*Sowore: I’ll ensure new constitution is evolved
*Adebayo: Wrong security architecture responsible for our woes
*Sani: Rule of law, antidote to economic poverty
*Umeadi: My commitment to state police sacrosanct
Deji Elumoye, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Sunday Aborisade, Udora Orizu and Oghenevwede Ohwovoriole in Abuja
The second in a series of town hall meetings organised for presidential candidates of all the political parties by the Arise News Channel and its partners, took place yesterday in Abuja with four candidates taking their turns to speak on how they intended to overhaul the nation’s economy and her security architecture if elected president next February.
The candidates, who participated in the town hall meeting held at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, were Omoyele Sowore of African Action Congress, Prince Adewale Adebayo of the Social Democratic Party, Yabagi Sani of Action Democratic Party and Prof Peter Umeadi of the All Progressive Grand Alliance.
The quartet agreed that, to move the nation forward from its current state, then, two things would have to be addressed as they were germane to the progress and development of the nation and they are, the economy and security.
Sowore, while reeling off his plans, said, his administration would ensure a new constitution is evolved to include state police and address other important issues missing in the present 1999 constitution as amended.
Sowore was of the opinion that the current Nigerian constitution was illegal, null and void and a fraudulently imposed document by the military, adding that Nigerians could only be united if foundational problems in the constitution were addressed.
He said, “In 1992, we gathered – Mike Ozokheme, Gani Fahwhemi and others; we wanted to have a sovereign national conference, because we were tired of the Nigerian constitution, the military sent soldiers to come and beat the living daylight out of us. In 2023, we need a new constitution. We cannot continue like this.
“On uniting Nigerians, we have foundational problems; this is a country put together by outsiders. We never got it right from the beginning. What’s going to unite Nigeria is a new constitution. People must find identity in that document, they must know, where they belong, they must have a right exit, for example, a bad marriage. You cant force people together by creating ministries that do orientation; you do it by way of justice.
“On State police, I will let Nigeria create its own constitution that’s not a fraudulent document as we have now. It will address the issue of state police, and local government police. When we do this, we can train all of them in a unified way devoid of governors’ control.”
Responding to a question on managing Nigeria’s rising debt profile, the AAC presidential candidate, said, unnecessary money being wasted should be stopped, saying, his administration would abolish the senate and security votes and channel those monies to the education sector.
Claiming that oil companies were owing about $6.4 billion in taxes unpaid to the federal government, Sowore said his government would stop investing in irrelevant things, such as pilgrimage.
His words: “Our debt to GDP ratio is not out of control, our problem is revenue to GDP. It’s because we don’t capture our revenues appropriately. The oil companies are owing about $6.4 billion in taxes unpaid to the federal government.
“I want to also inform you that what we call security votes in Nigeria is one of the things I will like to abolish so that N271 billion that goes to governors will stop. I don’t know who they are protecting with it.
“We must discuss our revenue, what we waste money on. I will abolish the senate so that we can use that money to take care of the education. I will stop investing in irrelevant things, I won’t a spend a dime on pilgrimage.”
Still on security, Sowore lamented that given the escalating insecurity, Nigeria might not have about 25 per cent of its land mass to hold free and fair election in 2023, but promised that his administration would put social security at the back of all policies for the citizens of Nigeria.
According to him, “Nigeria is one of the most insecure countries in the world, even security officers are no longer secure. It’s time to take care of Nigeria’s security by ensuring that we put social security at the back of all policies for the citizens of Nigeria.”
On oil and gas, Sowore advised government to focus on energy, particularly, investing in energy mixes, including Solar, Hydro, Bio Fuel.
He said, ”The energy transition we need to make, specifically, in four years, my target is to get us away from this miserable seven thousand megawatts of which we can only supply about 3000. Transmission lines are so broken even when we have production, we can’t transmit. I’m going to use gas money to start this investment.
“Where I will go precisely is the NLNG. Nigeria is an investor in that company and it’s doing well. Out of the 49 per cent we have, they are giving the money to the NNPCL, not to consolidated account of the federal government.
“I want to take that percentage of our dividends and start investing it in energy mixes, including Solar, Hydro, Bio Fuel and so on and use these mixes to create both employments in four months. I also want to break the national grid. There’s no need for someone to be producing electricity in Lagos and to go first to NBET before they can be served.
