Wednesday, 30 July 2014

EXPOSED!!! Northern leaders can stop Boko Haram —Senator

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Special Duties, Senator Marcus Ikisikpo, in this interview with SUNDAY ABORISHADE, speaks about Nigeria’s security challenges, the 2015 elections and the misappropriation of ecological funds, among other issues

What’s your view on the insecurity in Nigeria?
The issue of insecurity in Nigeria is everybody’s problem and if you think that security is only for the security agencies then we are deceiving ourselves. The issue of security should be taken seriously. With insecurity there will be no development, it is only in a country where there is security that development can go on. The issue of insecurity in Nigeria is in a way self-afflicted because most of us do not know that when you incite the youths, the youths will take a step more than what you are telling them. So the security problems are self-afflicted because of the inciting statements some of our leaders have made in the past.
How did you feel when Nigeria was recently rated as one of the countries with the highest level of crude oil theft?
I would agree that it is difficult for us to account for all the crude produced because of leakages. Leakages in the sense that we have illegal refineries, we have even unrecorded vessels taking our crude oil. But how do they know the parameter for ranking Nigeria as one of the countries with highest crude theft? Yes, there are leakages, but I don’t believe that Nigeria ranks top in oil theft.
What can be done to stop oil theft?
You see one of the problems is sincerity; sincerity in government. If you have an agency or ministry and everybody is sincere and transparent, we should be able to block these leakages. Now within the territorial waters, we have the navy, the customs and other agencies that are working within our territorial waters but how sincere are they? Some of these customs and naval officers are also involved. So, if you are in charge of security and make yourself culpable by involving yourself in sharp practices, how do you think we would be able to account for all that is going on within the crude oil sector? Most of the people in charge of security are involved in oil theft that is happening within our territorial waters. And that is the only area that we can only block. Pipelines are being tapped by illegal refineries. Can’t we have a computerised system or way of knowing where someone is trying to illegally tap crude oil from our pipelines? We should be able to use the automated way in knowing where leakages of crude oil are at any point for us to arrest the situation.
There seems to be relative peace in the Niger Delta. What has been responsible for this?
You see, when we talk about relative peace in the Niger Delta area, it is the handwork of every elder and youth within the region because all of us agree. That is why we always call on the North, where we are having these security problems, that if all the northern elders, emirs and chiefs come together to say insurgency no to insurgency, it will stop. In the olden days when there were no police, people respected chiefs, people respect the emirs. So, I have the belief that whether insurgency or militancy, if the people come together – both the chiefs and elders – to say we don’t want these things, it will stop. But some of us talk from both sides of the mouth. Today, they will say don’t do this but tomorrow they will protect them. If you say don’t do this today, and tomorrow you offer protection, it gives the leeway for them to do things that we see happening today. But if all of us, all the emirs speak in one voice, then the youths will know that everyone is speaking with one voice and that will not occur again.
What do you think can be done to stop the incessant killings being carried out by the Boko Haram sect?
I must commend the Federal Government because it is working very hard to make sure that the issue of Boko Haram comes to an end. But as I told you earlier on, if you have a child and the child is doing something bad, and you use a soft word to say stop, the child will see you as a joker; thinking that you are not really asking him to stop this thing. This thing happens little by little at times. You will hear that they bombed in Kano. Later, you will hear that they have attacked Kaduna and so on and so forth. You see, until drastic measures are used in telling them to stop, they will never stop. The other day I read in the paper where a civilian JTF was arrested and he confessed that he was working for Boko Haram. So, you can see that within the civilian JTF, they have infiltrated them very well. The other day people were talking about how they can assist the civilian JTF but with this infiltration, people will be afraid to allow the civilian JTF to go into the army in view of the confession. So, it is left for Nigerians to speak with one voice especially where these things are occurring day in day out. They kill people here and there. Most of the military people are not sincere while claiming to work for the Nigerian government. Of course, when you go to Plateau State they are complaining of the killings in the state. We have porous borders which allow these terrorists to operate and go away. Look at the instance of the Chibok schoolgirls that were taken away; that people will come in 10 buses and carry up to 250 girls away from a particular school; don’t you think that there is a conspiracy? Meanwhile, we have the civilian JTF working within the community and according to the one arrested, he confessed that as a civilian JTF they helped in making sure that those girls were abducted. You see, in the military, when there is war and you have saboteurs, that war will never come to an end. So, we have a lot of saboteurs within the system that’s why we are having these problems and that is why it is taking longer to solve.
In view of the growing insecurity, do you believe that the nation is ready for the 2015 election?
Right now, the Independent National Electoral Commission has not given political parties the go-ahead to start campaigning. It is until INEC opens the door for campaign, that everybody will get cracking. But I think the commission is doing a great job especially with its performance in Ekiti State. I have the belief that if they improve on that performance, Nigerians will have full confidence in the electoral process. Every Nigerian is now aware of their civic responsibilities in terms of elections and the awareness is even higher now unlike the situation in 1999 when we started. Then, people refused to run for elective posts for fear that it will not last -considering what happened during the Abacha era or even what happened during the Shagari regime. Now, the awareness is in every Nigerian and I have the belief that if what INEC is saying in respect of the voting system is anything to go by, the issue of litigation will be minimised because it is a little bit difficult to swap cards or perpetrate fraud during elections.
Some members of your committee disagreed with the Ecological Funds Office recently over the alleged disparity in the allocation of money to different states of the country. What is the situation now?
Ecological Funds project is not part of the national budget. It has its own separate budget. Two per cent of the Federation Account is allocated to the Ecological Funds. Every state of the federation has a percentage in the two per cent from the amount that comes to the federation account to tackle ecological problems. The issue is that when a budget is presented, officials in charge of the MDA’s would be asked to defend the proposal. They would be allowed to explain the details of the budget estimates before questions are raised by lawmakers. However, in a situation where there were interferences in the course of the presentation, there will be confusion. Our committee members were not patient to listen to them to finish what they wanted to tell us before we asked questions and so, this led to a misunderstanding. The problem is that every state and local government collect its share of the ecological funds specifically meant to tackle ecological problems but if you go to your local government headquarters, ask the council chairman what he has done with the money.

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