Kabir Tukura is a member of the House of Representatives who represents Zuru/Fakai/Danko-Wasagu/Sakaba federal constituency of Kebbi State. He is one of the young, first-time lawmakers.
In this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, he speaks about his engagement with his constituents and how young legislators have performed in the House.
PT: You recently held a town-hall meeting in your constituency. Has this been part of your agenda before coming into the House of Representatives?
Tukura: Yes, throughout my campaigns, I have always told them that there will be town hall meetings and there will be a forum for them to voice out the things they need to be done and for me to give them feedback of what I have been doing.
We had to hold the maiden town hall meeting to set an agenda of things we need to achieve, something like a needs assessment.
PT: Why is this important to you?
Tukura: Basically, my agenda is nothing more than my constituents, their daily life, livelihood and how to improve on their day to day activities and of course the problems we have.
I know our major problems; roads, water and electricity, it is almost like that in every part of the country. But the town hall meeting gave me another opportunity to get more details about their needs.
PT: Talking about roads, water and electricity, don’t you think it’s the function of the executive?
Tukura: Absolutely, but a legislator is also a lobbyist, it’s an unofficial function of the legislator. If you know what you are doing, you can press the right buttons, go to the right offices and ask for these things to be done for you, so that’s it.
I made it clear at the town hall meeting that it is not my responsibility to build roads but I can only ask for them to be built.
PT: Do you intend to sustain this level of engagement?
Tukura: Very well, we don’t intend to back down, we intend to keep constant touch with the grassroots people who elected us. It is on that basis that we were elected and there is no need for us to backtrack now.
I had a town hall meeting about two weeks ago, I have another engagement in my constituency by Friday, we are marking the day of the girl child and we are distributing reusable sanitary towels that you can use for up to three years to about 4,000 school-age girls. We are doing this in collaboration with an NGO, Angels of hope foundation.
PT: Why are these set of girls your target?
Tukura: It is common knowledge in Northern Nigeria, most especially the North-West, the enrollment level for school girls is very low and these are the things that we should do to encourage them, there is acute poverty where I come from so there is poor hygiene that these sanitary issues have led to. There are personal hygiene issues that we tend not to care for but they are big issues.
These girls are in school and this is the little we can do to support the girl child education, it’s very important. They say when you educate a girl, you educate the entire nation.
PT: How can your constituents hold you accountable?
Tukura: I think we’ve just started, we are just about three months into the assembly now, and I’ve been consistent and I don’t intend to stop. It’s too early to start saying that we are going to gauge performance now but let’s see how well we go, they should be able to tell. I don’t intend to stop.
PT: What is the correlation between your functions as a legislator and demands from your constituents where they mostly demand things outside your jurisdiction such as roads, water, etc?
Tukura: As I said, a legislator is also a lobbyist, you might not be able to get these things done outrightly but with good relationships, you can achieve all these.
I will give you a classical example; if I happen to have a good relationship with a committee chairman, so long as I am not going there to beg for money or contracts for myself to be inserted into the budget but rather for my people to have meaningful development, I think I’m not doing anything wrong.
Those are the type of relationships I want to leverage upon. That is one aspect.
Secondly, one of the things that propelled me to contest for office was that I happen to be at a forum once and there were members of the House of Representatives mostly with development partners and my member who was representing me at the time was there and all they needed to do was people making case for their constituencies and unfortunately he did not speak up for my constituency, I was the one who spoke for my constituency. But then I wasn’t a member and some members who did, presented their cases so well and they had projects given to them from development partners. That’s another angle we intend to utilise and leverage upon.
As I speak to you, I’m in talks with a foreign university that will help us in terms of training for our teachers, healthcare and eradication of malaria.
As I speak to you I have facilitated the fumigation of my entire constituency against malaria.
PT: Are you facing a lot of health challenges in your constituency or it is just a preventive measure?
Tukura: There are lots of health challenges, malaria is prevalent almost everywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, most especially Nigeria.
