Anyone caught stealing Nigerian money should face severe punishment – Kolawole
Hon. Musibau Taiwo Kolawole, a former member of the 9th Federal House of Representatives and outgoing ECOWAS parliamentarian, shares his perspective on the need for devolving power to states and establishing state police to address the country’s security challenges. In this interview with OLADIPUPO AWOJOBI, Kolawole emphasises the importance of President Bola Tinubu’s financial discipline as a trained accountant.
The issue of corruption has come up again in Nigeria and people feel that may be the President didn’t do enough findings before he appointed people into offices, what is your view on this?
You cannot accuse somebody of corruption before appointment, and is it possible for someone to know everybody in Nigeria. Federal character does not allow the President to make a choice because the Constitution states that the appointments must be spread and there is no way you can know everybody that should be appointed into offices. That is one of the problems with our system because we want every part of the country to be equally represented and in doing that and he might not be able to appoint the people he knows into government. The highest position he held before he became the President was being the governor of Lagos State. When you look at his statement during the inauguration of the ministers, he said that anyone found wanting would be removed and that is what he has just done. It didn’t take time before he asked the woman to step aside to allow investigation to be done. This should be a lesson to all of us that when you are called to serve, you mustn’t be selfish about it. He said that when there is no punishment for corruption, then corruption will not stop. Corruption is an English word, so it started from the whites, it didn’t start from us. But they have a way of punishing anyone that is found wanting. There, they say you can bend the rule but you must not break it. You can be corrupt if you are lucky and you are not caught till you die, no problem. But even if you are 90 years old, and you are caught, they will deal with you. They will start by withdrawing all honours given to you, everybody would disassociate with you before they send you to jail. That is what we should be doing; anybody found wanting should be punished because they are breaking the rules. You may bend it but you must not break it.
Is this not about our system really whereby someone could transfer billions of naira form the account of the government to private accounts as we see in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation and other agencies
….i said if you don’t punish people they would break the rule. No president can see what everybody is doing at the same time. Like I said, corruption is in Europe and other parts of the world, but they know how to track those who are corrupt. They check and recheck every time. Even in private companies, you have to check and recheck every time. Yes, the Ministry of Humanitarian and Poverty Alleviation is a new one. It was introduced because of the situation we found ourselves, when there was economic meltdown in the whole world and our own is so bad. To cushion the effect, they created the ministry. You can see what the Presidency is doing now, they said they should pay into individual accounts unlike what they used to do in the past and the woman would just go into a market and give out cash and they would say they have spent N100 Billion. It is unfortunate that this is happening to a young woman, they said we old people didn’t know how to handle governance and that we are corrupt. Now they are there and they can see. So, anybody caught stealing money should be punished severely. They should be blacklisted, this is one way you can check it. Corruption is not limited to politicians, even in the ministries, they must thoroughly investigate what people do. People intentionally exposed the Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Minister as she saw the way money was being taking from the ministry.
The inflationary rate in Nigeria is over 30% and President Bola Tinubu has been in power for some months now, and with the removal of fuel subsidy prices of goods have gone up astronomically
….That one would be solved now, we have started having production from Dangote Refinery and Port Harcourt Refinery is starting work too, so we will start seeing the effects. The effects will not be in terms of the money they use to buy the products, but the cost of freight would reduce, and this would reduce the price of the product. With this, the exchange rate of naira to the dollar would drop, that is one area. Another area is that it’s so unfortunate that President Tinubu found himself in this kind of situation; I always tell people that Tinubu doesn’t play with money when it comes to government. People think Tinubu just spent government money anyhow, he is not a Father Christmas, and he would want to see what they want to use the money for. That is what people have started seeing and you can see the reaction that followed. It is so spontaneous because people were shocked that he could do what he did. That is what we want in our leader. The function of the president is not to go and carry materials or go to project sites. He is one special person who should be a reference point for everything we do. He is the number one salesperson in Nigeria. He is talking to multinationals and they are interested in coming to do business in Nigeria.
The issue of insecurity is still there, people were killed in Plateau State on Christmas Day, some students that were kidnapped in Zamfara State have not been released till date and there have been some other security issues in this area, what do you think the government can do to stop this?
I know that the bulk of Army Chiefs that we have now are serious minded people, particularly the Chief of Army Staff, he is an infantry officer. Security issue is about information, if they don’t get enough information, they would not be able to nip it in the bud. Even in the white world, they would go after one person for years. Insecurity has reduced now unless we don’t want to say the truth. The way we hear about Boko Haram is not like before.
But, it’s like the problem is still there and we even heard that terrorists have taken over some local governments in the north
…I don’t think there is a local government that has been taken over by terrorists. Those states have their own peculiar problems. I’m talking of Plateau and Zamfara States, for instance. They are fighting themselves in Zamfara. The people that are fighting are friends, they were milking Nigeria and taking our resources and suddenly they started fighting themselves because things have changed. Those ones are difficult, they are the people that ought to provide information, and they are extremely wealthy. It is difficult because terrorism is not like war, they take advantage of situations, and they are like thieves. They would watch you, strike, and go back. It’s not that they fight everyday. They know that if they are in one place, the Nigerian Army would overrun them. They are monitoring them, they use drone and they are everywhere. You can see that the Nigerian Army mistakenly killed some innocent people last year, they thought they were terrorists. So they must be very careful because everybody wears the same clothes and they have the same outlook.
Former president Ibrahim Babangida recently talked about devolution of power to states and restructuring. Your party spoke about these things before they got to power in 2015, but now they are not talking about it, what is your view on this?
I have concluded that it’s like everybody at the centre does not want to allow these things. But we must have the political will. If you decentralise security, it would not reduce the power at the centre, it would even make it better. They would remove centre from sensitive issues, there would be federal interventions like Rapid Response Squad that will just wait for instructions from the centre. When we have local police, it would be easy because they know these people. When I spoke with Senator Ali Ndume about this, he said that they jailed him and that he knew nothing about it. He said that the terrorists were like area boys there. He said they usually give them money the way we do here. It started like that and he said that he was shocked that turned out like that. People took advantage of them and they were giving them money and external organisations came in, and started funding them. Their war lords that were funding them externally took over and started. They now have connections with Al Queda and other deadly international terrorism groups.
Many youths have lost hope in the country as there are no jobs because some multi-national companies have left Nigeria
…They have not left, they are coming in now. Before this time, if you go to Ikeja Industrial Estate, you will see that most of the warehouses that used to house multinationals were empty. But if you go there now, you will see people there; they now have an assembly plant. I know that electricity is a problem, but this can be solved. If not because of the then-President, we would have solved the problem. In Lagos State, for instance, our electricity needs are about 1,500 megawatts. We started the 390 megawatts at Ikorodu, that one took almost an eternity to start, and we had a plan of 560 megawatts elsewhere. If these two had been done, we would have been able to solve the power need of Lagos State. But, because we had a central government that was so conscious of its power, it has now been watered down, and states can provide power. Power is concurrent, but there is a line in the constitution that states that it is exclusive, and that is transmission. Now it has been lifted, states should have the boldness to solve their power problem. See the way our national grids are working, some of these bad guys would even bomb it because they want to steal again. But if it is within a state and if one of them is faulty it would be easy to solve. You can see that we sometimes have a total power blackout in Nigeria. We must localize the problem so that it would be easy to solve. Maintaining nine national grids in Nigeria is not easy.