Why I Sponsored Bill to Stop Gas Flaring in Nigeria –Saraki
24 Apr 2012: Layi Olanrewaju
Chairman, Senate Committee On Ecology and Environment, Dr. Bukola Saraki, in this interview with some select journalists in Ilorin, Kwara State, says security and unemployment challenges, facing the country constitute distraction towards 2015. Excerpts:
Challenges and 2015 general elections
There are challenges before us now and the key issue is unemployment, particularly as it affects the youths. The executive and legislative arms of government should find an amendment that would lay emphasis on job creation. That is why I commend the Federal Government on youth scheme introduced to provide 10,000 jobs. There is the need for that to urgently take off.
When we keep talking on the issue of agriculture and agro-allied, people misconstrue it. Farming here is a means to industrialization. There are lots of food items that we are still importing that we have no business importing at all. We need to address this immediately.
We need to look at the area of power. There are power projects that are coming to completion. We will start hearing there is no gas. As a country, we must prioritise the issue of gas. I am not aware of any country that has domestic gas and people are still importing gas. If we must expand LNG project, we must meet certain target of domestic gas.
Nobody will come to Nigeria to do a project on petrol-chemical or fertilizer where there is no gas. You will not do the gas processing because there is no project. What will happen is that we must provide the gas. If need be, let government look at the possibility of being able to pay for all the gas that we produce. That is one of the reasons I introduced a bill to ensure that the issue of gas flaring is stopped soon in this country. These are the fundamental issues we should address.
On the security challenge, the Federal Government is doing its best. Security issue is interwoven with poverty, lack of education and also the commitment of leaders to serve the people. All these challenges constitute distraction towards 2015. We must all put hands together and start to address them.
Environment and ecological problems
The challenge is all about climate change. We cannot even predict some of the issues of the disaster. They are coming more than we had expected. We should start to look at the issue of ecological problem not as emergency or contingency. Ecological fund is used as intervention fund. Some of the issues are not intervention any more, like the flooding, erosion. We need to go back to the drawing board and see how we can get adequate funding for these environmental issues that need to be addressed on regular basis.
We will have heavy amount of rainfall as we enter the rainy season. How are we preparing ourselves? These are issues we should look at. The limitation we have is how to fund some of the exercises that we need to do to prevent any of these catastrophes. By and large, we are trying to work with the executive to see how to go about that.
It is difficult because in 2012, the total budget that came to environment was less than what it got in 2011. With the challenges that are there, things need to be done. But again, with the challenges that some of the projects were never done or uncompleted. There are lots of things to be done properly and unless they are done properly, we may have problems on our hands.
Asa Dam channelisation
We are all very happy that the Federal Government had come to tackle the problem of Asa Dam flooding that had been with us for many years. We are happy the problem is about to start getting resolved through the decision of the federal executive to finally approve and mobilize the take off of the project. The delight is that the project is happening just about nine months of my stay as Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment. We will definitely see that the project is completed and done properly so that relief can finally come to the people of the area.
The project is significant from that point of view and the beautification of the area that is added. More importantly is the safety of life and property. More than N1 billion will be released first. The total project is in the excess of N6 billion and it will be in about two or three phases.
The issue of unemployment is multi-faceted. Talking about private sector helping to reduce unemployment, no one can invest where the business is not viable. Government must provide enabling environment to make the sector productive, effect GDP growth, and cause expansion of financial sector by providing fund. On its part, government can have policy for instance, in public work where unemployed people can be used to do some of the roadwork. Government is always spending money on that and in housing policy. When you do that, you get some people engaged.
Bamanga Tukur’s emergence as PDP chairman and 2015 elections
What Nigerians need is people that will be able to deliver, whether in whatever podition. We should begin to re-orientate ourselves along those lines. What is key now is the issue of security, particularly unemployment, education, health and all other development issues. These are issues that require leadership and capacity.
Recent meeting with friends on the social media
The discussion was useful. I have been engaging lots of people of my constituency on social media. To inform them on some of the things we do on daily basis at the National Assembly, and get feedback on what is happening at home, what they want us to do for them at home. It was an opportunity to meet with them face to face because you find out that a lot of people were misinformed and not well guided.
Oversight function of the National Assembly
We need to accept that the level of accountability and expectation of Nigerians today is different from the past. Leaders serving people should adjust to the expectations of their people. I believe that in good faith, majority of the fund is due to the people’s demands and expectations of Nigerians. I believe that most of the legislators are responsible people. There might be one or two cases of the abuse of this fund.
The issue of oversight function is a responsibility that should be done. But I do not like the trend it is taking, where accusations and counter-accusation happen. We must show maturity in the approach. It must be transparent and the executives too must be ready and not take it personal. If a minister is asked to come and explain certain issues, it is not personal. Don’t say they are calling me because we did not settle the legislature. The legislative arm too should not see it as this is their day of reckoning. I believe those colleagues giving them bad names should be dealt with and made accountable.
Lawmakers’ jombo pay
Sometimes, people ask what are the NASS members doing, collecting huge salary and allowance? Let us just take the issue of oil subsidy management alone that government in the process spent about N200 billion. How much is the total salary of NASS? If that is the only work we have done, when you look at it on cost analysis basis, on how much we saved government, you will see already that we have worked for our pay.