Big Interviews

Nigeria can feed the entire Africa – Senator Musa

'9th NASS rejected Way and Means advances thrice, it was re-presented thrice'

In this interview with Channel TV Politics Today, monitored by Linus Aleke, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Sani Musa says Nigeria has tied itself to oil when it can feed the nation, the ECOWAS region, and the entire continent. He also talked about other sundry issues.



What are your thoughts on the military’s assurance of not wanting to truncate democracy in Nigeria?

I do not make anything out of it other than a confidence that the army will confine itself to its constitutional role of defending the nation’s territorial integrity through the land, sea, and air. The Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) said they will continue to play their constitutional roles. He also believes their role is to protect the nation’s territorial integrity. It is a building of confidence for us all.



Don’t those of you in the political circle fear a military takeover, looking at the trend in West Africa, where no fewer than four countries are already under military rule, coupled with the inability of the government to meet the needs of citizens?

Democracy has come to stay in Nigeria. You cannot compare Nigeria with the other four West African states you are talking about. Look at the economic indices, as well as our human capital. When talking about real democracy, and we want democracy to thrive, we must do certain things that we are already doing. Our democracy is evolving; what we saw in the second and third republics and what we see now are entirely different. We are about 25 years into this democratic dispensation, and I can tell you that we have done pretty well. This country has done very well; the economic downturn is everywhere, and it is worldwide. After COVID-19, all nations were hit by the financial crisis, which triggered hyperinflation. It is not peculiar to Nigeria alone.



Are the political classes aware of the plight of ordinary Nigerians and looking at the way they conduct themselves?

I want us to go back down memory lane; let us look at Nigeria, say, 20 years ago, and Nigeria of today. Is there stagnation in development? The kind of growth you envisage in a country of over 200 million is not easily achievable. All we need to do is have long-term planning.



Do we have that long-term planning?

That is what we are trying to do now.



With your interaction with the economic team as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, what are the significant challenges of the nation’s economy?

What we have seen is that there has been a lot of decay spanning an extended period. Sometimes, the managers of our economy have relegated themselves to not doing the right things. There was no synergy between our fiscal and monetary policies before now. But now that the government has identified this as the major problem, it is working hard to fix it. It is going to take a lot of work. It is not like one plus one equals two. Some things require lots of time to put back on track. Let me give you a simple example: we have been discussing backward integration for many years. For so many years, Nigerian companies have been given the liberty to bring in certain things and get a waiver so that they will be able to put those things in place in Nigeria. And for us to be self-sufficient in that particular commodity or service and simultaneously be net exporters. Which of the companies abided by this understanding? Suppose the previous administration had paid lip service to economic growth issues rather than being concerned about how our population is growing. In that case, we are experiencing an implosion in our population, and nobody cares about what is happening. This government came with a decisive decision that, in the long run, we will see many things change. I know you will talk about the suffering in the country today. Yes, there is a lot of suffering, but the decision of Mr President to take these tough decisions is commendable. No right-thinking economist will fault what the President has done by removing the petroleum subsidy in trying to breach our foreign exchange market. He also said that we would not bring in anything like food. We have the potential to feed ourselves. It takes a passionate leader to do this, no matter the circumstances. So, when people say there is so much suffering, it is not out of place; there must be so much suffering. But what do we do? We must put our heads together to find a way out of the position we have found ourselves.



You are part of the National Assembly that approved most of the policies that had brought Nigeria to its knees; how do you explain that?

