Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on International Agreements and Conventions, Hon. Ekundayo Bush-Alebiosu, spoke with Gboyega Akinsanmi on the plight of Bakassi people as well as diverse issues, including the domestication of treaties to which Nigeria is a signatory. Excerpts...
Nigeria is a signatory to many international treaties and convention but many of them have not been domesticated. Why the delay?
I am not happy personally with the way we have been handling issues that are germane to the development of our beloved country. Under the leadership of Hon. Aminu Tanbuwal, the House of Representatives realised this problem and that led to the establishment of the International Agreement and Convention Committee to thrash out all issues that have to do with treaties.
Nigeria is a party to more than 200 treaties. Funny enough, less than 10 per cent of the treaties are domesticated. There are those that require financial commitment on the part of the country. We also have those that require the ratification process. That is also a function of the National Assembly. However, to sign up the ratification is purely the function of the executive.
Some treaties require enactment. But Section 12 of the 1999 Constitution states that no treaty shall have the force of law until it has been passed into law by the National Assembly. For instance, the Montreal Convention was enacted and domesticated through enactment into the Aviation Act.
That is exactly why there can be compensation today in the incident of Dana plane crash, which occurred in Lagos on June 3. Some treaties that were signed more than five years ago have not been brought to the National Assembly by the executive for deliberation and proper domestication. Quite a number of them do not have the force of law because they are not established under our law.
Against the background of what you just explained, what do you think are the problems associated with domesticating many of the conventions and treaties?
You are asking a wrong person the right question. This question should be directed at those who are expected to act decisively on the treaties. That is what really puzzles me and the essence of signing a treaty is to protect the citizenry of our great country. The essence also is to achieve some strategic goals.
Let us examine Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) for instance. We have done our own part and we have passed it to the executive. But till date, the bill has not been assented to. The committee is now calling for that bill to be returned to it in order to have a second look at it. One of the conditions that the treaty is aiming to achieve is to check the increase in tobacco consumption rate. That is why the treaty is saying one cannot advertise tobacco consumption anymore.
Don’t you consider the politics of tobacco conglomerates as a militating factor against proper domestication of the framework?
I agree with you because I understand where you are coming from. But why did Nigeria sign the deal in the first instance. Why did we agree to be a part of it? If we are not satisfied with a treaty, we should register our reservation by pointing at those parts of the treaties that one is not satisfied with.
We are not saying one should not smoke in Nigeria. But what we are saying is that the company cannot advertise any tobacco product. This is because before one advertises, he has a target audience. It was established in the past that the target audience for tobacco was the youth. We all know the side effect of smoking. It was said then that if they had to allow people to smoke, they must be informed about the content of what they were about to consume.
People are now very aware of the importance of understanding the content of whatever they intend to consume. They now read what is written on the body of the product. In order to know what was used to prepare the product and others, the manufacturer should be able to inform smokers that this is what smoking does to anyone who buys cigarette. That is what the bill is seeking to do and that one cannot smoke in public area.
What is the percentage of smokers in any public gathering? One will discover that their percentage is less than 10 per cent of any public congregation. Shouldn’t the 90 per cent be protected? That is the angle at which I am looking at it. Also, photograph to show the side effect of smoking will be displayed at public places. We know that not everyone who smokes can read and those that cannot read will be able to see the effect of smoking through the pictures.
Besides, giving up smoking is a personal decision. Every individual who smokes knows that it causes cancer of the lungs. But we should be able to explain to our people the advantages and disadvantages of smoking.
The Cross Rivers State House of Assembly has called for a review of the judgment of International Court of Justice that ceded Bakassi to Cameroon. Do you see any prospect in the renewed agitation?
First of all, we need to understand that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had given its judgement on the issue. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was blamed for going to the court on the issue. It contravenes the fact that he did not go to court. Cameroon dragged us to court on the issue.
What we should have done before the matter was dragged to the ICJ was that we should have made a declaration that ‘we refuse to lay ourselves to the rulings of the ICJ.’ But we did not. We actually put up a defence and paid hundreds of millions of dollars from what we had gathered as professional fees. Now we have found ourselves in what we have found ourselves.
The judgment gave birth to the Green Tree Agreement and now it requires domestication of the agreement to comply with Section four of the 1999 Constitution which empowers the National Assembly to make laws for peace, order and good government of the federation. The question now remains: Has the agreement been brought to the National Assembly for domestication? The answer is no.
