In this interview with Seriki Adinoyi, a member of the House of Representatives representing Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency, Hon Bitrus Kaze, speaks on the current issues dominating discussions in the lower chamber of the federal legislature and the proposed National Conference
You recently led a group of lawmakers to vehemently condemn the directive by the All Progressive Congress (APC) to block the passage of executive bills. Is your group formed to counter the party?
The Nigeria Unity Group is a multi-party coalition of Hon.Members of the House of Representatives who are irrevocably committed to the indivisibility of Nigeria. We take pride in upholding, protecting and defending the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in tandem with our oath of office. Our recent press conference may be our first media outing but by no means, we have demonstrated our resolve for the unity, peace, order and good governance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the floor of the House. Of course you are aware that not just our group but indeed Nigerians from all works of life at home and abroad including the Coalition of Nigeria Political Parties have unequivocally condemned the All Progressive Congressâ€™ self-serving directives. The press conference addressed by the Nigeria Unity Group was intended to let the world know that an overwhelming majority of Nigerian parliamentarians were vehemently opposed to the desperate antics of the APC. We did not just condemn it, we use the opportunity to let the world know that we are resolutely committed to deploying all legislative arsenals at our disposal to frustrating anything that will endanger our corporate existence as a country or frustrate the security and well being of constituents. Very clearly, some of our colleagues who are actually members of the APC apparently felt disenchanted, if not disgraced, by their party directives. This could probably be the reason why the newly appointed Service Chiefs were successfully confirmed by the relevant committees of both Houses of the National Assembly which include Senators and members of the House of Representatives who are APC members, notwithstanding their partyâ€™s directives. The sense of patriotism permeating the House against APCâ€™s reckless directives can best explain why our group is multi-partisan, there can be no reason whatsoever for us to nurse any grouse against the APC.
Do you not agree that the impunity in Rivers State; where the Police provides cover for one group and shot at another group actually deserves such a drastic measure to end the alleged Federal Governmentâ€™s impunity in the state?
For reasons best know to them, some people have deliberately over flogged the happenings in Rivers State and deliberately closed their eyes to the happenings in other states. Whether or not it is true that the Police provided cover for a particular rally group and yet opened fire at another ought not to be deployed as an excuse to shut down our thriving economy. This will cause untold hardship to innocent Nigerians. All the happenings in Rives State are justiceable, some aspects of the Rivers brouhaha are being tested in the various courts of law already.
If anyone believes that the Police or indeed any law enforcement agency have in any way infringed on their rights, they can proceed to the courts of law and not resort to arm-twisting threats. In any case, if anyone is alleging that the Police use rubber bullets in shooting people in Rivers State how about the life bullets used in Ekiti State leading to the deaths of the Hon Opayemiâ€™s supporters? How about the allegations and counter allegations of bombings between Governor Shettima and former Gov Sheriff leading to the deaths of over 50 people in Maiduguri, Borno State? What about the insurgency in Yobe and Borno, where military formations and hundreds of lives and properties have been wasted? Does the impunity with which lives and properties are being wasted in these APC controlled states mean nothing to them except Rivers? Is the APC not bothered by the deadly manner with which some of their sitting governors resent at their co-party members for merely mustering the guts to challenge them at polls? Arenâ€™t they able to remove the log in their eyes to enable them see better and contemplate removing the peg in the eyes of others?
Some Lawmakers in the House said they would block the budget selectively. What is your take on this?
You ought to have stated it explicitly that the agitation to block the capital component of the 2014 budget is the brainchild of APC lawmakers. First, the selective blockade waters down their partyâ€™s directives for total blockade. And secondly, it further exposes the APC as anti-people. Everyone knows that whereas the statutory earnings of all lawmakers in Nigeria is covered by the recurrent expenditure component of the Appropriation Act, it is the capital component that actually stimulates economic growth, it is the capital component of the budget that generates the badly needed employment opportunities in the country, it is the capital component of the budget that motivates growth in the real sector the benefits of which trickle down to the labour market, skilled or unskilled. In other words, by attempting to block the budget selectively in favour of recurrent instead of the capital component, the APC has unfortunately shown that their paramount interest lies in their welfare not the welfare that of the ordinary Nigerian citizens! They have made very erroneous claims to filibustering but we all know that theirs may be anything except filibuster.
The attempt by APC lawmakers to explain their partyâ€™s desperate quest for power in the name of filibuster is totally out of place. First nothing pertaining to Rivers State is being considered in form of a bill either in the Senate or House of Reps. Secondly, there is nothing whatsoever in either the Senate or House Rules that contains the expression filibuster and how much less cloture. You cannot apply a rule that is found elsewhere, even if there were to be any rule on filibuster in Nigeriaâ€™s National Assembly, it is more likely to be in the Senate than in the House of Reps given our size. But you will observe that in Nigeria, it is the APC House members instead of the senators that are claiming filibuster; this stands the principles of filibuster on its head. In addition to all I have said here, each member of Nigeriaâ€™s National Assembly have sworn to an oath to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which provides that the National Assembly shall make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the country. The APC sense of filibuster cannot in any way guarantee peace, order and good governance as required by Nigeria grand norm. It therefore offends the law.
What would you say about some Senatorsâ€™ position that the 2014 Budget should be completely reviewed because it is anti-masses?
We have always maintained that the budget is a budget of the National Assembly, we are at liberty to make amendments as we deem fit and where Mr. President refuses to ascent to the budget within a given time, we can override his veto. It must not take anyone to go to the pages of the newspapers to say that the budget is anti-masses before it can be amended. It should be noted however that amending any bill especially an appropriation bill can be rigorous and tedious and where any amendment fails to pass through the rigours it simply fails. Rather than castigating the budget, I would rather that any senator or member that has any amendment to propose should do so on the floor of the House.
A Senator recently accused the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, of crippling budget implementation by diverting funds meant for development to other unnecessary purposes. Do you think this accusation is right?
Long before his controversial position on the NNPC saga over unremitted funds, I have maintained critical views of the way the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi runs the CBN as though it was a government of itâ€™s own. My view is that he acts as though he has no supervising authority over him, as if he appointed himself into the position. I am happy that many others are eventually seeing what some of us have for long been lamenting over. The CBN is a critical regulator and determinant of our countryâ€™s economic temperature but we have seen Sanusi Lamido Sanusi playing the roles of the lawmaker, regulator and operator all at once and this ought not to be so.
If you were the Speaker of the House, what would you have done differently in the face of this crisis of defection rocking the House?
First, I would have repeatedly come out loud and clear to debunk recurrent media reports alleging that I intend to defect from the PDP to another party. Secondly, I would concentrate on steering the ship of leadership of the House and allow only the party caucus leaders to deal exclusively with their respective party issues as they deem fit. Thirdly, I would as required of me by the constitution pronounce vacant the seat of any member who defects from his party when there is no faction as envisaged by the constitution and especially so where the electoral umpire itself has in writing clearly recognized the true leadership of a party. Fourthly, I would thread very cautious and apply a lot of wisdom and not allow anyone lure me into a contest when the coast is not clear.