold off. I know they can be disciplined and form a platform for socialisation amongst them; introduce them to cooperative societies, which I have done before, with a view to making them more responsible.
And of course, we won’t leave them in a one swipe thing, we will be monitoring them and where necessary, they will be assisted. For instance, if they come to tell us they have half or tangible amount to buy a tricycle, we can complement them by giving them the remaining half of the money to make it more and by that they can be better off. The secret of success and wealth is revealed
Apart from these empowerment and skills acquisition programmes you are organising for your people, is there a major challenge the people are facing that requires very urgent attention from the federal government?
What has been a major challenge in Apapa is the traffic situation that needs to be attended to. I have moved a motion on the floor of the House; I have organised stakeholders meeting on this precarious situation, even when I was in the House of Assembly and I think a lot more still need to be done. Some of those things include revamping the railways, then do more of the waterways too; use badges in carrying some of these containers and taking most of these things off the road. It is so key and important.
And in the Badiya/Sari-Iganmu axis of my constituency, I must say a big thank you to you members of fourth estate of the realm with what you have done in publicizing my advocacy and letter written to the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on the System Five Canal. As I am talking to you, the canal is being de-flooded and cleared, I pray and hope that the filths that have been removed from the canal will be carted away so that they don’t return into the canal. That is so key and important as well.
I equally want to call on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to come to the relief of my people in Apapa – Oke-Oja – Sari-Iganmu, they are those who have been devastated by flooding before now.
President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the 2020 budget as passed into law by you members of the National Assembly. But Nigerians have been expressing worry as regards the Federal Government’s continuous borrowing to finance the budget. Are you as lawmakers not worried over this?
You see, the world all over, borrowing is accepted in governance and in government. It only affords you the opportunity to get infrastructure today while you pay in the future. What is key is that such borrowings such be tailored to developmental projects, such as building roads, building hospitals, making available qualitative and affordable education; that is what is most important. You don’t borrow for recurrent expenditure or to pay salaries, that is when it is wrong to borrow.
When you borrow to build good roads, build good hospitals and make available good education, we are getting projects now that will be paid for later. This would provide an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, which would in turn reduces unemployment and those that are employed now will continue to pay their taxes, which will shore up our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). It is just a circle and I think it is allowed.
But the main worry being expressed by Nigerians is that we are borrowing to service our outstanding debts. Don’t you think this is wrong?
Even when you borrow to service the old and past debts, it only goes to show that you have a lengthier time. So I want to think that it is okay that we borrow to build infrastructure and if need be at minimal cost. Though I don’t know the nitty-gritty of these borrowings too but sometimes when you borrow, you acquire the initial borrowings at another good terms, good rates, good ratios, good interest rates than the initial ones you borrowed, it happens like that, you acquire the initial borrowings at a better terms all in the interest of the nation.
You have been in the House for a while and the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila have always come out to speak on this particular issue. Can you tell us, are you a rubber stamp legislature?
To start with, the idea behind getting rubber stamped, one straight answer is no, we are not a rubber stamp legislature. The idea behind being rubber stamped comes from people who don’t have the interest of the nation at heart. The person at the helms of affairs in the executive in person of President Muhammadu Buhari is a no nonsense person; he is a disciplinarian.
The idea of wanting to get rubber stamped is about fraud; that is just the synonyms. This man, you will agree with me, is someone who will not accommodate fraudulent acts. So he doesn’t even interfere in all things that we do, we do as dictated by the law.
And don’t forget too that the person at the helms of affairs in the House of Reps, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila is also a disciplinarian, an experienced legislator, a no nonsense legislator too. This is somebody that was given a national award and he turned it down; this is someone that was in the minority and never decamped, the other time too, he was in the majority and there was no stain and now he is a Speaker. Some of these things are not things that just happened overnight in terms of your wholesome and personality. You don’t expect us to unnecessarily start fighting the executive because we want to get results for the masses. What is important is for us to ensure that we get it right in the interest of our people.
The Federal Government through the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubukar Malami, has pronounced as illegal the security outfit launched code-named Operation Amotekun by the South West governors. Do you think the executive was right on this?
What I know is that we have Neighbourhood Watch Corps in Lagos State, which emanated from the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa and that was backed by a law of the Lagos State House of Assembly.
I want to believe that we don’t throw the baby away with the bath water.
This is a good novel idea considering the level of insecurity in this nation. If Operation Amotekun needs to be strengthened by enabling laws, the federal government could advise appropriately. But I will not be part of the decision to say it should be jettisoned. And the more viral steps towards that is that, we should begin to consider the idea of state policing all in the interest of this nation.
Nobody wants to come and invest in an unsafe clime. And when you look at incidences of crime now, you will see that we are gradually tilting towards kidnapping alone. You can count the number of robbery incidents we have had. And I have said it severally that idea of this security should be localised.
I was part of a submission on the floor of the House of Reps on this same issue of security that our local chiefs and traditional rulers should be involved in the idea of security. This is because they have the security architecture of their areas and they are in a better stead to do some of these things. So I think all that we need are enabling laws to back this newly launched security outfit.