Why has the executive not brought the Green Tree Agreement to the National Assembly?
We all know whose responsibility it is to bring the issue to the National Assembly for deliberation. Let us have it in mind that the 1999 Constitution still recognises Bakassi as part of Nigeria. This means some people in power have not been doing their jobs properly. We still have a long way to go.
It is quite a complicated issue. We need to organise a meeting where we will have delimitation experts to come together to delimitate this issue with the intention of providing the needed solution to the issue between Nigeria and Cameroon rather than shy away from it. We are all responsible for this. We all know that there is an issue to be resolve between both countries and this problem has to be resolved.
Don’t you think that the National Assembly should prevail on the executive with respect to the signing of the treaties?
I agree with you. But it is actually a bill. Because the consideration right now is to amend the treaties, and this involves lawmakers going through it section by section in order for them to have thorough understanding. Right now, some are of the opinion that the process is like a rubber stamp process. But we need to understand that we attend this convention and summit to have a clear understanding.
At conferences, they make one see the features and the benefit of those things. So, where the lawmakers are involved, they get first-hand information. That gives them the opportunity to have thorough understanding in transporting the provisions in the treaties into the law.
For instance, what happened to the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA)? We have numerous agreements and treaties like BASA. We are in Nigeria. Now, we are complaining about price. Why should ours be double of what they pay in Ghana? That could have been addressed in the BASA agreement.
If you want to get your business flight from here, it is about 80 per cent higher than what you will get from Ghana. They told us that the economic opportunity in Ghana is in high demand. That it is the same thing that we get for demand. But after carrying out our investigation, we discovered that it was not the same. There was a huge difference between the flight fares. There is an article of the BASA agreement which addresses the issue of price. We can take advantage of the section.
I read on the pages of the newspaper where the aviation minister said that the panellist in United Kingdom (UK) said for Nigeria to appeal, the country must back down and she referred to the BASA agreement. They do not see the importance of BASA and this means that if the rights of Nigerians which that agreement protects is infringed upon, one cannot go to any court within the country because it offends no law of the land. Then one will need to seek the services of international courts.
But the other party is benefitting more than Nigeria. In the end, one does not get what he deserves but what he or she has bargained for. The second has to do with domestication. Has it been domesticated? While some have been domesticated, have they been domesticated properly because we cannot domesticate part of it? But we have to domesticate the entire provisions. Well, there are observations; one is expected to register his observation.
The final issue is how it benefits Nigeria. Those that have been domesticated, have they been looked at to check if they are those that have life span? We have several treaties and conventions with South Africa. There is also a treaty which allows us to provide legal assistance to them here while they do the same to us in their country. How many of those treaties have been domesticated lately? While we expect their government to protect our business interest in South Africa as they have done, we should be able to reciprocate that here by giving that agreement the force of law so that we can also adequately protect those that are doing business here.
Delta Speaker: Nigerians Don’t Understand Roles of Legislature
Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. Victor Ochei, told Anayo Okolie of the challenges confronting lawmakers, autonomy of the state legislature and the relationship between the House and the executive arm of government in the state
It is over one year now that you assumed office as the Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, how has it been?
Well, it has been glorious. It has been a wonderful experience. It has been challenging and it is also a privilege for me to serve my people and my state at the level where I am serving now. It is not just enough to occupy this position but coping with the enormous challenges that go with it even though people see more of the grandeur of office that goes with it than the challenges.
It has been challenging also because our democracy is still at the point where people are yet to appreciate the difference between a legislator and the man who heads the executive. They believe that irrespective of the position you occupy, you all are in government and the moment you are in government, if the road is bad, you are the one responsible. If the schools are bad, you are the one. In the hospital, if there are no drugs, you are the cause.
Recently, somebody sent me a text message that there was a drain that was not properly covered and hence I displayed gross ineptitude even as a member of the Nigeria Society of Engineers in doing my job. So, if I see a drain that is not properly covered, I should stop and cover it. Those are parts of the challenges that one has to cope with because ordinarily, if I do not occupy the position of the speaker that I am occupying at present, he woudn’t send that text.
Apart from the fact that it has been an integrating experience, I was one time a floor member of the Assembly. I contributed to debates and I knew how to lobby my colleagues; but now, I will be itching to join the debate but I cannot, because I will be descending into the arena.
