‘I’m on a Mission to Halt  Environmental Terrorism in the Niger Delta’

Mr. Douye Diri who represents Yenagoa/ Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency in Bayelsa State fields questions from Emmanuel Addeh on his aspiration to become a Senator

You have been in the House of Representatives, what do you think qualifies for the Senate

I have been in the Green Chambers for over three years and we believe that having that experience behind us, having the convention of some rotation within the three local governments that make up Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, we believe that we have the capacity, the experience, the network, to move to the Red Chamber.

Can you give us highlights of your major achievements in the Lower House?

When I was going to the House, I told my people that the voice of Bayelsa is not heard in the House. The work of the legislator as you know is not like the work of the executive to bring in infrastructure, works, roads and all that. That’s not the work of a legislator.

The work of a legislator is to be a voice of your people on the floor of the House. I told them I am going to be an effective representative of the constituency in the House.  I have been able to achieve that.

 In the history of the representation of this constituency, nobody has moved even up to five motions. For those who stayed up to one term, even two terms. Within three years, I have to my credit, 19 motions and three bills. I think that’s the height of my achievement.

 Others are peripheral. People judge us as if we are the executive. We don’t give contracts. Everywhere we have constituency projects, we don’t even know who the contractor is and most times the constituency work has been delayed.  It is not 100 per cent implemented and sometimes implementation is 50-60 per cent.  But as a representative, sometimes, you also lobby other representatives to ensure that things, infrastructure that should rightly be in your constituency is awarded. It’s the same zeal that I want to take to the Red Chamber.

Part of what I am proud of in that house was the constitutional amendments. I represented Bayelsa State because every state has one member in the constitutional amendment committee and it was a joint committee of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It was my belief that the obnoxious Land Use Act which I felt was a short-changing of the people of Niger Delta, needed to be repealed.

One of my colleagues from the other side who heard about it said ‘what your fathers have been doing and not achieve you want to do it through the back door’?

We succeeded up to the constitutional amendment of the bill, passed it to the Committee. But as usual when you finish with committee work, you come back to the House for voting. We were defeated on the floor of the House. I think that was one of my lowest moments.

When I finished that, I came out after the voting and did a press interview in Abuja which went viral where I said land does not belong to the federal government and that the resources belong to communities, individuals, and at times clans and local governments and that the way we have been treated, even after me, people will come and continue to fight for justice.

Besides that, our people will always ask, ‘what has he done?’  We have done a lot of constituency projects, we have solar light. It is there in the wards. We have produced solar light across my constituency, solar water, examples are in Azikoro and Tombia.

Also through the state government, we are trying to do a One kilometre Road at Kaiama, the headquarters of Kolokuma/Opokuma local government. On that side, we are achieving quietly.

We even assisted students where they could not pay school fees especially in Niger Delta University when they cry to us. We try to discharge our responsibilities to the best of our ability.

Who is responsible for the constituency projects that are not fully implemented?

It is the executive. Constituency projects are not given to legislators. Legislators identify it and it is included in the budget but implementation is the work of the executive. It is in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

What’s your own idea of restructuring, considering the recent debate between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Atiku Abubakar ?

It’s not a vice president thing because I am also part of the leaders in the house talking about restructuring.

That’s one reason I want to go back to the National Assembly. I believe that there has to be devolution of powers and that’s the basis of restructuring.  When we say restructuring, we are not talking of physical, geographical restructuring, we are saying that there is too much power concentrated at the centre at the expense of the federating units.

 In a federal system you have the units and the centre, so under the rules of federalism these two units are co-equal, none is bigger than the other and you can see that in the United States and in Canada and Australia. There is no where there you don’t have state police but that’s lacking in Nigeria.

 I am one of the advocates of devolution. Not only restructuring in that sense, fiscal federalism. In the present federalism we have, people gather in Abuja. That’s why Nigeria is where it is. There is no cooperation between the federal and state governments.  The federal sees itself as supreme.  They operate like we are in a unitary system.

Today, the federalism we practice in Nigeria is in name, but not in implementation which is not okay for a country that’s heterogenous. The only way we can enhance our federalism is for us to have a restructured Nigeria based on devolution.

There are a lot of issues. We have the concurrent list, the exclusive list and the residual list. Most of the issues in the exclusive list for federal government are not necessary. Most of those issues ought to be for states. For instance agriculture. Does federal government have land?

Would you say the Niger Delta people have a better deal under the Muhammadu Buhari administration than in previous administrations?

Part of my promise when I was being elected, was that I was going to face environmental terrorism by the federal government and the oil companies against the country. That question you are asking is very pertinent. My very first motion was on that.

Well, the laws are still the same. The PIB and PIGB bills are not yet assented to, so we don’t have any better deal. We keep shouting on the floor. We keep talking and we were thinking that this time around we will be able to pass those bills into law so that communities can have some sense of belonging.

And that’s because they are also to benefit from the new law that’s to be passed. But unfortunately, we are still back to square one because I hear the President has refused assent to those bills.

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