Hon. Olawale Olayiwola Abdus Sabur, the lawmaker representing Mushin Constituency 2 in the Lagos State House of Assembly, is also the Chairman, House Committee on Home Affairs. In this interview with WESTERN POST’s OKUNADE ADEKUNLE, Sabur alias Omititi speaks on the current imbroglio between the Executive and National Assembly over constituency projects, the oversight function of his committee, Governor Ambode’s performance, constitution amendment and other issues of national concern.
As Chairman, House Committee on Home affairs, what can you say about the Ministry as you carry out your oversight function?
As the name implies, it is the ministry that is saddled with the responsibility of organising and packaging pilgrims for Jerusalem and Hajj. The ministry, apart from those activities, is also in charge of managing bureau de change activities in the state as well as nationalisation aspect of citizenship and many other duties. Basically, the ministry oversees the affairs of the pilgrims. I can authoritatively tell you that the ministry has been really up and doing in the discharge of their responsibilities especially with the personality that heads the Ministry as Commissioner, Hon (Dr) Abdulhakeem Abdulateef.
During your campaigns, you made certain promises to your constituents if elected. Now, you have been representing them in the Assembly in the last 2 years, can you say you have really fulfilled your campaign promises in the past two years?
I give glory to Almighty Allah. I was guided when I was making the promises and the pledges because I am a man of my conscience. Those things I believe I cannot do I did not even promise them. The ones I promised them I can boldly say I have even surpassed it. The issue of employment was a germane in my campaign because I am passionate about providing employment for our people. It may interest you that I have been on the employment drive since 2002 to 2007 when I was the Special Assistant to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, so people really enjoyed when I was part and parcel of LASTMA because as S.A on Transportation, which I was when we created LASTMA, many of our people really enjoyed employment opportunities as they were being employed by the agency. If you ask any Mushin resident now, they will tell you “Omititi,” which is my political name. I really tried for the “ Mushine”. In fact, it was part of the reason why they voted for me massively because I have empowered them through employment opportunities. Beside that, I sometimes go out of my way to get jobs for them outside my influence and also besides this, they know me as someone who has been with them for years since 2002 when I first indicated my interest to contest for the House of Assembly.
I established a Computer Institute with the aim of assisting the poor diligent members of my constituency. Since 2002, we have been having free computer training programmes and I have been turning out computer graduates every year. So for the past 15 years we have been graduating computer literates in Mushin. I have been with them, identifying with them and empowering people because I believe in empowering people and assisting them. So, when I came on board I intensified efforts in the area of providing employment opportunities and it has become a continuous thing I have been doing. I also distribute free GCE which has become a custom. Every year we turn out 200 people as beneficiary and I usually give them gifts to encourage and identify with them because I believe as a muslim I need to promote their educational and social activities too.
You described yourself as “ Mushine”, in mushin there is a group called MEF, is your empowerment programmes focusing on only those in the group?
No, I empower other people outside the association. I give things to all party and non-party members in the constituency. I identify those that really need the empowerment. I empower those that are not party members too because I reside within them and this has made me to know their plight, problems and those that really need the assistance and it has really been working. I presented a bus to a motherless home because I believe I need to assist the poor and the needy in my midst. I did not stop at that, I have it in mind to dig ten boreholes and I can boldly tell you that we have commissioned three out of the ten. I can assure you that before the end of my tenure, the remaining seven would be commissioned too.
At the federal level, there is an argument on constituency project and constituency allowance between the Legislature and the Executive. Some say constituency projects are not within the province of the legislators to implement, as a state legislator, what is your take?
To the best of my knowledge, the constituency project you are talking about is not being executed by the legislators. What I think is happening is that the legislators usually supervise any constituency project allotted to their constituency. It is not as if they collect the money for the project directly and they do the job, which is not what is happening. In Lagos, we don’t have what we call constituency projects. All projects are done by the Executive and we are happy because they are delivering under the able leadership of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode. At the National Level, it is not that they are the one directly involved in the execution of the projects, what they do is to lobby for the projects to be done in their constituency and it stops at that. That is my understanding of the whole scenario.
Constitutional amendment is going on and there has been an approval for the autonomy of Local government, what is your view on autonomy for local government?
Section 8 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution really buttresses what you have just brought forward, that there should be creation of local government. The autonomy of local government is not stated there, what the constitution says is that they should tie under the apron of each state government and the constitution that states such has a good reason for stating it that way. I believe the local government needs to be guided by the state government. Local government needs the state to be monitoring its activities because before you know it, they would get out of their way and be spending money the way it should not be spent, that is why the Ministries of Local government as well as the State governments are saddled with that responsibility of monitoring their activities. Be that as it may, I will say that if they come today that we should review the constitution there is nothing bad in that. There is nothing bad in that because some states have really gone beyond controlling the finances but what they are checking is to be on the driver’s seat using local government money unjustly and also using local government for projects that are not of concern. Having told you the pros and cons of the coin, it is better they allow local governments to be totally separated from the state governments and with a proviso that there should be a monitoring control mechanism in place to checkmate them. Agreed that some states are using their money recklessly, but we need to check our council chairmen too. Some of them siphon and divert the money for their personal use. Who controls them? It is agreed that we have House of Assembly in place and they have their own legislators who are called “Councillors” but there should be a mechanism that will be checking them.
Section 162 of the Constitution provides for a Joint Account for Local and State Governments whereby the Federal Government pays directly into the Joint Account, which affects LG financial autonomy and as well negates the principle of federalism, which your party preaches. Is that not contradicting the philosophy of your party (APC)?