I have to rule in line with the argument on the floor. So, on this, you have the powers to do things the way you see it but you are bound to rule in accordance with how the people see it. It is just like the Latin man said that “not for me, but for others.” Whatever it is, you have to rule in line with what others have said but it has been glorious because we have very wonderful colleagues. I am very proud of them because they have given me their co-operation.
What were the things that you actually saw and which you believed you could change and now that you are there, have you been able to make significant changes on such issues?
Yes. There are a lot of things that as a member on the floor of the House, you will see. The legislature is such that you must give due regards to whoever becomes the speaker because he will execute his programme as the political head and you must do things in a way that will make the speaker succeed. Those are the kinds of things you put in place. But for me, when I became the speaker, the most important thing I had in mind was to restore the glory of the institution.
It is the first arm of government in the constitution and a lot of people do not appreciate the role of legislature because they attach wrong perception to it. They see it as an arm of the executive but it is not. I came on board believing that we would collaborate and co-operate with the executive arm because without that collaboration, you cannot move government forward; but at the same time, I believe we could cooperate without compromising the independence of the legislature. What the average society wants to see is a situation where the legislature is at war with the executive. That is the only way they can say that this legislature is working. But when they don’t see the rancour or get to hear about it, it means that they have been bought over.
They seem to forget that it takes co-operation to have a leadership and without the followers, you cannot have leadership. People must appreciate that legislators are limited to what they know but people expect them to know what they don’t know. I am not the executive arm that awards contracts but they will expect you to give them contracts and when you don’t give them, you become a bad person. We are the first set of contact with the grassroots and the government. Therefore, if they come to you and you do not give them the contracts, the next thing they will do is to wait for you during the election to make sure that you don’t come back.
Secondly, people accuse you of things not being properly done. Meanwhile, they have never bothered to know why it was not done properly. They would rather sit down and say all the things that were not true because the fastest and easiest way to become popular in this country is to criticise those in government. They talk as if government has the ability to do everything. It is not possible.
I came with the plan to restore the dignity of this institution. By the time I am done with the programme I have, if you see an average legislator from Delta State, you don’t need to be told that the person is a legislator. You will see knowledge in him, you will see in him the ability to engage constructively with his people and also let the people know what the legislature is about.
What you have in many cases is a lawmaker being besieged by his people; telling his about somebody who has died or his burial, a wedding ceremony or a naming ceremony and child dedication. These are not issues that a legislator has to deal with, but the legislator cannot tell his constituent to get away with his request. He has to do something and in doing it, he has also to find a way to meet up and in finding a way to do that, the public gets angry with him. Meanwhile, he is not the cause of his problem. Therefore, we must be able to communicate to the Nigerian public that these are the duties of legislators and if you want them to succeed, you have to do those things that people outside the country do for their legislators.
If you are asking them money for school fees, money for marriage and money for burial and you still expect them to perform very well, where are they going to bring the money from? These are the kinds of transformation that I look forward to bringing into the legislature because the first impression about a place gives you the impression of what other places look like or the kind of things that happens in another place. I also believe that the physical transformation of the legislative complex will also serve as impetus to the kind of transformation we are bringing into the legislature as an institution on its own and not just as an arm of government.
A lot of people see you as the governors’ boy and secondly, during the constitution review, you were pursuing the autonomy of the state Assembly but it was later dropped by most states except Lagos State which pushed its own through. Is there anything you are doing to achieve this autonomy in Delta State because that’s the only way you can sustain and maintain your independence?
Well, you have a double-barrelled question but let me break it down one after the other. People see me as the governors’ boy. It is their perception and they are entitled to their opinion but what is important is that the governor doesn’t have to be my enemy before I play to the gallery that I am not his boy. I don’t have to say because the governor is going this way, I must go the other way. That is not the meaning of checks and balances as captured by Baron De Montesquieu who propounded the principle of separation of powers. Now, the major treasure that we have as a House of Assembly, which I emphasised in my inaugural speech, was that we would collaborate and work with the executive arm to make things flow but we would not compromise independence of the legislature.
Several times, the governor says he wants this but we say we cannot grant it. It is entirely the business of legislature to determine that and we have the right to also say we are not going to do this. We have mature people in Delta State. Before now, we used to be at loggerheads with the executive. Now, what we do is to sit down and discuss ahead of time. If the executive wants to propose the budget, there will be a pre-budget meeting with the Assembly by the executive arm first. Then they will give us the proposal and show us what they intend to do either they want to fund this sector with X percentage or the other sector with Y percentage.
