Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, has faulted the manner in which the Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) project
of the federal government was conceived before its suspension.
Kalu, who spoke with newsmen at the weekend, also said service chiefs were personal staff of the President and that most Senators were disappointed by their pay.
The former governor of Abia state emphasised that the way the federal government went about the issue of RUGA was faulty before it was kept in view.
He advised President Muhammadu Buhari to consult widely if at all he was going to eventually introduce the project.
His words : The federal Government should always do a further consultation whenever they want to embark on policies such as RUGA. It is not just to go and put a deliberate policy and say I want to do Ruga. People in the village don’t understand what Ruga means, they will panic and say they want to kill them.
He recalled that he was the first person to introduce Ruga as governor in 2001.
“When people talk about Ruga I wonder. In 2001 I did a Ruga in Abia. In Lokpanta. I built it and the cows were being sold in Umuahia and Aba. In 2001 I invited the Hausa Community and they said Umuahia and Aba we needed to decongest. Where we have Shoprite in Umuahia today used to be the settlement, the same thing with Aba.
“We had a honest meeting with them and agreed that I will provide them land, water and electricity, everything but this would be your location. I collected five coaster buses to show them the land and if it is agreeable by everyone. I had meting with the communities and they agreed in Lokpanta and that is the biggest cow market both in South East and South South of Nigeria today”.
On the issue of service chiefs, Kalu described the appointees as personal staff of the President.
According to him, “when you look at it, service chiefs are like personal staff of the President, they are not really constitutionally owned because you only work with military men you trust. That is the truth, whether you want to hear that or not.
“I can take you down memory lane on all those that have been Heads of State, they just did the same thing the President is doing, so there is nothing new. Who was President Obasanjo’s Director of SSS? It was Colonel Are, he was not from my village. Who was President Jonathan’s Director of SSS? It was Ekpenyong, he was not from my Village. So everybody goes back to his region. It might not be the best but that is the trend because everybody wants to be in control of his security”.
The Senator also commented on the issue of the salary of lawmakers saying most Senators are really shocked and disappointed by their monthly pay.
He stated emphatically that he had received his June pay and there was nothing jumbo about the package.
His words “Let.me address the issue of jumbo pay, I have received my salary for June and it is far bellow what you people are writing. If a minister is travelling to Lagos would he use his leg? What they call fat salary are monies used to run the constituency because they don’t give us additional funds when we travel to Abia, Lagos, Badagry or Kaduna, this is the money they use.
“Most of my colleagues said they did not know it was going to be like this and I said we came to be Senators. But when they are outside they will say the money is carried by National Assembly. It is not true. That money they have given them is not going to be enough, I have seen them crying already. They came to me to complain because I have seen the good and the ugly. I think that the media is not fair to the National Assembly. I call on you people to change your minds because there is no jumbo pay honestly. I have not seen one, If I see jumbo pay that does not represent my conscience I will speak.
“When I was governor, the state buy my food, the state pays everything but as a Senator nobody does that. The money you have is for your constituency, for your staff and travelling allowances. That is what it is meant for. Tell me the ministers we are going to clear, there is no one senator that will have more than one car, have you heard of that? No, because they have only one car”, Kalu further explained