Senator Danjuma Goje, a former governor of Gombe State and chairman , Senate Committee on Appropriation, represents Gombe-central Senatorial District in the National Assembly. In this interview with ANDREW OOTA, he speaks on the need to rehabilitate the displaced people of the north-east as well as the need to rebuild the region through a legal framework that would give birth to the North-east Commission.
You have been in the fore front of the process of ensuring the establishment of the North-east Commission that would give legal backing for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the north-east region, why did you think a commission would be the best way to go?
I do not know if you have been to the six states of the north-east, particularly Borno, Yobe and Adamawa , and if you did, you would appreciate the level of devastation, destruction of properties, the killings and the manner of brutality that took place in these places. The towns in these areas have being totally destroyed so much that if, you want to fix the affected areas, you will have to begin from the very scratch. I must tell you, that the rehabilitation and reconstruction of these areas cannot be achieved in one or two years, it will take a long time to bring normalcy to these areas, therefore the only way to effectively assist the affected people requires a more stable, permanent legal framework such that would be identifiable, acceptable locally and internationally. This is because, rebuilding the north-east cannot be done by the federal government of Nigeria alone, it requires the three tiers of the government, it would need the assistance and intervention of the international community, they have already given us their words and commitment. The international community and the foreign donor agencies are willing to come in to assist, but they will be more comfortable to step in, if there is an identifiable and legally established institution, that is the only way they will be willing to put in their money and collaborate in the rebuilding process of that devastated region. The same goes for the foreign donor agencies.
When you look at the south-south as an example, you would agree that beyond the NDDC, there is also a Presidential Committee on Amnesty to collaborate the work of the commission, are you expecting same for the north east?
We are not federal government, the Presidential Committee on Amnesty is a programme that was established by the government of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as an ad-hoc move to convince the militants to drop their weapons and embrace peace for the good of the country, particularly in the Niger Delta. It is therefore, left for the executive to decide on whether to establish an amnesty programme for the north-east, but all that we are asking now is the establishment of the North-east Commission, which we believe will be of immense importance in the process of rebuilding and rehabilitating the north-east.
You are one of the leaders in the north-east region where peoples’ lives have being taken away mindlessly, their means of livelihood destroyed and so many in refugee or internally displaced camps, what are the leaders doing in their individual capacities to help , especially the displaced persons?
You see the issues of internally displaced persons cover the whole of the region and not restricted to the worse hit states of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno, it goes even beyond the region, therefore there is no specific formally organized arrangement for now, however there are individual contributions that are been made in form of materials, cash donations, medications, accommodations and psychological assistance by various individuals and small organisations to the people of the north-east. So, there is nowell structured moves made by us.
Beyond the establishment of the North-east commission, the armed forces, prosecuting the war against insurgents need to be well equipped to clean up the area, otherwise the commission might not just be able to stand, are you prepared to make sufficient budgetary allocations for the armed orces?
Since the beginning of the crisis, the National Assembly has being very cooperative with the executive arm of government in whatever that is expected of us to do. You will recall that, during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, $1billion was requested to buy arms which were not even debated; we approved it in the 7th Senate immediately. Under the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, he sent a supplementary budget in which sums of monies were earmarked for the military and the air force under operation Lafia Dole, again, there was no argument about it, we approved it straight away, which shows that we are ready and committed to support the executive arm of government in this fight against insurgents.
The National Assembly has played its part in supporting the fight against insurgents, where states of emergency and fund were approved at different intervals , but when you look back and hear stories of monies meant for the fight against insurgents being used for other purposes, how do you feel?
I think my only answer to this would be that, this is totally unfortunate. I do not want to dabble so much into this matter for the simple reason that all the issues relating to arms procurement funds are before various courts, some are still under investigations, therefore it will not be proper for me to comment extensively on the matter, but like I said, I want to still reiterate that position that, it is really unfortunate.
Let us talk about the 2016 Budget, you are the chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations; Nigerians are worried over the discrepancies in the 2016 money bill, could you tell Nigerians what you feel was responsible for this?
I think I have spoken so much on this matter and I don’t want to speak too much on it. My concern for now is to try and clean up the budget, compile it, go through it to ensure that it is properly cleaned up, make sure that it is an implementable document that will serve the people of Nigeria, address their yearnings and aspirations.
From your submission, are Nigerians to discard insinuations that the president might be advised to withdraw the entire document and present a new one?
I am hearing about withdrawal of the 2016 Budget for the first time, because just this afternoon, we had a session where we extended the period for submission of the reports of the committees by one week. So, to say that this budget is going to be withdrawn is strange to me.
Would you say your expectations of the 8th Senate have been met so far?
The objectives of the 8th Senate have been clearly stated and that was first done by the Senate President and other leaders of this Senate. We are set to cooperate with President Muhammadu Buhari and other government officials so that the promises that my party the All Progressives Congress made to the people are actualized.
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