“The laws are still the same, the PIB and the PIGB bills are not yet accented to. So, we don’t have any better deal…”
Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Hon. Douye Diri, member representing Yenagoa/ Kolokuma/Opokuma Federal Constituency and now Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, has said that the Niger Delta Region has not enjoyed any special treatment under the APC-led Federal Government.
He, therefore, said that he would continue to advocate for a better deal for Bayelsa and the Niger Delta region in the National Assembly.
Diri also believes that Nigerians would vote out the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the 2019 presidential election.
He also said that the country would not get it right until the Federal system of government being practiced, which is largely contributing to the crisis the country is experiencing is modified to accommodate devolution of powers to the federating units.
What are the chances of the PDP winning the 2019 election?
For me, I think this is the brightest chance we have. I think the problem is not with any other person, but with us, the PDP. I feel so sad when I see many people coming out to contest the presidency. This is because if we don’t dress our bed well, that is the only time PDP can win this country. The mood of the country and what APC has done, you would have noticed that everybody is ready to vote them out. APC has worked themselves to a state that I am very sure Nigerians are looking for an alternative. APC is now being referred to as ‘All Promises Cancelled.’ A lot of Nigerians see them as a propagandist government. APC has clearly showed they lack capacity and understanding not only of Nigeria, but also the international system to govern this country and bring it out of the doldrums. Did you see President Obama of United States blame former President Bush for past mistakes? Obama rolled up his sleeves for work and the economy was better. Today, in Nigeria we have job losses, youths are unemployed, and unemployment is rising. Even the level of insecurity is worse than when Boko Haram was operating. The number of people that are being killed is more than when Boko Haram was killing people. Nigerians are sick and tired of the APC government with their excuses. APC came to power, they had no blueprint. Six months no cabinet and you started de-marketing Nigeria by telling the whole world that your country is corrupt and except them that are acclaimed saints. This led people to divest from the country and it led to recession. Nigeria moved into recession because of APC lack of understanding of governance and because of their too slow movement in bringing governance to bear. By the time they started crawling to governance, Nigeria entered into recession.
What’s your own idea of restructuring considering the recent debate between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on it?
It’s not a vice president thing because I am also part of the leaders in the House talking about restructuring. That is one reason I want to go back to the National Assembly. I believe that there has to be devolution of powers in this country and that’s the basis of restructuring. When we say restructuring we are not talking of physical, geographical restructuring, we are saying that there is too much power concentrated at the centre at the expense of the federating units. In a federal system you have the units and the centre and those who propounded the theory of Federalism said these two units are co-equal. None is bigger than the other. We can see that in the United States, Canada and Australia, there is nowhere you don’t have state police. The issue of state police is now a big issue in Nigeria. I am one of the advocates of devolution of powers and restructuring. Not only restructuring in that sense, fiscal federalism. The present federalism we have that people gathered in Abuja to share resources coming from one region, that’s why Nigeria is where it is. There is no competition between the states. There is no competition between the federal and state government. The federal government sees itself as a super government. The Federal Government operates like we are in a unitary system of government. Today, the federalism we practice in Nigeria is in name, but in practice and in implementation a unitary system of government, which is not okay for a country that’s heterogeneous with several ethnic nationalities, which hitherto were independent, but have decided to come together. The only way we can enhance our federalism is for us to have a restructured Nigeria based on devolution of powers. There are a lot of issues, we have the concurrent list, the exclusive list, and the residual list; most of the issues in the exclusive list for Federal Government is not necessary. Most of those issues should be brought to the states. For instance, what is the Federal Government doing with agriculture, does Federal Government have lands?
What is your take on the pollution of the Niger Delta environment? Is the Niger Delta having a better deal under the current government?
Part of my promise when I was been elected as House of Representatives member was that I was going to face environmental terrorism by the Federal Government and the oil companies against Bayelsa State. This question you are asking is very pertinent because my very first motion in the House was on that. Well, I don’t believe Niger Delta is having a better deal. The laws are still the same, the PIB and the PIGB bills are not yet accented to. So, we don’t have any better deal, we keep shouting on the floor, keep talking and we are thinking that this time around we will be able to pass those bills into law so that communities can have some sense of belonging because they are also to benefit from the new law that’s to be passed, but unfortunately were still back to square one because the president has even refused accent to those bills.
Is there no way the lawmakers can influence the president on the PIB/PIGB?
Yes, the National Assembly has the power of veto if the president does not accent. But we are also getting into an elective era and there is always politics in these things. The executive is aware that the National Assembly has veto power. It takes a process and the executive is playing with time. They know that our tenure is also coming to a close, just as their own tenure is drawing to a close. So, if they play with time and we are all back to the trenches asking for election by the time they would now communicate to us perhaps our tenure would have ended.
Can you give us an highlight of some of your major achievements?
When I was going to the house I promised my people that the voice of Bayelsa would be heard in the house. The work of the legislator as you know is not the work of an executive to bring in infrastructure, works, roads and all that, that’s not the work of a legislator. The work of the legislator as you know is to be a voice of your people on the floor of the house. And I told them that our voice is not heard in the house and so this time around I am going to be an effective representative of the constituency in the house, and I think I have been able to achieve that. In the history of the representation of this constituency, nobody has moved even up to five motions, for those who stayed up to one term even two terms, but within three and half years I have to my credit 19 motions, three bills. In the history of the representation of this place no one has introduced a bill coming from a representative of Yenagoa/ Kolokuma/Opokuma till today and by God’s grace I am the first one to have introduced three bills and 19 motions and I think that is the height of my achievements, others are peripheral while people judge us as if we are executives no, we don’t give contracts, even where we have constituency projects and most time where we have constituency project, we don’t even know who the contractor is and most times the constituency project as bandied in the press is not 100 per cent implemented. Implementation of the constituency project since I started in the house is between 50 and 60 per cent. As a representative sometime you also lobby other representatives to ensure that things, infrastructure that should rightly be in your constituency is awarded and done. So, I think that is the height of my service to the people and it is with the same zeal that I want to take to the Red Chambers.
Who is responsible for the constituency projects that are not fully implemented?
It is the executive; constituency projects are not given to legislators. What we do is that we identify as legislators and it is included in the budget. But implementation is not the work of the legislature; it is the work of the executive. It is the MDAs. It is the ministries, departments and agencies that implement. There has been so much talk about cancelling constituency projects because they say most of the past ones have not been implemented. That is not the issue; the issue is that they should follow up on the implementation. If the projects are implemented the people would be happy. It is even through that some people feel the presence of the Federal Government.
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