We Are Ready to Be Rubber Stamp for Kwara to Move Forward -KWHA Leader, Magaji

 

Barrister Magaji Obama Abdulkadir is the Leader of the Kwara State House of Assembly. He is representing Ilorin Central State Constituency. In this interview he bares his mind on the perception of the people about the legislature in a civilian regime and the oversight function of the House. Taiwo Ogunniyi brings in the excerpts.

 

In the last eight months in the life of the Tenth Assembly, what can you point to as the achievements of the House?

For every Kwaran who has been following the activities of the Kwara State Tenth Assembly, they will realize that the Assembly has hit the ground running. We have passed a number of bills, though many of them are on amendment basis. We did an amendment to the Environmental Law where we increased the penalty for the offenders. It also includes indiscriminate dumping of refuse.

The penalty was formerly between N1000 and N5000 but now it is between N50, 000 and N100, 000. The government of Kwara State is taking the issue of environmental pollution seriously. That was the essence of the bill. It was an executive bill, which had been passed and signed into law.

And of course, we passed Education Trust Fund Law. It is an amendment, which we have actually passed in this tenure. Several motions have been moved and passed. As at last count, I think we have moved between 28 and 30 motions, which had an immediate and positive impact on our people.

For instance, we moved a motion where we discussed people taking government property as their own. We should be able to protect it. That is one aspect. Then, we moved a motion about the scavengers and several others on health, Kwara State Polytechnic, educational issues and things like that. We are not even relenting. And I can assure you that you are going to see enough.

We have initiated a private bill on the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA), because we know the impact that it would make. So, that is just to mention but a few.

Are there other bills passed in the life of this present Assembly?

We passed about six bills. We have passed a bill on rural access roads and another one on rural agency. We have passed the 2024 appropriation bill, and amendment to the local government electoral law, environmental law and trust fund law. Those are the six bills we have already passed and signed by the Executive Governor of Kwara State. And we are in the process of passing RUWASSA law.

Yes, the House has passed the 2024 budget of Kwara State and assented to by the Governor. What has been the impact of this appropriation law in the lives of the Kwarans?

The government is not relenting. After passing the law, the government has started implementing this particular law since January when it was assented to. And you can see the impact. The impact is the road that you are seeing; that Overhead Bridge and Unity Road that they have started constructing. It is the effect of the appropriation law. And you can see that the government is actually doing some palliatives.

It is also from the bill passed by the Assembly that is giving the government the power to go ahead to appropriate money to this area for the immediate benefit of the people and the citizens of Kwara State. So, the impact is being felt already. The law is just going into its fifth month because it became effective in January, and you can see that we have started seeing the effect.

The belief out there is that the Legislative organ is an appendage of the Executive. Would it be correct to say that the Kwara State House of Assembly is an annex of Government House, Ilorin?

You are even kind with your choice of word, because some people have actually termed most legislatures, Kwara State inclusive, as rubber stamps. And I read recently where a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) tagged us as “Assembly of Governors”.

See, when there is synergy between the executive and the legislature, some people would think we are rubber stamps because what they expect is that there must be a fight. It is just like if you are married and you have a very harmonious relationship with your wife, they will tell you that your wife has taken your clothes and given you her wrapper. That is what they do.

Look at it. When the government is performing optimally and to its best, it has shown even in the whole of Nigeria that Kwara State has performed creditably well. Our Governor is among three best Governors in the whole of Nigeria. It is not easy for somebody to be given Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum; it is because of his performance. And it is what they are seeing. And the legislature should have a synergy to corroborate and partner with the executive so that the people can benefit from the dividends of democracy.

Why do we need to fight somebody that is actually performing? There was one story somebody told me that when they were growing up, there were young boys of one man. Some were notorious for doing bad things; some were not doing bad things. But those who were doing bad things are not the biological children of that particular man. So, the teacher will beat those kids and some people will say the teacher is not beating his own child. And his own child is not notorious and not doing bad things.