‘Speakers Will Fight for Autonomy for State Legislatures This Time Around’
Chairman of Conference of Speakers and Speaker of Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Eugene Odoh, in this interview with Christopher Isiguzo, spoke on the resolve of state legislatures to unanimously push for their autonomy in the ongoing constitution review bid, among other issues
What does your appointment as the chairman, Conference of Speakers on the review of the 1999 Constitution connote?
The Conference of Speakers of Nigeria is an association comprising speakers and deputy speakers of the federation and with the ongoing constitution amendment by virtue of Section 9:2 of the constitution, the Houses of Assembly in the country have got a lot of roles to play. One of such roles is to ratify whatever amendment made by the National Assembly by two-third majority of the state Houses of Assembly in Nigeria. Based on this critical role, the conference now felt that there was need to constitute a committee to liaise with the National Assembly and make input with regards to the amendment to the 1999 Constitution. Part of the reasons as well is to make sure that members of the Houses of Assembly are adequately carried along so that the ratification by resolution by will be easier when the amendment would have been concluded by the National Assembly.
Are there areas where the speakers’ conference has taken specific positions on the amendment?
The meeting is ongoing but it is most likely that the conference will be very much interested in the issues of citizenship and indigeneship. It will be contained in our memo to the National Assembly that there has to be a certain number of years that someone may stay in a different place other than his primary place of abode so that the person becomes a citizen or indigene of that place. In that case, we should be able to put forward the concept of a citizenship in this country. The conference even looked at the way the issue of citizenship in America and others are acquired by mere visa lottery and one becomes a citizen of America and for somebody who is a citizen of Nigeria to now be unable to locate himself in one of the states of this country, we think it is not actually the best.
We shall be looking at the autonomy of the House of Assembly and it is the wish of the Conference of Speakers that all the state Houses of Assembly should be autonomous, independent of the executive and judiciary. We hope that assessing funds directly from the consolidated revenue will equally strengthen democracy in the respective Houses of Assembly. We are equally looking at the methodology through which the speakers, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives are removed from office. The constitution did not protect the legislature in this country on the procedure of removal; the constitution merely said that majority of members present by voting can remove legislative heads.
No process was stated. The constitution did not even go as far as giving reasons on what and what should be done for a speaker of the House of Representatives or President of the Senate to be liable to face impeachment proceedings which may lead to removal. We felt that it should be in the interest of the conference to equally make suggestions and submit a memorandum in that respect. We shall be looking at devolution of powers, especially from the Federal Government to states and from states to local governments. We are looking at how we can run a federal system of government because many issues have arisen as regards true federalism and federalism. But as far as we are concerned, federalism is federalism, there is nothing like true federalism.
It is either federalism or unitary system of government. The issue of true federalism doesn’t exist anywhere. I think one should rather prefer a balanced federalism if there has to be an addendum to it, which will be equivalent to federal character in our constitution. The component systems of government have to be strengthened because so much power is concentrated in the Federal Government and we believe that such powers should be withdrawn. For instance, the issue of education, the Federal Government ought not to have business with the issue of education unless where it connotes a federal institution and even when there is a federal institution resident in the state, I think such monies should be left for the state to handle.
This is because it will be very difficult for the Federal Government to supervise and superintend effectively over the 36 states of the federation and Abuja in terms of monitoring what is happening. It is also the thinking of the Conference of Speakers that some items on the exclusive list should be removed. We are looking at such items as taxation, which we believe should come under state authority. It cannot be federal law that regulates this as a matter of fact and then the issue of telecommunications should not be on the exclusive list. These are more or less basic amenities. Any state can make laws that will facilitate the usage of telecommunications in the state. These are some of the issues and we hope to make our own memorandum explicit to the National Assembly at the shortest possible time.
During the last constitutional amendment, efforts were made by the executive to prevail on the state legislature not to accept the aspect of autonomy in the constitution. Now that it is coming up again, do you think it can sail through this time?
By the grace of God, once the National Assembly incorporates independence of the state legislatures in the amendment to the constitution, the state Houses of Assembly will try as much as possible to ratify that. The concept of the state legislatures being autonomous has nothing to do with undermining the functions of state executives. It is rather going to strengthen it. So, I think that by the grace of God, not even the governors may this time around object to it. But we appeal to the understanding of Nigerians and whoever is involved to see reasons and make sure that there is passage of this amendment. Our duty is to ratify because we cannot keep on being in this way.
