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FORMER Minister of State for Education and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, in this interview assesses the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, his foreign trips, his party, the PDP, attacks on Minister of State, Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefile among other issues.
Excerpts: By Henry Umoru The government of Muhammadu Buhari will be one year next month.
How would you assess the government so far? Let’s put it this way, it is a very difficult situation.
Running a country I can tell you as complex as Nigeria is a difficult process. States are difficult talk less of Nigeria.
You need what we call a lot of work in balancing it, a lot of work in putting it together and picking from different dimensions whether as a criminologist or as a lawyer or one who has been in government at various levels who became a minister in the country, it is a different technicality and as such we will need a lot of planning.
What is your take on the controversy around the 2016 Appropriation Bill that has been approved by the National Assembly and sent to the president for assent?
I am very happy that Buhari is living up to expectation on the issue of corruption because what happened in the budget will amount to corruption and that is not acceptable.
For instance, the National Assembly can’t re create the budget. The responsibility of presentation of what and what we need to do in the country is that of the executive.
The legislative arm is responsible and charged to see that those things are right, to see that they are implementable, to see that they are implemented.
Everybody has his own area. If you ask me Buhari noticing those importations, to me Nigerians must applaud Buhari for noticing it and bringing it to the public as opposed to the situation we used to find.
Do you agree with those who say the president is travelling too frequently? Please leave this nonsense of the president over travelling.
I am sure the people don’t understand the government or the running of government.
What is the president travelling for? What travelling has the president not enjoyed all his life from military days to when he was in London, Germany everywhere?
There are a lot of things that needed to be done and you can’t sit down in your cocoon and believe that it will just happen. How is your party PDP?
If you ask me, we are engineering as you know. We will come out of our wounds, the most important thing is if you have a situation of irresponsibility you need to weed out that situation and go back to the people who are the electorate, saying sorry this is the position we will not do it again, accept your mistakes before the world and move on.
What is your take on the recent criticism of the Minister of State for petroleum, over the fuel shortage in the country? Put it this way, I am a leader from the Niger Delta; particularly I am from Delta State and the minister of state, petroleum is from Delta State.
What the minister has done from what I have investigated because of the ignorance of his critics who said flying a private jet was his pitfall.
This is what we call a joint venture agreement. Don’t forget Nigeria has 60 percent of the joint venture between us and either Mobil, Shell, Exxon and what have you and these people have used and leveraged on the resources of the 60/40 to own, claim and are operating planes.
Looking at the issue of fuel scarcity, we can see that this is caused by a marketing cartel where his critics are firmly involved in. It is all a temporary situation to arm-twist Mr. President.
If I know Kachikwu well, if it is the same person I know, Nigerians will be shocked with his master piece and master plan with regard to putting to an end the issue and I challenge Kachikwu that I would be very disappointed if there is no plan in place to permanently cure the issue of petrol scarcity in Nigeria.
They are trying to blackmail Buhari that Kachikwu drives the same plane as Diezani; but the fact is that the same joint ventures hasn’t changed; Chevron is still here, Mobil is still here, Shell is still here, Texaco is still here in whatever form or shape.
So it is the same joint venture. Diezani didn’t carry the plane away.
Diezani didn’t change the joint venture neither has Buhari done so, those planes will remain the planes of Chevron, of Texaco, of Agip, of Shell.
Have we traced personal things to him? Have we traced that he has bought a plane? It is not the case.
So in my opinion attacking the Central Bank governor is unacceptable.
Attacking the Minister of Petroleum who is one of the best materials anywhere in the world; you can’t find his counterpart anywhere in the world.
What is your stance on the calls for the removal of the CBN governor on the basis of the poor state of the economy? First and foremost what are the parameters?
The CBN governor works under the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and as such there are certain monetary policies the CBN governor can’t bring to bear with the president.
What I will expect the Buhari government to do is to make sure that we properly document; if you properly document the call for dollars and the usage, and you follow it up, we won’t have the situation we have right now.
It is for the government and the Central Bank to sit up and set up a monetary monitoring department and make sure that whatever dollar is collected is actually used for the purpose that it was collected.
So what will you tell those calling for his resignation? I don’t think he is going to be different from any other Nigerian what we need to do is what I just enumerated; he needs to sit up and get to the root of where his dollars are.