When the Governor is performing, why don’t we have to now synergize with him. We have to cooperate with him. I can assure you. Most of the work that we are doing is for the benefit and development of Kwara State. We are not rubber stamps. But if that is what they chose to call us for Kwara State to move forward, we are ready to be called that.

Do you have a free hand to operate as far as law making is concerned?

I can tell you. As leader of the House and the Chairman, Business Committee of the Assembly, there is no business we will be conducting on the floor of the House without me having an input. We have over 100 per cent free hand to operate on what we want to do, and which law to pass, which motion to move, which matter of urgent public importance we want to do, which oversight to go to. Anything that we want to do, we have a free hand to operate.

How is the House faring in its oversight function?

I don’t think that people understand what they mean by oversight. What we mean by oversight is for the Assembly to call back to be able to check where we have appropriated the money, that this money that we have appropriated to this, have you utilized it effectively? The oversight function of this Tenth Assembly has been superb.

We have not been going out to make noise on the site but we have been inviting all the Ministries. There is no ministry which has been given money to execute one project or the other that has not been invited to the Assembly to come and tell us how they have actually spent this money. So, I can tell you that our oversight function in the Assembly has been superb. And that is why most of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are on their toes.

Does the oversight function cover supervision of projects, for instance, to advise the government and the contractor?

That is what I just answered. Majorly, some people will feel that it is when we put ourselves inside the bus as Assembly members on a visit to a particular project that is when we can carry out our oversight function. No! That is not it. An oversight function has two legs. We have appropriated money for you to do this thing, and we can call you to come and account for this money. The money that was given to you, how did you spend it? If you now tell us this, where are the pieces of evidence that you actually did it this way? We have seen the evidence, and that is what we are doing.

In this Tenth Assembly, I can tell you that we are dynamic. We don’t want to do it the old way, that the only way you can do your oversight function is to go to the site, talk to the contractor or to check their work on site. We have carried out our oversight function systematically. We first of all invite them to come and defend what we have given to them. So, the next stage will now be physical inspection of projects.

It is a different stage for you to now say I have done this and that. We are armed with those documents. We now go out. Even if the contractors are not there, you have given us a specific area where you have actually carried out the project. If it is not there, we can call you and we know that there are things to do. That is the next step.

The Speaker of Kwara State House of Assembly, Engr Yakubu Danladi Salihu, led some stakeholders in Kwara North on a tour of the ongoing Bode-Saadu/Kaiama/Kosubosu road project recently. Can we liken that to an oversight too?

No. That visitation is not an oversight function. It is a tour on the part of the people of Kwara North to appreciate the effort of the Executive Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, for bringing such a gigantic project that will have a positive impact on the lives of the people, especially people living in Kwara North. That is why they did that.

In view of the rising cost of governance, there have been calls for Nigeria to transit from bicameral legislature to unicameral legislature. As a lawyer and lawmaker, do you back the idea?

That does not necessarily translate to reduction in the cost of governance; it does not. What is important is for you to have qualitative governance; people that can actually do the job and you know you are satisfied with the way they will do it. To me, I will tell you why I am supporting the bicameral legislature.

If you elect your leaders into the legislative arm, that is unicameral now. They will now, among themselves, elect one of them to be first among equals also known as Primus Inter Pares. If they appoint that one, he will now be appointed as Prime Minister to come and form a government, and they will have a Ceremonial President.

So, if you have a Ceremonial President, it means the power of the people to choose who will lead them, has been delegated to a limited people. It can be argued those limited people were voted for by the people. Yes, they were voted for by the people but they did not vote for one of them. Unfortunately or fortunately, the person among them may be the least qualified.

I can tell you categorically if the United Kingdom (UK) is not running a unicameral, the present Prime Minister wouldn’t have emerged as the Prime Minister of Britain. But because the power has been given and is limited, the first person majorly was removed under some circumstances. So, they have a limited number of people to choose from. That was what gave the incumbent Prime Minister the advantage to be elected as a Prime Minister. We don’t want to do that. Nigeria is far, far…

The population of the United Kingdom is over 120million. So, we should be able to see the antecedents of the person who is going to be our President and he can be removed by the House. There are precedents to remove him if he did not perform very well. And an opportunity to be led by another person will be given to the people. Don’t let me go into the details because discussing it will take more time.