It is not contradicting at all. I have told you that if the particular section gives them the freedom then there should be a control mechanism. We agree with federalism and you will equally agree with me that we have separation of power. If we have separation of power and we believe that an arm of authority, which is the local government in this particular needs to be controlled. There is nothing bad in having a mechanism in place so that we have a federalism that truly checkmates and well guided so that the citizenry truly enjoys the benefit of democracy.
Do you still agree that they should run a Joint Account with the state government?
Joint Account with the state government should be separated. The account should be separated but the ministry saddled with that responsibility to be controlling and monitoring them should be monitoring them. They should be monitoring how they spend the money not that they will just leave everything to the local governments. We are students of History and we know what happened in the past. We know how some local government chairmen siphoned money and how they used local government money to enrich themselves. In order to guide against such, there is need for a certain agency that will be monitoring them. It may even be carved out from Ministry of Local government.
Some leaders and political parties have been calling for restructuring but in Political Science, restructuring goes beyond structural adjustment and also your party recently set up a 9-man committee on restructuring headed by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. Do you perceive any partisanship in the call for Nigeria’s restructuring?
I support my party’s position especially with the committee that was set up and I strongly support that for us to have true federalism, we need to follow all the components of federalism. It goes beyond the structural one that you are talking about, there is one we call devolution of power, which should be put in place, with that we don’t need federal character. In the restructuring, state police should be considered. In fact, state police should be put in place. When we have state police we will know truly that we are talking of restructuring. When we take Paul and John to be of the same order, definitely we are talking of restructuring. When the issue of state of origin is expunged from our federal arrangement, then we are talking about restructuring. A restructuring that will make us to have our own judiciary, state police, etc then we can say we are practicing federalism. We know how federalism is being practiced in developed democracies, the issue of taking one and leaving one for the other don’t come up. All we need to do as a state is to follow the principle of federalism to the fullest.
There have been arguments that a certain geopolitical zone is being shortchanged economically even as the major natural resources are derived from the zone to have been used to develop other geopolitical zones, how do you assess the economy based on this?
My personal take on the issue of resource control is that, for any resource derived from a particular geopolitical zone, its proceed should go to that geopolitical zone. I say this because that is the real meaning of true federalism. We have put it into practice before and it really worked. The regional structure we had during the time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and Sadauna Sokoto Alhaji Amodu Bello really worked. It worked because there was competition among the three regions, so the issue of 13 percent derivation should not come again. True federalism entails giving the proceeds of whatever you have to the region and I will tell you boldly that there is no region in Nigeria that does not have resources. It is only that our people are lazy I am sure by the time we put true federalism in place all regions or states would wake up and look inward and search for the resources they have. Nigeria is blessed with a lot of resources but because of laziness on the part of our leaders that is why they have not looked inward for resources that are hidden and open in their various states.
There is this insinuation that Lagos’ appropriation in 2018 could be up to N1.2 trillion, do you think the state needs such a huge budget despite being in debts?
The 1.2 trillion you are talking about should not be the thing we should look at but the volume of the budget itself in terms of the population that we have in Lagos State, in terms of what we derive. In economics, as much as your population is, the more your expenses and responsibilities. In terms of economy, the volume of business that we have in Lagos, the 1.2trillion will hardly take care of it. There are many things that government needs to provide for in Lagos State and I need to let you know that when we talk of the economy Lagos State ranks as one above all the states that we have in Nigeria. We have been made to understand that it is the seven largest economies in Africa. Lagos is a state that can stand on its own, it is a state that its budget covers about ten to fifteen states of the country. Very soon, we have also been having 11 percentage from the oil derived from the state. Last year we did not add it to the budget, but this time it will come in and concerning our tax, the target has been widened. So money will be coming from taxes, so we are projecting for the future. I will not be surprised if the budget is even around 1.5 trillion because Lagos is big in terms of economy, resources and it is endowed with human resources. Those who are managing Lagos State economy are technocrats and they are committed to the growth of the economy. Day in Day out, you can see the infrastructural development that is going on. While other states are sleeping, Lagos State is working. I give kudos to the captain of the ship, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.
The Assembly went on mid-year budget review, as the Committee Chairman on Home Affairs, how do you assess the ministry’s budget implementation so far?
The Ministry of Home Affairs has 70 percent budget performance as at June while some other ministries could not meet up to it. It is possible because of the Commissioner who heads the Ministry in person of Hon (Dr) Abdulhakeem Abdullateef and his team. The people surrounding him are excellent technocrats and that is why we were the best among the states that went for this year’s hajji. We carted nothing less than seven awards which were given to us by the federal government. So the ministry has 70% budget performance and I can assure you that by the end of the year the ministry will meet up the remaining 30%.
What should your constituents be expecting from you before the end of the 8th Assembly?
My people know that I have been active both in my legislative duties and also in identifying with them. They should expect good things. I said earlier on that I would complete the boreholes that I am digging in the constituency. I will continue with the good job that I am doing. The third Omititi Unity Cup will be coming on board also. They have had the first, second Unity Cup and they must have the third edition by the end of August. I have been accessible to them so they should expect more of the accessibility I am giving to them. I live among them so they should not even think I will leave them. All the great things I have been doing for them I will continue to do them.
What is your advice for the new local government chairmen?
I will advise them that they should bring new things and new ideas on board. Why they should bring in new things is that each local government has its own peculiar problems. They should identify the problems and be able to proffer solutions to the identified problems. There are some areas that are flood prone. They need to work hand in hand with the relevant ministry to ensure that the affect areas are de-flooded. There some areas that are security prone, they should work hand in hand with the security agencies. The issue of revenue generation should be germane to them. They should be passionate about how they will increase their IGRs.