National assembly member representing Abia North/South federal constituency, Ossy Prestige believes that time is ripe for people to patronise made in Nigeria goods. In this interview, he spoke on various issues including the present economic recession in the country and the need for the executive arm to reduce the cost of governance.
What will you say about the House of Representatives?
I wish it is something you can say “so far, so better”, if there was anything like that. Why I said so is because all my three core areas as a legislature, I think I will say that I have done very well. In the aspect of law making by raising motion, presenting bills to the House, I have at the moment had about 10 motions so far within one year and I am about to pass six bills which first reading had been passed and it remained the second reading. Another aspect of my job which has to do with oversight, most of the times, there is no oversight function I undertook that will not raise issues and questions that will be for the benefit of this country. So indeed, in the areas of lawmaking and oversight function, I will say yes that I have done very well.
And then, on the third one is representation which has to do with what goes to your people. You will agree with me on July 23, when I marked my one year in office as a lawmaker, I empowered some of my constituents. Before the end of the year, I am going to commission my constituency office which will house every department that has to do with representation to Aba people. I have also given scholarship to over 25 natives of Aba North and Aba South. I have sunk about eight boreholes within this one year. I equally have bought about six transformers and also energized them. In the area of roads reconstruction, because I come from a place which has serious roads problem, I decided to undertake that aspect which is not my duty, rather the duty of the executive arm of government. I bought a grader and at the last count, we had graded about 56 roads within the dry season of last year. I have equally paid hospital bills for over 15 patients who are resident in the city.
What are you doing to draw the attention of government to the deplorable condition of federal roads in Aba?
If you recall on August 23 last year, I moved a motion on the floor of the House where I put across the number of federal roads in my constituency that are very bad. The motion was unanimously adopted and a resolution passed that the Federal Government should do something about the roads. One of the roads, the Aba/Ikot Ekpene road which is in the 2016 budget is slated for dualization. As a law maker, my duty is to raise the issue before the Federal Government and by the special grace of God make sure it is in the 2016 budget which is there now but the only one that is not there is the Aba/Owerri and Aba/Port Harcourt roads which I believe will be in the 2017 budget despite any palliatives measures the state government might be coming up with.
What led to your recent motion calling on the Federal Government to patronize Aba products especially in the area of military wears?
If you had listened to me during my debate on the floor of the House, I tried to itemize the amount of money the military had been spending on their wears ranging from boots, belt, berret and what have you which cost over $14m and that was what we budgeted for them in 2016 and last year, they had about $8.4m. So, if you bring a quarter of that amount to Aba, imagine what will be the multiplier effect where we have about 15,000 that produce 80,000 shoes manually every week. We will conserve that foreign exchange because now, we are talking about diversification. So now, what should be paramount to every good and loving Nigerian is to look for how to stop depleting the foreign reserve and how to do that with this over $14m. If you remove it from the foreign reserve, you know that the thing will nosedive. Why should we continue to patronize foreign shoes and garment companies overseas when we have them here?
Sometime in February, there was this made in Aba trade fair that was organized by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe where military boots and belts produced in Aba were given to the Army, Navy and even to the Nigeria Customs and Immigration Services, they took them and were happy. If you go where they do it, you will see they have almost everything that you need, so what is the essence of importing these things from outside the country? All the armed forces have appropriated budgets for boots and belts for instance and put part of that money into Aba, I want to bet you that the IGR that will come from this city alone will be enough to pay at least teachers salary. I did a thorough research on this and came out that if this one alone is done in a year, we will save about $14m for this country. Having said, I am happy that the army have placed order for 50, 000 made-in Aba boots and I implore other establishments to follow suit.
How do you think that we are going to reduce cost of governance in the face of this economic recession?
The cost of governance is very high; it calls for real sacrifice. Let’s just be very frank, we will believe that we are not helping matters, there are so many wastes in governance. For instance, some months ago, the former governor of Abia state, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu said that for every governor to come to Abuja, he takes N30m to N35m as allowance and they almost come to Abuja every week, so check it times four which is N120m to N140m, then how much does it take to fly business class. Some governors go to Abuja with a security rating of over 10; why? Again, there is this thing they call security vote and we have argued that security vote should be retired. These are moneies kept with the president or state governors in the case if there were any emergencies to avoid bottlenecks that are part of government system operatives. In order words, instead of waiting for appropriation from the National assembly or state assemblies, you have that for emergency. But the truth remains that these moneies are not really accounted for. Emergencies will happen in the states, yet those moneies will not be used for that purpose; it has now become part of the governors’ personal money which they first take even before thinking of paying salary. For us in the National assembly, yes, there are also one or two areas where we need to reduce cost. I will also advise that the governors should reduce their fleets. Just imagine one man moving with over 10 cars at the same time, not that those cars are filled up with persons, rather some cars run empty and that is wastage.
As a member of police and Army committee, do you support the idea of FG dialoguing with the Niger Delta Militants?
I believe strongly that the Federal Government should dialogue with the Niger Delta militants to end the crisis in the area. If not for any other thing, the huge amount government is spending in keeping the military in the area can as well be mobilized for other things if there is peace. So, my suggestion to the Federal Government is that they should look at, at least the cost of keeping the military in that zone and find out sincerely that they are spending fortunes of the Nigerian money to keep those military, so the best thing is to sit down and dialogue for us to still keep our quota of oil production which is 2.4barrels per day and we will make more money than this slightly above 1barrel per day. I think it is counter-productive, I intend to write a proposal to the Federal Government to undertake a visit sincerely to the area and I am sure by the time they will go back to Abuja, nobody will ever suggest to the Federal Government to send one soldier to the Niger Delta.
You talked about dialogue as the panacea to the Niger Delta crisis, what is the solution to the agitation for Biafra?
Biafra, far from what the president kept saying that it was dead, but Biafra is not dead. So far as the youth of the South East and beyond keep feeling that what belong to them were being taken and little or nothing gets to them, so far the agitation will continue. By the way I am a strong believer in physical federalism and resource control. This nation, let’s tell ourselves the truth, we cannot make any headway with the present way the country is because there is no where in the world where this kind of system is practised because it creates room for laziness and for those who don’t have business in government to be calling the shots in government. We say we are operating federal system of government but we are not because there is no federal system of government in the world where every revenue/ resource goes to the center and the center will decide what will go to the states. It is wrong and that is part of what is causing all these agitations.