But I will support the system we are running in Nigeria. We have run it before and we have seen the consequence. We have moved forward. So, the best form of legislative arm is bicameral.

Would you also subscribe to the calls that the legislature should be paid per sitting, from the perspective of part-time basis?

For somebody that wants to play at the gallery, they will tell you, yes, let it be part-time. In fact, I can assure you. I’m in my office, carrying out my legislative work. Who will pay for that if you are saying I should only be paid for the period that I was on the floor of the House. Sometimes we have to work on the floor of the House, maybe Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

There are other works that we need to carry on. The work of a legislator is not only limited to the making of the law alone. Even the implementation and execution of that law is not actually given to us by the Constitution but we see it to serve as a feedback. The people voted for us and they will give us feedback first. It is part of our work.

Most of us when we leave offices, we go to our various constituency offices where we get the feedback of the law we have made or how the executive are actually executing it. Are they doing it well or not? Where is the limitation? Where are the lapses and how can we improve it?

So, you are asking that they (lawmakers) should be paid for part-time. You are leaving room for people to now be.. You are leaving room for so many things to happen. I would prefer that it should be full-time.

As a lawmaker from Ilorin, you will agree with me that we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder considering the way youth indulge in drug and substance use. What do you think can be done to curb this menace?

You will be correct to say that the rate of the decadence in the society among the youth, particularly abuse of the drug and other illicit substances, is alarming. To break it down, what the House is actually doing is that a member has introduced a private-member bill on how and to prohibit the illicit use of drugs. That is on the part of the Assembly. We are trying to make a law that would curb the usage of illicit drugs.

I think personally that things that can be done, and which I am actually doing, is to try to engage these youths to be productive so that they can be something and can become somebody in the society. For the youth, whatever they invest in their youth that will now translate to what they will become in the future.

For instance, in my own constituency, I have formed a committee to engage youth that are interested in vocational skills to acquire the skills. I have over 250 people that I have paid for that would undergo training in tailoring. I have paid for over 120 people in the making of soap, insecticide and others. Then, we are in the process of training some people for barbering salon, acquisition of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

And again, the activities that we have done in paying the school fees of some students and examinations’ fees are to ensure that they will not be dropped out from school. They will have hope. It is when you have hope that you will say when I’m going to school, I can become somebody. We are now telling them that the fact that you are leaving school and you are not getting white collar jobs, does not mean you are useless to society.

If you have one skill or the other, you can become someone and become useful to society. And even with that, the law of Nigeria is liberal. You can become the President of this country. All you need to do is just for you to have a school certificate. It is not compulsory for you to go to University and things like that. So, we are trying to re-orientate the thinking of the youth to see that even if you want to take this drug, you will not do it in a way that will destroy your future. But if you can prevent or leave the drug, it will be the best and better for you.

Recently in Kwara State, NDLEA organized a seminar to educate the youth and to see how to partner with the Executive Governor and the executive in the state to curb the taking and accessibility to drugs. It has pervaded everywhere in the society, it is not only in Kwara State. But we are talking about Kwara. By the special grace of God, it is a demon and we are going to overcome it.

At the Tenth Assembly here in Kwara, you have five females out of 24 lawmakers. What difference would you say their presence has made in the House in spite of the fact that you were not at the Ninth Assembly?

Thank you that you said I was not in the Ninth Assembly because I wouldn’t be objectively able to comparatively compare what had transpired when they didn’t have women and now that we have. But what I can say is that we at the Tenth Assembly are lucky to have these five women among us. They have been very resourceful, and they have always been there.

