Barrister Ibrahim Bello Rigachukun represents Igabi Federal Constituency, Kaduna State in the House of Representatives and is Vice President, PAN African Parliament’s Committee on Customs, Trade and Integration Matters. In this interview with Ruth Tene, he speaks on a sundry of issues, including the insecurity in Kaduna state and the nation at large.
What have you achieved in your constituency since you came on board?
For a first timer, I would say I have been very lucky to be involved in the seventh National Assembly, which is a dynamic parliament under theleadership of the Honourable Speaker, AminuTambuwal, who happens to be from the ruling party, the PDP, while I am from the opposition party, CPC. Because of the Speaker’s excellent leadership qualities and the equity, justice and fairness among us, God has made it possible for us to have an agenda which none of the previous six assemblies had.
We operate within the limit of that agenda and we are doing very fine.Naturally, there is no way you can have such successful programmes without hitches here and there, but then I will say we have learnt a lot through participation in parliamentary activities like bill presentations and oversight functions, among others.
I have been taking feedbacks to my constituency and telling them of what is happening here. I have also involved myself in assisting the less-privileged in my constituency through empowerment initiatives like skill acquisition programmes and educational scholarships, among others.
What are you doing to help curtail the insecurity challenges in Kaduna state?
I always tell people in Kaduna state that we do not need any state of emergency declaration or change of government. The insecurity that we are lamenting about today, I believe, was caused by government’s neglect of the grassroots.
The problem of Kaduna state is not a religious or tribal issue. I am from Kaduna state and I am proud to be from there but I am not happy with the current situation in the state.There are things happening in my state that ought not to be. The simple truth is that the people around the governance of our states are sycophants; they do not tell my governor the honest truth.
We have experienced bombings, killings, flooding and what have you. I expect the governor, because we are in a democracy, to go to the grassroots or go to the places where these unfortunate incidents occurred to condole with the people and give his own assistance. This is because the people would like to see their governor show his concern for them.
What I am saying is that if today in Kaduna state the government starts going to the grassroots, I assure you all these incidents happening in the state will be history. This is because Kaduna state is one.We don’t need any new government or emergency rule. All we want is the government to go to the grassroots and be of help, providing jobs for the youths, conduct elections in the local government areas so that the people will know that they have voted for their own local government chairmen and the government will be in control.
There have been calls for additional states even in Kaduna.What is your take on that?
We do not need any state creation in Kaduna State.The problem in Kaduna State is that the government has refused to go to the grassroots and the people of the state are angry with the government of the state. No relief, no job creation, no proper pro-masses programme.We understand that killings, bombings, diseases are everywhere in the state now and this is because the government is neglecting the people.
If the government is doing its best, the message is not getting to the people.The people are not happy because they have not elected their local government chairmen. Those sitting there are doing so unconstitutional because there was no election.So if the government of the state moves close to the people, we honestly do not need any state creation in Kaduna state.
You talk of poverty being the cause of insecurity, is bombing not expensive?
An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. If a man is physically fit but hungry, then his idle mind will cook up many schemes. Honestly, he might prefer to die if he felt that he has nothing to lose. Although his parents had spent lots of money on his education, he finds no job afterwards. He becomes a liability; he cannot meet his needs or those of his family, so he can be easily convinced because of the situation government has placed him in. So, government should be careful to listen to wisdom and reach out to the grassroots in order to bring relief to the people; they incubated the problems within themselves.
You are Vice President, Committee on Customs, Trade and Integration Matters at the PAN African Parliament.? What is the NASS doing to ensure better service delivery in the Nigeria Customs Service?
The PAN African Parliament is a parliament for 42 African countries with headquarters in South Africa. Five Nigerians are representing the country at the parliament and as God will have it I was elected the Vice President in charge of Customs and Integration Matters. Honourable Amadia, a Nigerian, also happens to be the current President.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Honourable Tambuwal and Senate President? David Mark were a great support during the campaign tour through the 42 African countries. They did their best possible to support us because they found out that if we succeeded better things would come to Nigeria more than ever before.