I told you that we still need to manage our developmental planning. We used to have a rolling plan in this country. I remember we had a rolling plan of about 10 to 20 years. We no longer have them now, and we don’t follow any. We allow every administration to formulate its plan the way it seems necessary without looking at how it will impact national progress and economic growth. We have had administrations where fiscal responsibility could be recklessly relegated to the background. Now, we have a government saying that we must take responsibility for our Fiscal Responsibility Act and act on it, and we must also make sure that things are going the right way. When you say that the government had done X, Y, and Z, I believe that from the inception of democracy in this country, we have never gotten it right. Our leaders came in when they were coming; they may want to win elections, or maybe they want to be in office at all costs, but they never had the futuristic and idealistic ideology that questions what they intend to achieve after eight years. Or where they would prefer to see the country after their term in office. They never had that kind of thought, and what do you expect from that kind of leader? Most of their policies will summersault and breed more suffering to Nigerians. It will, however, take a bold leader to resolve and correct these identified anomalies, which President Tinubu is doing. When people say there are no plans and policies, I can tell you that we now have actual government policies. By the time these policies start translating into tangible actions, we will be able to understand why we should have planned previously. With what you are saying, I will tell you that what this administration is doing and what we, the legislature, are doing now is to better every Nigerian’s life.



Can’t you and your colleagues take responsibility for some of these failings?

Where were you in this country when we were supposed to fix our electricity and power? Tell me how a manufacturer would be able to manufacture anything without power.



I am specific about the right of the Ways and Means advances because that was a disaster.

I conclude that the money spent to get certain things right was wasted. Regrettably, we cannot account for those funds any longer, and that is where the problem is. When you are talking about the National Assembly taking responsibility, remember that there is a separation of power. Ours is to oversee and strictly give our resolutions and provide the legislation, and we have done just that.



On the issue of Ways and Means, would it be correct to say that you have done the right thing?

When you are talking about Ways and Means being brought to the legislature for approval by the President, there were certain factors that we have to look at, and when we look at those factors, we are not the implementers; ours was too appropriate. We queried where necessary, and I can tell you that when the Ways and Means was brought before the 9th Assembly three times, we rejected it, and three times it was returned. We insisted that we must see all the breakdowns. Remember that there were policies then that did not resonate well with Nigerians, and we, as the true representative of the people, did not want Nigerians to continue to suffer.



Are you saying that your hands were tied?

Our hands cannot be tired. But in the future, watch and see what happens regarding the Ways and Means of the legislative arms. We, as legislatures, have every right to bring it back and look at it again.



Are you saying you do not regret approving that kind of policy?

I have no regrets about every action I took in the National Assembly. We took every action collectively, and we did it in the best interest of this country.



Even when it was a disaster?

If it was a disaster, we would look at who created it and checkmate them.



In a representative government, there should be consequences for wrong actions.

There are checks and balances in a representative government.



Is it not the legislature’s duty to stop the anti-people’s policies?

Our responsibility at the time Mr President brought the Way and Means was that of approval, and we looked at it and declined approval. We rejected it three times, and then we asked for a breakdown. When they brought up the breakdown, we saw where they allocated all the funds, and when they tied it to COVID-19 and agriculture, talking about the Anchor Borrowers Programme, are we still going to oppose it? Meanwhile, there is a new administration now, and what this administration is doing, especially the 10th National Assembly, is to review all these. It is a promise to Nigerians; we will look at it. Have you ever seen me in anything unusual? I came to the National Assembly with a reputation and integrity and will do the right thing for my people. I am a committee member that was just set up, and we are awaiting inauguration.



What committee was that?

Ways and Means Ad-hoc Committee to investigate what happened, that we are having this large outstanding. Some of which have a 40-year life span with a nine-percent interest rate. Why don’t we talk about a way forward, for God’s sake? How we want to change Nigeria for good.



What kind of plan are you proposing Nigeria adopt from the available variants?

We used to have a rolling plan, but I can tell you that with the renewed hope agenda that Mr. President came with, it is a plan that in the next decade, Nigeria will be one of the most advanced countries in this world, economically. This is because what we are initiating today is futuristic. As of today, Nigeria runs a monolithic economy; our significant sources of income are from one source. That is the reason why we are facing the issue of forex. We have tied ourselves to oil when we can feed ourselves, the ECOWAS region, and Africa. In just Niger State, there is over 75,000 arable land. What is the size of Nigeria? Every section of this country is arable and can produce something. Underneath are God-given natural resources, from gold, etc. What stops us from using our human capital to develop this state?

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