Anywhere you see women; they are the mothers of every society. They brought in a lot of innovations, which were hitherto not in any of the Assembly, either in the Ninth Assembly or the previous Assembly. These women, in terms of intellectual, mother care and women touch, they have been there. And we know this is just the beginning. We are still going to enjoy them more. In fact, I can say that we are very lucky to have women among us.

Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has been in the saddle for five years now. How would you assess his government?

Honestly speaking, I will say the administration of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has been a blessing to Kwara State without being biased. Not necessarily because I am from the same ruling party as him. But honestly speaking, his administration has been a blessing to Kwara State. Talk of any arm of governance that he has not been touched. He has tried and he is trying his best, and I am very sure Kwara will still enjoy him more.

Talk about infrastructure, not necessarily legacy projects. But in terms of projects that would have impact not on the lives of individuals in Kwara but on the total outlook of Kwara State as a whole. He said it and he is doing it. He said Kwara is only known as a Civil Servants’ State. That is it is only civil servants that would generate the money. It is after they collect salaries that you see activities in Kwara State. He is changing it.

He is bringing in an International Trade Centre into Kwara State. It is one of its kinds, you can imagine. He has done and completed Sugar Film Factory, which is one of the best in the whole of Africa. He has expanded Kwara State University with three campuses. This will bring in an inflow of people, and when you have an inflow of people, it will bring in an inflow of capital. When you have an inflow of capital, you will see that people will now enjoy it. We are lucky that Kwara State, which is known as the State of Harmony, is still maintaining its harmonious trend. It is still relatively peaceful compared to most States in Nigeria.

If you have this peaceful State, most people from the North, South and East will want to settle down in Kwara. And the people of Ilorin West where I come from are very accommodating. Even if we don’t know you, we can give you accommodation in our house to come and stay with us. So, that is a way where the Governor is trying to see. He is trying to encourage and attract investors into Kwara State. And by attracting investors into Kwara, you must have not only adequate security but adequate accommodation. That is the essence of the renovation of a five-star hotel in Kwara State. When you have a five-star hotel in the state, you can imagine who will be coming to Kwara to come and conduct businesses.

A local trader, who sells vegetables in the market might be reading my interview and ask how that is going to translate to me having money. Yes, it will because an investor coming to Kwara State might be passing through the market. If he is passing through the market, he will now look at the vegetables. Or for instance, let us say the driver. The person that will drive that investor will be paid. And he will use that money to come and buy the vegetables in the market. That is how it will have a multiplier effect and positive value.

Despite all that you have mentioned that the Governor is doing, the opposition believes that he has not commissioned any project in the last five years. Is that a yardstick to measure the performance of the Governor?

The only yardstick that you can use to measure any government is its performance, execution, what it has done and been able to achieve. The fact that we have not commissioned a project does not mean that he has not done that project. In the first 100 days of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq in his first tenure, he executed over 200 projects. I can tell you. I wouldn’t want to mention any particular government.

There was one government before AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. When they said it should list its achievements in the first 100 days, I read it. They did not tell me. That government said painting of kerbs along Ahmadu Bello Way. Well, the government of AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq did not list painting of kerbs as its achievements. The least achievement you can see in this administration is the interlock. And some people will tell you the interlock of roads is not significant. It is significant.

In most of the advanced countries, you will see them. They use interlocks for their roads and they are durable. In the first tenure, he built an overhead bridge and in the second tenure, he is executing another bridge. We have never had it this good in Kwara State.

Most of the projects the past government left uncompleted, it was Governor AbdulRazaq, who has actually completed them, and he is not even taking glory for it. He is giving them the glory so as to show that though you initiated it, we completed it. He has started his own and completed several projects. And I’m sure by the time he starts to commission these projects, in fact, Kwarans will be very happy to see most of these things.

Governor AbdulRazaq has been a silent achiever. Some of us have just been following. But keen followers have been seeing it. I actually must use this opportunity to thank the whole Kwara for voting the Governor again to continue his good work. It is an endorsement that he did well, he is doing well and he will continue to do well.