“I know and I have seen that oil is a product of the past. The rest of the world have moved on, they are creating vehicles, they use solar. Sunshine, water, excreta will never go away, wastes can be used to generate electricity. So, for you to have a vision for Nigeria without oil. You must understand that oil is going out of business and energy transition has already occurred.
“On Imports reduction, I won’t invest in the past. Building steel industries that don’t produce steel, when you don’t have electricity. The most important industry we should be thinking about is the human brain – human capital development – that’s where the industry that brings most money is.”
Addressing women participating in politics, he urged women to reject the 35 per cent affirmative action so that they could take over.
“The problem started, when women started accepting percentages in representation. More women, according to INEC, are more qualified to vote than men. Why are women accepting the 35% affirmative action in government? Stop accepting the affirmative action so you can take over,” Sowore added.
Presidential candidate of SDP, Adebayo, blamed the insecurity challenge facing the country on wrong security architecture.
Responding to a question on what he planned to do if elected president, he said, “We have the wrong architecture to enforce security. When you put politicians in charge of security, they are only interested in sharing money and not security.
“The military, for fear of the police taking over power from them, weakened the police and the military also weakened the air force, which has reduce our capabilities on the air. Then the civilians, for fear of being overthrown by military, weakened the military.”
Commenting more on insecurity, Adebayo said, “It starts from the villa, insecurity in the country starts from the villa, don’t bring politicians to manage security, because they will fight over who will manage money and not security.”
On effective security, the SDP candidate stressed that, “As Commander-in-Chief, I will stop using security agencies to solve political problems.”
But on state police, he said, “It is not in the interest of those in government to create effective policing, because if they do, many of them in government today will be in jail.”
On how he hoped to solve Nigeria’s economic problems, Adebayo said, “What I would do is to attract investment and I will not invite the Russians back to work on Ajaokuta steel company. I will work on agriculture and agro allied industries so that Nigerians can feed themselves and other governments will build the steel industry.”
Speaking on Nigeria’s energy problem without oil and gas, he said, “We can generate 100 megawatts of electricity without collecting any money from the government.”
Asked what his vision for Nigeria without oil was, he said, “There was a Nigeria without oil before and we were progressing, I will use the oil money to develop the economy and plan for the future without oil. We have been mismanaging our resources, we must have a CBN (Central Bank of Nigeria) that is in control of monetary policy.”
While speaking on the 1999 constitution as amended, Adebayo said, “though the Nigerian constitution is not perfect, we can always make room for improvement just like the constitution of the United States and that of the United Kingdom.”
On the issue of Nigeria’s unity, he said, “Weaponisation of our religion is the cause of our disunity, and leaders must have the ability to manage our diversity. They have refused to manage our diversity, because it benefits them.”
On eradicating female insecurity in the Nigerian state, he said, “We need equality and equity for the women. And we need to have a government that makes sure you will not be denied anything, because you are a woman.”
Taking his turn, Sani, who identified the rule of law, as the solution to Nigeria’s insecurity, corruption and poverty, also said he would discourage regional security outfits, because they were products of frustrations, adding that, the rule of law would eliminate nepotism and ensure justice for all Nigerians.
“Insecurity will persists if our leaders continue the arbitrary management of the economy. Insecurity can be traced to the types of government we’ve had in the past. There has never been any standard policy of fighting insecurity in Nigeria and this is not good for the country.
“There is need to have rule of law to avoid nepotism and corruption. No matter how effective, a government may be in fighting insecurity, when people are feeling marginalised, the security personnel would not exhibit a sense of patriotism.
“The security personnel would not have a sense of belonging, when the leadership of security agencies is lopsided, with everyone coming from the same geopolitical zone.
“I will govern with the rule of law and ensure that nobody is above the law. The security agencies would work in a way and manner that they will gather intelligence.
“I will encourage intelligence gathering, because the security and military personnel needed to work with information freely and happily given to them.”
Sani noted that insecurity could not be separated from poverty and corruption, and therefore stressed the need to appoint capable hands in the various key positions, faulting a situation, where the president would be in charge of the Petroleum Ministry.
