Now, security should be of concern to every Nigerian —Oriolowo

Senator Adelere Adeyemi Oriolowo is the senator representing Osun West senatorial district of Osun State. He speaks to MOSES ALAO on fears that the National Assembly leadership might be a rubber stamp for the executive, the unending discourse about the humongous earnings of the lawmakers, the rising poverty in the country and what the National Assembly can do to address the situation.

 

The emergence of Senator Ahmad Lawan and Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila as senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives respectively has led to insinuations that the leadership of the National Assembly may be a rubber stamp, do you have that fear?

The answer is no. The election of these two gentlemen as the presiding officers of the National Assembly cannot turn the ninth National Assembly into a rubber stamp before the executive. You see, these two are highly experienced people as far as the job of the National Assembly is concerned. Both of them have served as leader of the Senate and House of Representatives respectively as Majority Leader. They have both spent over 10 years each in the National Assembly and I believe they are going to bring all these experiences to bear in the course of their service as presiding officers.

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But people fear that the insistence of the Presidency and the APC on the two lawmakers as presiding officers might be an attempt by the executive to have a rubber stamp National Assembly.

In a democratic setting, there is supposed to be an independent executive, legislative and the judicial arms of government. Once this is in place, there is no way that any arm can be a rubber stamp to the other, because they are all independent. Our duty is to work in a cordial relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari for the smooth running of administration and general overall development of the nation. We were not elected to be at loggerheads with the executive arm but to work in partnership with the executive in the interest of the nation.

I also want to tell you that these presiding officers will perform to the best interest of the generality of Nigerians. Honestly speaking, they are men of unquestionable characters, very knowledgeable and highly experienced to coordinate the affairs of the National Assembly. So far, they are very transparent in all their dealings with the people and Nigerians will not regret that they are elected as presiding officers of the National Assembly.

 

The National Assembly members have always been subjects of attacks on the issue of jumbo pay, with Professor Itse Sagay, a known ally of President Buhari, recently emphasising that point again following the senate president’s statement that his salary is only N750,000. As a newcomer in the National Assembly, where do you stand on the position that the cost of running NASS is too high?

Honestly speaking, Mr Senate President was right on the N750,000 he quoted as his monthly salary. I want to use this medium to correct the wrong impression from the general public that the members of the National Assembly are earning jumbo pay at the expense of the masses that they swore to represent. You see, our major assignment as lawmakers is to make reasonable laws that will have direct bearing on the lives of all Nigerians, vet and pass the yearly budget presented to us by the executive as quickly as possible and to ensure that all the contents of the budget are properly implemented, and that is what we monitor through our oversight function.

So, as far as I am concerned, the cost of running the National Assembly is not too high. For example, do you want to tell me that the official vehicles being given to us to carry out our oversight functions and other assignments are not necessary or the furniture for our offices and other equipment being provided for us for the effectiveness of our work are not important? If the answer is no, where then is the cost of running the National Assembly that is too outrageous?

 

But people talk about the humongous allowances lawmakers are getting…

It is high time people stopped misinforming Nigerians about what is going on in the National Assembly. All these talks about jumbo allowance are distracting and needless. We should be allowed to focus on our duties. I want to tell you that the ninth National Assembly will do all that is humanly possible to satisfy Nigerians through excellent, effective and satisfactory representation and legislation. The primary aim of our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is to take Nigeria to the next level and that is what we in the government are working towards. We want to ensure that Nigerians can have a country that can compete favourably with the developed countries in terms of economic growth and development, prosperity for the citizenry, good road network across every nook and cranny of the country, employment generation for our youths, proper security of lives and properties of Nigerians, diversification from oil economy to other areas of economy such as agriculture, mining, among others.

 

At a point in time, your constituency became notorious for kidnapping and highway robbery, with several tales of woes coming from road users on the Ikire/Ibadan axis. As the senator representing Osun West, have you made any personal effort on the situation?

That is exactly why the security summit was held in Ibadan in June, where all the six South-West governors, traditional rulers and various security agencies were in attendance. Personally, I have also been making efforts to discuss the matter with my colleagues in the National Assembly on the way forward and I believe that by the special grace of God, the issue of insecurity is going to become a thing of the past not only in my senatorial district but in Nigeria as a whole.

You see, the security issue is supposed to be the concern of every one of us. This time round, we must all be vigilant by reporting any suspicious movement to the security agencies.

 

The issue of poverty has become a national headache, with the country recently tagged as the world’s capital of poverty. With the situation of things, some Nigerians and even members of the National Assembly are shifting attention to the legislative arm to make laws that can support the war against poverty. With most of the National Assembly members being first-timers, do you think Nigerians can count on the National Assembly in this regard?

Being a newcomer does not mean that we won’t be able to make very good contributions on the floor of the Senate or that we do not have a grasp of the situation in the country. The issue of legislation on poverty eradication is a matter of urgent importance. If you followed the Senate proceedings, you would  see that the issue of poverty and how to alleviate it was discussed copiously on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday. You can see by the body language and actions of the ninth Senate that it will concern itself with policies and efforts that will uplift Nigeria and its people in every way.

I know that one of the efforts that we can make on alleviating poverty is to come up with a bill that can target lifting the people out of poverty through a conditional cash transfer programme. We can have a setup that will give a monthly stipend to aged people.

As part of the efforts to lift Nigerians out of poverty, we can also work on an effective loan system to farmers so as to encourage agricultural activities, boost food production and phase out unemployment among our youths. If we have such a system, it can also help our country in its drive to diversify from oil to other areas.

It is my suggestion that with the high rate of unemployment among our youths, which has been leading to a rise in criminality in the country, entrepreneurship and vocational skills should be made compulsory in the schools. At the end of students’ graduation, the government can assist them financially so as to enable them to procure equipment and materials while monetary assistance can also be given to them to enable them to stand on their own and even become employers of labour. All these can be packaged into a bill and by the time it becomes a law and it’s being implemented, unemployment problem will become a thing of the past while criminal activities like rape, armed robbery and kidnapping will be drastically reduced or totally eradicated.

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