It is preventive as well as taking measures to curtail the existing ones.
PT: You were recently appointed as the vice-chairman of the house committee on justice, what’s your perspective about the Nigerian justice system?
Tukura: There is a lot that needs to be done and I think currently, things are getting better, it is not what it used to be, but it is not yet Uhuru.
I came from a background of law enforcement, I have been prosecuting for about 12 years, I worked with the EFCC and I’ve been in court countlessly. So I’m quite conversant with the challenges we are having in the judicial system.
Insha Allah, we will do our best to contribute our quota in making sure the justice system is strengthened.
PT: You said the justice system is getting better, what do you have to say about the attitude of some law enforcement agencies, flouting court orders?
Tukura: That is not the court system not getting better, it is one thing for the courts to do the right thing and it’s another thing for law enforcement agencies to obey or not. If the law enforcement agencies decide not to obey court orders, it does not mean that the judicial system is not getting better. Gone are the days where the executive interferes in the activities of the judiciary.
PT: What’s your view on the 2020 appropriation act?
Tukura: I totally feel it is a square peg in a square hole, a lot of people feel the capital projects in the budget are not much, what we need to consider is the fact that the current budget circle is being cut short six months into its lifespan, in other words, it means that we don’t have time to achieve a lot on it but even at that, we are going to achieve about 40 per cent of the 2019 budget before the end of December.
If you look at six months with 40 per cent performance, it means it’s a good one.
The next budget is more like a rollover of the 2019 budget, it is done just to address the budget circle abnormality.
PT: What will your committee do to help in sanitizing the justice system in Nigeria?
Tukura: We just inaugurated our committee today and we have a roadmap for the next two years which we intend to achieve.
One of the major functions of the committee is oversight and in that oversight, you will see things that need to be addressed.
PT: There are quite a number of young legislators in this current assembly including you. How will you rate their performance so far?
Tukura: I think it is impressive, first of all, there are about 12 legislators that are below the age of 35, and then there are about 40 that are below the age of 45. Given that number, I think it’s the first in the history of this country since 1999.
This is the assembly with the highest number of youths in parliament.
If you look at the day to day proceedings in the house, you will notice that these young men are firebrands and they are cast differently, they know what they are doing, they know what they are up to and their contributions are very great and of immense quality, they speak from an informed perspective so I think they are doing well.
PT: Do you think the younger lawmakers get support and mentorship from the older ones?
Tukura: I will speak about the speaker, he has been very patient with the new members, most of whom are the young lawmakers, you will see a young lawmaker stand up to make a presentation. But because it is his first time and he doesn’t know how to go about it, the speaker will guide him so there is a kind of mentoring but it’s informal.
He has some kind of patience with the new lawmakers which I think is commendable. He has been really magnanimous. Sometimes when we make mistakes and being laughed at, he tries to calm the situation and guide the person and ensures that he gets back his foot, I think it’s a good one.
PT: YIAGA came up with a report about the previous assembly; what will this assembly do to surpass the achievements of the last assembly? For instance, the last assembly passed a huge number of bills but very few were impactful. What kind of bills should we be watching out for in the 9th assembly?
Tukura: As you know, there are quite a number of legislators from the 8th assembly that have crossed over to the 9th assembly and there are quite a number of laws that died with the last assembly that are being brought back, those laws are being looked at from an eagle-eye view and being scrutinized carefully. One of the things that the speaker has promised is a very qualitative legislature. He has promised that everything must be done correctly and motions and resolutions of the house must be adhered to by whoever it affects.
This is only going to be achieved if what we dish out is of high quality. You cannot just dish out rubbish and expect people to comply. That is why he has set up the machinery to ensure that things are done in the right way. For example, the committee on legislative compliance has the backing of the speaker to ensure that all these things are being complied to.
Internally, he also has the machinery to scrutinize bills and motions to ensure that they are of high pedigree before they are being presented on the floor of the house.