“It is not necessary for the president to be directly in charge of a particular ministry. He is supposed to be in charge of all the ministries. He is supposed to have managers. People that are experts with excellent records.
“All the ministers are exercising the powers of the president, which had been delegated to them. I will put the right people in the right places and ensure that they are effectively monitored so that people would feel the impact of government.
“As the Chief Security Officer of the Country, I will not allow a situation, where regional police are formed out frustrations and not as the need to have it as a nation. I will allow the National Assembly to do its job whenever the need arises. They should do the needful.
“It is the National Assembly that would determine whether the issue of security should be on the concurrent or on the exclusive legislative list. If security agencies are formed out of frustrations they would be fighting the national security outfits.”
To balance gender, Sani said his government would adhere to the affirmative action and ensure that women play key roles in his administration.
He said, “I will work with the National Assembly to make sure that more female are elected into the legislature and they would address the issue of gender imbalance.”
Sani pledged to develop agriculture, artificial intelligence, tourism and information technology as alternative to revenue from oil and gas.
“We need to boost the agricultural sector, which is the main stay of the nation’s economy. We will look inward by addressing the issue of corruption. We would look at where we have comparative advantage. We would develop agriculture, steel and education.
“Infrastructure development is key to any economy. We can’t go and be borrowing. I will maximize the natural resources of the country to create wealth for the people. We will build more industries and resuscitate the moribund ones.
“We will develop a study that would enable us to take advantage of continental and regional financial supporting fiscal mechanism. The mineral resources and other areas, where we have comparative advantage will also be explored to meet the country’s energy need without oil and gas. Willing partners to develop renewable energy.
“We have the resources to tap into the renewable energy. We can solve the problems when we get our acts together. It will take a long time but we’ll get there. We have what it takes to develop technology that’s not using oil and gas.
“We have young, dynamic population that could use their brains to turn things around. I will discover the talents. We will develop tourism. We will make the National Assembly to be alive to it’s responsibility.”
Umeadi has said if elected, he would work to create state police to help tackle worrisome insecurity in the country.
According to him, he would support the creation of state police in the country as a means of addressing the persisting insecurity.
“I support the creation of state police by amending the country’s constitution,” he said, promising to support the establishment of local vigilante group to deal with insecurity in rural areas.
The APGA presidential candidate also said if elected, he would recommend the inclusion of military training for the NYSC members to act as a deterrent to criminals, adding also that, he would make himself available to take required measures to deal with insecurity.
“I am going to monitor the situation and getting the information on security on second by second basis. As president I will always respond promptly to any security report of criminal attacks,” he said.
He explained that, the present insecurity challenge, has to do with the security architecture, which needed to be addressed.
For instance, he asked why should the armed robbers be more armed than the police in the first place?
He said rather than provide security for the ordinary Nigerians, the police appeared to be scared, saying a situation, where the police formations across the country blocked access to their premises doesn’t speak well of their capacity and readiness to tackle crime.
On causes of the present insecurity in the country and how he was going to provide solutions to them, Umeadi said he would work to enthrone justice and fair play and avoid bias in governance, insisting he would tackle insecurity head-on once elected.
Addressing the economy, Umeadi said his government would seek to maximize the country’s natural resource potentials, and in addition, he said his administration would focus on education and skill acquisition.
Umeadi, however, promised to invest more in housing development, and education with emphasis on building skills acquisition centres across the country to create employment.
Answering a question on how to earn more revenue to be able to offset the huge debt profile, Umeadi said the APGA government would seek to maximize tax collection and set up template for proper taxation.
“The country is not doing enough in harvesting taxes from big businesses and rich individuals,” he noted.
On environmental challenges, Umeadi said he would ensure that companies doing business in the oil and solid minerals respond promptly with remediation measures on damages caused by their operations.
For instance, Umeadi said his government would push for the execution of the Ogoni clean-up and ensure that the Shell Oil company paid what they should to clean up the damaged Ogoni land.
To achieve national cohesion, Umeadi said his government would promote unity, be fair and just to all and run the affairs of governance devoid of religious and ethnic biases.
On plausible constitution amendment, Umeadi said his presidency would employ the existing democratic platforms and processes to deal with whatever shortcomings that exist in the current constitution.