In fact, the truth is that most of the states budgetary allocations in this country are not realisable and I believe that is the fear of most of the governors because you can see a state having a budget of N100 billion for instance but when you calculate the total statutory allocation from the Federation Account and internally generated revenue, you will see that they may not be able to get up to N40 billion. We think that House of Assembly members are equally human beings and what we are advocating is that for states that are unable to realise their budget, the amount that will be released to the state Assembly has to be distributed pro rata what was realised and not what was budgeted for and in that way, we should be able to see reasons with ourselves because the states belong to all of us. So, we share the sentiments of some governors who feel that most of the budgets of the states are not realised but at the same time, that will not prevent autonomy of the state House of Assembly.
What is the position of the Conference of Speakers on issues like state creation?
The conference is well in support of state creation but the conference equally took into cognizance that state creation is more or less something that has to be articulated at the zonal level. It will not be proper for somebody from Sokoto for instance to be talking about how a state is going to be created in the South-east. The aspiration must come from the South-east first and for us in the South-east, we believe that state creation in the region is not to be put in the front burner of the usual basket of sharing. The South-east as a matter of fact, we believe, not as a conference this time around, but personally, we believe that the South-east needs a state so that it will be at par with others. The conference is looking at state creation from the angle of a state that has overwhelming support of the geo political zone where the state is to be created. The conference is not all that interested in going from zone to zone to see where the state can be created. It is interested in the corporate entity of what will bring peace in this country and what the National Assembly has found expedient provided it borders on equity.
There have always been calls for a review of the 1999 Constitution mainly because it has not worked. Are there new issues apart from the ones being reviewed that you think that can make the constitution work?
We are yet to see issues that are not being implemented; the issue is that the implementation of laws is not essentially meant for the executive or those on whom the law has imposed duties of implementation of the laws. The implementation of any law is meant for the entire populace. There are several ways through which laws can be implemented if what is ascribed to you in the constitution is being violated. You can go to the court and get the court to get the appropriate agency to get it implemented. So, we believe that we are moving forward in this country and that the constitution of the country is largely implemented.
I do not see any aspect of the constitution that is grossly violated. What you see are instances where people take advantage of the lacuna in the constitution to violate laws and that explains why the amending the constitution is quite necessary so that people will no longer take advantage of the issue of the lacuna in the constitution to circumvent the laws. For instance, the constitution gives the latitude to any aspirant the powers to join any political party of his choice and at the same time quit any political party. So, you now see people who have run primaries in bigger parties and when they lose, they will now go to smaller parties and get nomination and those smaller parties may sponsor them and when they get to the general election and win election, you see them reverting to the bigger party instead of staying to nurture and make the smaller party grow. It happened in Ondo State and the court had said that the candidate who won election on the platform of Labour Party and then left for ACN should lose his position. That is the position of the law now and we are waiting to see what the Court of Appeal and ultimately the Supreme Court will say on it. So, you now see that the issue is not about the constitution, it is about people circumventing the lacuna in the constitution.
Fears over State Police Unfounded, says Muiz Banire
Dr Muiz Banire, National Legal Adviser of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), in this interview with Zacheaus Somorin, spoke on the recent governorship election in Edo State, Lagos politics, judiciary and security crisis in the country
The candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) at the last governorship election in Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, won the election overwhelmingly. What do you think was responsible for that landmark victory?
It’s the reaffirmation of democratic credentials of ACN, the party’s commitment to promote a welfare state as well as the dedication of our ambassadors. The PDP had its agenda but it never succeeded. I tend to subscribe that we still have a long way to go as far as credible election is concerned.
As the National Legal Adviser of ACN, what is your comment on allegations and counter allegations that your party has negative influence on the judiciary?
The first question you should ask is who controls the judiciary? The PDP does. How can we then be the people using them underneath the PDP? They control the judiciary. All the election panels are usually set up by the Federal Government by extension because it is the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court that set them up and those are more or less, “parastatals under the Presidency” as far as I am concerned. So, who is more likely to influence the judiciary than the other? Is it the one that does not even have any affiliation or relationship with them? I don’t know who will be in position to influence the institution rather than them.
Look at the Justice Ayo Salami issue. Up till now, nobody has brought out any evidence on how we influenced Justice Salami and the ignorance of it is even that Justice Salami never participated in the determination of election petitions for example, in Osun State. In Sokoto, where there was a major issue, the Chief Justice of Nigeria was not a party to the proceeding there. So, how could we have been influencing Salami in respect of that? The only one he participated in, was maybe that of Ekiti State and every one of us was a living witness to all the things that happened in Ekiti. They were apparent things and not hidden. So, some of this thinking seems ridiculous to me. I don’t know where they got all these things from. If they have any evidence against the man, they would have brought it out.
