Since Nigeria returned to constitutional democratic rule in 1999, the two arms of government have always been under the control of a single party. However, officials of the executive arm often shunned the invitation or disobeyed the directives of committees of the National Assembly. This is despite the provision of section 89 of the constitution which gives the parliament the powers to summon anyone in the course of an investigation. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Bakare Majeed, the Chairman Ad Hoc Committee on Recovered Loots, Adejoro Adeogun, speaks on that issue, the lingering security situation in the country and others.
PT: It appears that lawmakers find it difficult to investigate management of looted funds by the federal government. Is that so?
Adeogun: It is difficult because Nigerians —from the Executive, from the people – do not understand the practice of democracy, they don’t understand how democracy works. The executive feels every time there is an invitation from the legislature, it is because there is a conflict. No. That is the reason the constitution provides for oversight which is the essence of checks and balances. It is a misconception, and I think the best thing is to actually enlighten Nigerians, because most of the time, the problem we face on this side is that we feel we are not getting enough support from Nigerians.
You know, you get this mob mentality for members of the National Assembly, to blackmail them. When you are doing an investigation, blackmail comes – they look for ways to undermine the investigation, and they get the support of the public to blackmail the lawmakers. If the members of the public understand that the legislature is on their side, working to protect them, and that it is the constitutional responsibility of the legislature to perform oversight of the Executive, I think the Executive will be more compliant than they are presently.
PT: Couldn’t it rather be a case of the lawmakers not having the political will to enforce the summons?
Adeogun: I don’t think it is an issue of political will. Let me give an example. If I give an instruction, let’s say the National Assembly issues a bench warrant to the Inspector-General of Police to arrest a minister, what happens if the IGP refuses to execute that warrant? The National Assembly does not have the power to fire the IGP, he fears the other party more, because that is where the power to hire and fire is. I think these are the issues.
You see, we need to understand – it boils down to the issue of practice of democracy. In the United States, Congress does not have the power to hire and fire, but they have institutional powers, and it boils down to the foundation of democracy. In the U.S., if a President is being sworn in, he is sworn in at the Capitol building. It is a matter of saying I have gone to pay homage to the people, who are the roots of democracy. Without the legislature, there is no democracy. It starts from the day he is elected and sworn in to the office. The inauguration is at the Capitol. That is one thing we need to introduce in Nigeria to get the Executive to go to the people to acquire power. When they do that, they respect the Parliament. But now, they feel – even Nigerians believe that the executive is everything. This is because our people don’t understand the power play we share is for a purpose. They don’t understand that it is made for check and balance. The misconception has been exploited. If we have better collaboration from the people, the exploitation will reduce, and we will have better democratic practice.
PT: On the misunderstanding of roles of the legislature, how much responsibility does the members of the National Assembly bear, particularly with unrealistic campaign promises?
Adeogun: The legislators most of the time have to play the game because Nigerians don’t understand. If you go to your village and tell somebody you are a lawmaker, they don’t care about lawmaking. I am aware of a member of the state House of Assembly in my state who is being harassed in the media. Why? They expect him to construct roads, bridges, provide water and electricity. Where is he going to get that from? The people at the grassroots don’t understand the difference. The assumption is that once you are elected, you are elected like a governor, like a president, so you should do what the President can do. So it will take a long time to do a lot of orientation. And people don’t care about lawmaking.
PT: How do we make them care?
Adeogun: First, the people are about the dividend of democracy, they care about the physical things they can see, stomach infrastructure. For them to care, they have to know. You cannot care about what you don’t understand. When you look at countries where there is a better understanding of how it works, they are countries where basic infrastructure is in place. Because they are not available here, that is why people are looking for “this is our problem, we want it solved, not lawmaking.” You can’t go to the UK and ask parliamentarians to provide water because water is not their problem. You can’t ask a parliamentarian to provide a road because roads are not their problem. Those are things that have already been provided for them. I am hoping that one day, we will get there, where infrastructure will not be the problem.
ALSO READ: National Assembly takes a stab at Electoral Bill, reversing hopes for electoral integrity
PT: You recently sponsored a bill with stiff penalties for possession of illegal weapons. Is the problem of proliferation of weapons an issue of law or porous borders?
Adeogun: When you look at problems, you look at them from several dimensions. This dimension is about the law. If you are found with an illicit weapon, what does the law say? Does it allow you to go freely at ease or is it punitive enough to discourage you? What we are trying to do is to at least make it punitive enough to discourage you. And where there is confusion in the law, like what is really a prohibited gun? Does the law define what a prohibited weapon is explicitly to avoid confusion? We think there are loopholes in the existing Firearms Act. Those are the lapses we are trying to bridge. It is not about what is legal, it deals with those who are qualified to acquire firearms, it deals with the conditions to be met, it deals with the penalties for those who bear arms illegally.
PT: For a problem that is multidimensional, how do we now deal with the lack of synergy among all the security agencies that are essential in eradicating this menace?
Adeogun: You are aware that the National Assembly held a security summit recently, and the report of the summit was placed before the House. And the summit actually looked into the internal security of Nigeria, and the recommendations made that will be sent to the President. The basic thing is that we need to be in synergy with our security forces, there is a need for improved intelligence gathering. The recommendations I think, the recommendation of the House is actually towards creating that synergy and improving the delivery of security services by every agency associated with internal security.
PT: The problem many would say has never been about legislation, or lack of, rather…..
Adeogun: I told you about the security summit. The summit was about finding a way to help the Executive from these perspectives. We looked at some sections that require legislation to strengthen them, we looked at the sections that require some action by the Executive, and we are recommending Executive action…
PT: What happens after the recommendation?
Adeogun: That is why it is holistic. What happens after is that you have the supervisory role of the National Assembly. If you ask someone to work for you, and you tell them, these are the terms, you don’t have dual problems. I have made the tools available to you. If they are not getting the job done, then you can now be in a position to revisit that. The thing is that you cannot say much about what they are doing unless you see things from their perspective. So, we are trying to look at things from ours and their own perspectives so we can deliver better security.
PT: For example, in your state, Ondo, there are herder issues and the formation of Amotekun. Is the content of the report sufficient to address insecurity?
Adeogun: The report which you said you have seen, it is part of the process, it is part of attempts by this side of the government to interface with the other side, the Legislature interfacing with the Executive. We are trying to work together because we must be in synergy. For asking the security agencies to work together, we two have to work together when it comes to national security. Because when it comes to security, Nigerians don’t care whose job it is, what they care about is that they are secured. We are seeing it as a collective responsibility. To deliver on security for Nigerians, we have to collaborate to at least ensure that we better understand this.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...