Senator Ayodele Arise was in the 6th session of the Senate. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the APC chieftain and businessman speaks on the NDDC contract scam involving some federal lawmakers, among other topical issues.
Are you surprised with the revelations coming out of the NDDC investigative hearings?
Anytime you have a public hearing, some of the revelations are always a cause for worry and concern for the general public. Sometimes the kind of money they mention, you wonder if it is real or not. Alot of questionable transactions.
The one that worries me most is that, the National Assembly members are the contractors. I don’t think this is entirely true. It is possible they put their constituency projects in the NDDC, they might have also recommend contractors that will do the projects.
That will be naive because they are already benefiting from the Federal Government, so why would they want to jeopardise that by meddling into contracts?
That already negate the spirit of the Procurement Act. If you continue to do that, a time will come when a Minister will sit in his office and call his relations or friends to come and do contracts. So, if it is happening in one agency, very soon it will spread and Nigerians will be the losers.
If Donald Trump can berate African countries, what are we doing to ensure that we don’t give people room to insult us?
We have to stop the corruption. I think Nigerians must learn to do the right things and those caught should be punished lawfully.
Are you contented with the way the Federal Government is handling COVID-19 pandemic? I think Nigeria is one of the best managed countries in the world in terms of COVID-19 management. So I don’t think there is anything they are supposed to do that they have not done.
If in America, some cities are registering about 60,000 positive cases per day, we have to be grateful that the spread is not wide in Nigeria.
The low infection rate is possibly attributed to lack of testing kits which means Nigeria’s testing capacity is low…
No, because even without testing, we would
have seen many people dying on the streets. I think the pandemic is not effecting people that much in Nigeria. I also don’t think we have witness that much deaths like other countries. Yes, we can say that the high profile deaths is getting worrisome but even those that tested positive for COVID-19, if they are able to get treated immediately, most can be saved.
What do you think is the impact of the pandemic on the economy?
It is quite significant, but it is not peculiar to
Nigeria alone. Things are not working well in other parts of the world. There are some jobs that require less population, some even feel that construction work has slow down. COVID-19 is not friendly to any economy coupled with the fact that people are mostly at home, the consumption of petroleum products has reduced significantly and this has in turn affected our revenue flow. So, anyhow you look at it, COVID-19 is devastating.
The number of people who received palliatives is insignificant compared to those who did not. The pandemic has given us a reason to study our country well.
Nigerians expect the government to start coming up with solutions for post-COVID-19 Nigeria. Given the opportunity to advice them on what to do, what will it be?
This is not about APC now because nobody knows
the next government that will be in place after this one. But in terms of solution, we need to make sure that industries that produce PPEs are created. It is a common knowledge that some hospitals don’t have common gloves, so the attention of the government must be towards encouraging the private sector towards setting up these factories and that, there is a support system coming from the Central Bank that will support the medical sector and other key sub- sectors of the economy.
What the government is doing to reflate the economy is a good development but we must begin to diversify. We need to start giving out low or zero interest loans and let’s make the information go round the country so that, people who will want to take advantage will do so.
By and large, I think this COVID-19 has taught us a very big lesson since the decline in the production of crude oil and the need to invest in agriculture to feed ourselves and be able to export. That will be another serious area of revenue generation. I also think they should focus on our research institutions.
The CBN has contributed to some of these institutions but I hope it is not going to be limited to COVID-19. Attention should be given to our research institutions so that we can plan well. All the development we see in China and other places is as a result of research. Now, we are in the world of technology. So our research institutions need to focus on that. I hope when this is done, corruption will not cart it away.
Talking about insecurity, are you not worried with the spate of killings taking place in some parts of the country?
Of course everybody is worried. I am not sure
whether we have any immediate answer.
But don’t you think this is a sign of failure on the part of the APC-led Federal Government, which has the mandate to secure lives and properties?
This is a good way to look at it. At the same time, how do you provide for lack of planning that has spanned 30 to 40years? Do we have a 25-year development plan in this country? Those we are copying have on paper what they want to do in the next 50 to 60 years.
There is so much unemployment on the streets and most of these jobless people will always want to find ways to survive. We cannot resolve these problems in three to four years. We can only gravitate towards finding solutions. The government is trying to employ about 774,000 persons and give them about three-month salaries to feed and take care of themselves for that period. If you get a contract and employ people, it will help the economy.
The Senate recently called on the Service Chiefs to resign. What is your take on this?
That is all politics because when you look at it,
what measures have they put in place to ensure that those coming in after these ones don’t do the same thing. They are a product of the same system.
How many gun helicopters do we have? How many drones do we have that can do aerial surveillance?
And another thing is, when you shoot at the terrorist, how do you avoid shooting at the larger society because they live in the midst of citizens. We need to do lots of intelligence work to be able to isolate the boko haram who live in the midst of our people. Once they know the military can do house to house search, they will run.
But do we have the equipment?
I don’t know whether they are selling those expensive weapons to us. Besides some of those weapons are so expensive that, you will want to wonder if we should not use the money for industries. Having said that, when a person stays too long in a position, there will be complacency, more corruption. But that is neither here nor there, some of them must have made serious money.
The important thing is that only the executive has the power to appoint these Service Chiefs. The function of the National Assembly is to make laws and if they make one saying, service chiefs should serve for only threevyears for example, then that is the law. But there is no law limiting the tenure of service chiefs. It is out of place for the Senate to tell the service chiefs to resign. The National Assembly can only draw the President’s attention to the service chiefs’ failure and allow him make the decision.
You once say that if Comrade Adams Oshiomhole did not resolve his ward issues, it may affect his position as the national chairman
ofAPC and it has come to pass.
Now the APCis still battling some internal challenges that have led to defections from the party. What is your take on this?
Let me say that, the APC had moved on in a way. There is a committee that is planning for the next elections of party offficere. It is believed that the elections will bring about the desired peace. This is politics and everything is about interest. I don’t think that such situation will cease to exist.
Don’t you think these challenges can affect the party in the forthcoming Edo and Ondo governorship elections?
It is not good to lose a member. We should allow
the rule of law to guide our actions.