There have been media reports that some ACN members have been defecting to PDP in Lagos State, how true is the story?
All I can say is that they are all clowns. Did you see the defcetors? I can tell you that the entire PDP members in Lagos are not up to 500 not to talk of the number of defcetors. Where would they find it? Let them bring out their members’ register. They don’t even have 500 members. In fact, I want to believe in reality that the PDP members in the state are all ACN members. They are just pretending because of whatever they can get from the Federal Government and other state governors of PDP. That is why they are still there. I can tell you that PDP incursion into the South-west is over, especially with the rate ACN is going in terms of developmental agenda which I believe will be pursued to a logical conclusion. I do not see any other party trying to compete at all in any of the South-west states.
Talks on the planned Alliance between ACN and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) are ongoing. Taking into consideration the historical failures of such moves, do you think it can work out by 2015?
It’s a good development. In terms of ideology, we are substantially similar. It’s the same talakawa (welfare) concept that we both share. We are progressives.
The Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker has been in and out of court over allegations of corruption. What assistance is the legal department of the party rendering to him in this regard?
The issue of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly is in his personal capacity and to that extent, the best we can do is to sympathise with him and render all necessary assistance we can give, which I believe we are doing as a party.
What is the level of your relationship with the embattled speaker?
Well, my relationship with him has always been formal. The truth of the matter is that you can’t have intimate relationship with everybody. For example, you can be friends with people but your intimacy with each of them has limits. When I was in government, I worked with so many people at the official level, we were all close, but beyond that, at personal level, we were not.
So, it is the same thing in the relationship between most of our people and I. As far as I am concerned, I have friends among them. I have people who are colleagues in terms of politics, profession, governance and some, beyond all those parameters. We are just associates.
The security situation in the country has been worrisome against the background of recurrent bombings in some parts of the country. What is your take on this?
The security situation is worrisome and all of us are back to God whether we like it or not because nobody can secure anybody again now. That is my own perception because it’s only God that can secure anybody now. The dangers around us are too enormous for us to bear, control or even confront because they are just too much. I can’t even explain how we got here but I know the situation to say the least is extremely challenging. All of us move around in fear. You don’t know what can befall you in the next second. However, one of the fundamental things that must be done is to address the issue of state police if we want to make any progress in terms of security.
It’s too important, fundamental and crucial. State police will extend to communal policing. The present system cannot help the situation, it’s substantially hopeless. For those who think it will encourage secession, such thought pattern flies against all reasoning. In fact, it will stem secession. For example, if all the states have their own commands, making it 36 state commands and somebody or three states combine say they want to overthrow, will the other 33 commands be looking with all their troops? Of course not, they will checkmate them easily with their combined effort. Even the often touted excuse of abuse also looks stupid to me. Is the federal police not being abused? The merits of state police far overwhelm the potentials of its abuse.
In recent times, floods have been threatening many parts of the state. As a former environment commissioner, how do you think the state can further curtail this disaster?
So many things are yet to be done which I am aware that the government is trying to address already. The fundamental one in my very strong view is the drainage master plan for the state which needs to be updated. I am aware that it is being done already because it is the basis of everything that we need to do. Once that is done, then we know where we must address crucially. Beyond that, I believe all other issues are being addressed already by the state government.
However, residents need to be comprehensively enlightened because some of them compromised most of the drains that are already in existence; some of them cannibalise the existing ones; some even turn the existing drains into refuse dump and some build and close up the drainage path. Our attitude speaks volume and I believe we need to continue with the re-orientation of our people to let them know the dangers inherent in some of these our habits.
Can you compare and contrast your leadership at the Ministry of Environment then and now?
What we have in government is called continuity. It’s the sustainability angle that they are towing which is crucial because it’s meaningless for example, to abandon existing projects and go ahead to pursue new ones. In my own view, you must sustain what has been achieved first before you move further. I do know that the funding challenge has not been solved. A lot of funding will still be required to open up new areas but right now, substantially, what is being done is to consolidate on what we have set up before. That is the way to go, particularly if you don’t have surplus funds to play with. Otherwise, if you go and start a new project and you abandon the old one, then you have yourself to blame. So, I think the ministry is currently consolidating.