EFCC is on a political mission to Imo, says Uwajimogu

| January 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

Imo State House of Assembly Speaker, Chief Benjamin Uwajimogu recently spoke with some journalists in Owerri on the arrest of some officials of the state by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Assembly. Charles Ogugbuaja was there. Excerpts:

AT various times, the Legislature has been accused of being a rubber stamp of the Executive. Do you think this is a fair assessment of the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature?

We have a presidential system of government, which has in place the principle of separation of powers and checks and balances. Our experience in Nigeria is that the Legislature has not developed at the same rate, as the Executive because it is the arm that suffers the most is the event of a military putsch. The Executive and the Judiciary have developed over the years. In this Republic, the Legislature is only about 13 years. It is emasculated all over the country and we have not had the kind of stability we will like. At one time, we had frequent changes of senate presidents due to interference from the executive. What we have in Nigeria today is anomalous. It is not the right thing.

In various Houses of Assembly the governors of course interfere. But in Imo, we have been able to draw a line. The solution is to grant the Houses of Assembly financial autonomy. This will help the Houses to grow. I know that people expect the House to be in control of government. But this is wrong. There are things a governor would want to do, and we cannot say that he should not do it unless it does not follow due process. But again, if we have disagreements with the governor, it is not for public consumption.

What can you say about the intention of the government to look at the immediate past administration and the arrest of some officials by the EFCC?

We have a committee headed by the deputy speaker that is probing the former administration. We also have another committee, headed by Dr. Victor Mere, probing the Local Government administration. Although we are to move forward and not backwards, there are questions begging for answers. From preliminary reports, we are talking about N70 billion missing from the state coffers, and we cannot tie this to specific projects, for an administration that spent more than N480 billion. The question we asked, if we do not probe, how could we correct this or inform people on what their money has been used for. That is why this probe is going on. The House has already commenced work on this and I think it is important that we look at what happened in the past.

I had said that every transaction by the government has the consent of the House. I don’t know why it has become the job of the EFCC to classify borrowing as legal and illegal.

Do you think the government in the state has met the expectations of the people?

There is no doubt that this government has met with the expectations of the people. Imo has changed. This government has been able to change the psyche of the average Imo citizen. Hitherto, people never believed in government; governors and those in government were seen as criminals, people whose only job is to steal the peoples’ money. Today, people can see projects and things happening in the state. They can see a government making good the promise on free and qualitative education. We are not talking about old primary school blocks, but complete new and modern blocks. Today, we are talking about a child getting school uniform, shoes, bags and almost everything he or she needs. The headmasters have returned to their place of honour.

Enrolment has grown from 230,000 pupils to over a million in the primary schools. The story is the same in the secondary schools. For the past one year, there has been no strike in the State University. Now we are offering undergraduates free tuition. The university get N252 million every month, rather than the N57 million it was getting before now. The road projects are all over the state. In the last year, more than 137 roads have been completed in Owerri. New General Hospitals are being built. We are set to pass a bill for free medical services for citizens.

What can the House say it has achieved?

Most of our bills are people-oriented bills. We have achieved so much in terms of infrastructure in the House. We are digitalising the laws of Imo. We have started what we called participatory budgetary, which means that in everything we do, we consult communities and find out what they require. We believe in participatory legislation. We have written to the National Assembly to participate in the areas that concerns Imo. We have written to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to come to Imo rather than just citing projects. It used to be that the NDCC will come and we will hear that they have given a contract for a project. We want them to consult with the state government when they are budgeting for Imo so that we can tell them exactly what we need. So far, we don’t see the impact of the NDCC, all the projects they have in the state have not been completed.

You talked of the government borrowing from the Local Government. What does that mean?

The State Government borrowed N15 billion from Local Government Idle Fund and they have repaid over N13 billion. The balance will be paid soon. We believe that this move by the EFCC is political and we are asking the Federal Government not go the way of the past.

Do you think it is necessary to exclude Town Unions from the Community Government Council?

There is a law called Town Union Law in Imo. When we created the Community Government Council, it repealed the Town Union Law. We are transforming the town union into county council. What we are trying to do is to bring the two to function together. The traditional ruler is there as the chairman of the county. We have the Community Liaison Officer who is governor’s representative in the community. He liaises between the community and the government.

If there is a health problem in the communities, we don’t need to call the Commissioner for Health, when the Community Government is there. If you need to sink a borehole that will cost about N50,000, the community can do it. Why should the state government be responsible for the running of fertiliser or sweeping of culverts? Niger State has adopted it and calls it ward governing body. Even in the U.S. there were county councils.

What do you make of the talks of an impeachment plot against Governor Rochas Okorocha as alleged by the state chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)?

The talks of impeachment, counter impeachment, pro-impeachment are imaginations of the rumour- mongers. The way people talk about impeachment in Imo is amazing. There is no plan to impeach the governor.

Culled from :Here

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