Former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Hon. Abubakar Bwari, in this interview with Sunday Aborisade, stresses the need for the All Progressives Congress to zone the Senate Presidency to the North Central geopolitical region, as part of ways to effectively tackle insecurity, poor infrastructure and other forms of economic sabotage in the area.
What are the major challenges confronting the North Central zone that you want the incoming administration to tackle?
The major issue at the moment is insecurity because it is slowing down all forms of economic activities in the region. Out people are much more agrarian in nature. When the issue of insecurity is effectively tackled, our people would be able to return to farms and those who are hunters would also be able to carry out their activities.
Those who are into fishing would also resume their trade in full force. They would also be free to go to markets and carry out their normal businesses. Tackling insecurity will help a lot in addressing all the social and economic challenges that we are having in the North Central. Most mining activities take place here in Niger State.
Another major challenge we are having in the North Central is that of infrastructure especially roads. Our roads in the North Central are bad especially in Niger State.
The general issue of healthcare, education, water and sanitation are areas that should also be addressed in the North Central.
How best can the country diversify it’s current mono-economy to increase revenue accruable to the federation account?
There must be conscious efforts to improve agriculture and mining. These two very important sectors have not received adequate attention.
We talk on papers than in practical terms.
As a former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, I know that there are lots of things that needed to be done for the nation to attract key global players to the mining sector.
We have the mineral resources but adequate exploration was not taking place. We need key mining companies to come in because we can not rely on the artisanal miners and the small scale mining that we are doing now.
We need to really attract big players in the global mining industry just as we attracted the multinationals to our oil and gas sector.
We need to really do a lot of studies in the areas of exploration which is very expensive.
We need to close our eyes as a nation and put money in exploration where all the minerals that we have would be identified. We should know their quantity and the quality. When these are ready, we would be able to attract a lot of investors
The cheering news is that we have a lot of minerals in Nigeria that are playing key roles in the modern technology sector. We have all the minerals that they are using to manufacture contemporary gadgets like computers, telephones and even electric cars in abundance and in large quantity. The grade of these minerals are even higher than the global average in terms of quality.
Government should pay adequate attention to the exploration of these high quality mineral resources.
There is an argument that the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel lacked the manpower to adequately tackle illegal mining. Do you agree ?
It is true because the ministry is not big enough and it doesn’t have the capacity to really address the management of mineral resources in this country. For instance, how can we expect one mining officer in a state like Niger to monitor effectively, all the mining sites in the state?
The funding from the federal government is not even enough to carry out 10 per cent of activities in the ministry.
Will you now support moving mineral resources development from exclusive to the legislative list so that states could handle mineral resources in their localities?
That would amount to amending the constitution because it would be done by the Federal Government in agreement with the states. I see no reason why that should not be done.
Why do you think that the North Central zone deserves to produce the presiding officer for the 10th National Assembly?
Following the conclusion of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, two very important positions have gone to the South-West and North-East geopolitical zones. The president and vice president have been elected from those zones.
Other zones are now clamouring for the third most important position in the country, that is the Senate Presidency. If we look at performance, the North Central did very well for the All Progressives Congress in the last election.
We produced very significant votes for the President-elect and the Vice President-elect.
If you consider our strategic location and performance, if we didn’t get number one or number two positions, we should be given number three.
I think our aspiration is fair and just for us to be considered. Our strategic position in balancing a lot of things in the country put the North Central in the best position to produce the presiding officer of the Senate.
How will a Senate President From the North Central Benefit the country?
There are lots of things that caused insecurity in the country but we are not going into that. However, I want to believe that a lot of mistakes over the years in terms of policies and implementation as regards security, had been faulty. The development had affected what we are seeing today. This has to do with justice and fairness. A lot of things have not been done properly, especially with those who felt they had been maltreated or short-changed in the scheme of things, when it comes to administering justice. Lack of fairness and justice had created a lot of problems and a lot of people had lost confidence in Governance.
The second has to do with the recruitment of our security personnel, their training and funding. Those who are serving are not getting the required motivation that could make them offer to die for their country.
The issue of patriotism, rewards and punishment system is also, very poor.
Specifically, what role do you think the Senate President could play to address these challenges if a ranking senator from the North Central is in the saddle?
The Senate President from the North Central zone would use his experiences and that of his constituents in the hands of bandits and terrorists to proffer solution to the menace. This is because legislative intervention will go a long way to support the military and other security agencies to go about finding pragmatic and practicable solution to the insecurity crisis from the point of view of the direct victims.
For instance, Senator Sani Musa, who is seeking to be elected as the Senate President has gathered enough information and solutions to the menace and he would need an avenue to be able to carry them out if he is directly in charge of the Senate.
How will he be able to do this?
Since he played an active part in the 9th National Assembly, he would be able to look at the issues surrounding the recruitment, rewards and punishment system in the military and other security agencies. He will ask the relevant committees to look into whether the required monies meant to tackle insecurity were actually released and disbursed appropriately.
Particularly, he will look at the money appropriated and whether they were used for the purpose they were appropriated. As the 10th Senate President, he would ensure that all these are done through the committees.
What type of politician is Senator Sani Musa?
Sani is a team player, very accommodating man with a high degree of tolerance.
He is hardworking and had contributed to the APC right from 2014 to date, especially during the campaigns and periods of elections that were held.
Someone with these qualities should be given a bigger role to play in the incoming administration.