There are lot of things now being considered by the Parliament such as border cases and firearms infiltration that use to come from our neighbouring countries.We have discussed with the Comptroller General of Customs and on 12th September, 12 African countries will be paying a visit to Nigeria. I will take them before our Customs authorities, the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Investment, ECOWAS Parliament and the House of Representatives. We would sit down and discuss issues bothering us all as neighbouring countries.
What is the NASS doing alongside the Nigeria Customs to effectively check the porous borders, arms infiltration and traffic in persons?
The Nigerian Customs Service is operating with a very high standard and doing its best on these issues. Look at the amount of money they are bringing to this country; they even surpass their quarterly targets every year. This is because they have been very dynamic.The Customs has been modernised; they now operate using state-of-the-art equipment. The CG has been doing very well.
On the issue of trafficking in persons, we have a Commission for that, NAPTIP, and they are doing very well. It is a strange development in the country and it would take a while to reduce it to the barest level.The government, through the Customs, NAPTIP and other security agencies, is doing its best. There are lots of checks and balances at the borders now.Most of these things are much controlled more than ever before.
What stage is the Customs and Excise Management Act at the NASS right now?
We are at the first stage; we are going for the second reading now. Everything is going very well. I am part of the team of lawyers that had made amendments to it to suit the present upgrade and meet global standards.Some amendments have been proposed to suit what is obtainable now. The challenges we are facing now are unlike what obtained previously. With the amendments, if the Act is passed and it becomes law, honestly, Nigerians will be very happy because it would take care of all issues currently bothering all stakeholders in that sector.
How would you rate the current management of the Customs Service?
Absolutely incredible; they are doing very well! Look at their contributions to our economy. Any amount of money given to them, they multiply it.That is the only parastatal that is doing wonderfully well. People talk about corruption and so on, but they are doing very well.
Are you saying there is no corruption in the Nigerian Customs?
Do you have any justification?
Not me personally
For me as a trained lawyer if I have no justification, I will not be able to assert a particular thing. But I know is that with the way the Nigerian Customs is currently being run and having personally been to 42 African countries, our own is unique and dynamic.
Nigerian Customs leads in Africa now? because we have the manpower and their operations are driven by advanced technology.
We at the NASS are giving them all necessary support in order to empower them more so that the present regime can leave a very good legacy. We are proud of them.
What is your honest stand on corruption as it affects the leadership of this nation?
It has become a syndrome and that is why we are not progressing. Nothing is working in this country. I am now a member of the PAN African Parliament and I am always in all these African countries.They do not have a tenth of what God has given us but they live in peace, they create jobs, meet their security and power needs. You must forget about any country which lacks these three and that is what is affecting our country.
We lack good governance, security and power.? As we are seated here the light can go off. We need good governance, fairness and equity. We are in a democracy,? without tremendous improvements on these three issues, we are in trouble. And, it is corruption that has brought these three issues. But as we continue to pray and fast, Christians, Muslims and traditionalists, Nigeria will be one.?
Forget about those saying they want to leave us; no individual can hold Nigeria to ransom. Nigeria is God’s own country. There is no country on earth today that has over 250 ethnic groups living within its borders.So wherever you see a problem in this country, it would eventually be solved.
What Legacy would you like to leave as a parliamentarian?
In the past 15 months I know where I have gotten to and I thank God. I am dedicating myself to giving my best to the country so that in future when my name is mentioned, people would readily recall my contributions to nation building. We must establish good legacies so that those coming after will emulate us. I also want to make sure that my constituency has somebody here doing their legislative work for them and not just being idle.
What would you say has been your major challenge as a parliamentarian?
Good governance is all I wish for. Aside that, I have not faced any challenge because the atmosphere here is conducive.This is a good place for me to learn as a lawyer so that at the end of it all, I can carry what I have learnt along. But all I am praying for is for good governance.
When state governments operate joint accounts with local governments, there will be no progress. This is why we are having serious problems because the governors are not helping matters.