Former Special Assistant on Aviation to the immediate past President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Alhaji Bello Isa Bature tells TheFact Nigeria that the Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Finance are failing to monitor the disbursement of loans to farmer, leading to misuse. He says the inequality in the country can be minimized if the bogus salaries and other remunerations in the hands of a few were evenly shared among the working population; the country’s economy will be revived; parastatals and agencies will have more money to work with, and unemployment reduced. Excerpts:
You attended a youth meeting in Abuja recently. What were the issues for deliberation?
We the youth held a meeting recently concerning the issues happening in Nigeria, a lot of insecurity, atrocities, banditry, the economy and other depreciation within the country. We decided to sit down and hold vital discussions to see how these concerns can be addressed. This is especially in the area of politics, the economy, Ministerial Departments and Agencies (MDAs) issues. We met to address the youth and the nation so that equality can be met before the next presidential election in 2023. If you look at our nation and study it carefully, you will know that our political office holders have virtually ruined our country because most of them are not willing to work for the country to grow, but to exploit the country, enrich themselves especially in terms of their salaries, allowances etc. If you check the country’s budget, almost 30-35 percent goes to the National Assembly. Because of that, the economy is suffering, almost going into a deficit and there is the need to curtail or minimize it to the simple rate. If their excessive salaries and wages can be reduced and taken back to the nation’s treasury, to serve for other purposes.
Briefly, what are the reasons for your concern?
If you look at the politicians today, some of them invest their money on the youth in the wrong way, by buying sophisticated weapons for them and drugs which cause a lot of damage to them, just in the name of getting a political seat. If such money can be channeled into more useful areas, our economy will be revived. If their salaries can be reduced, other parastatals and agencies will have more money to work with, and unemployment will be reduced.
When you check the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company, (PPMC), Department of Petroleum Resources, (DPR), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS), etc, their salaries are high up there and they are not working more than the others such as lecturers, teachers in the primary and secondary schools. In one lecture alone, at least, almost every teacher or lecturer, due to the rate of shouting to make the students learn, must have a rise in high blood pressure (BP) before the lectures are concluded. These categories of workers are paid much less, which is not supposed to be. Our concern is that, all Nigerians, no matter where you are working, let the salary in the country be uniform so that the youth can seek employment in other sectors apart from NNPC, PPMC, DPR etc. Wherever you work, whether in the primary schools or ministries, you know that your salary is the same. This will help the country to develop faster. Now, our leaders must arise and dutifully serve the country.
Who were the stakeholders present at the meeting?
These issues, we had to address them to the whole country, not only the political parties. We invited the representatives of the political parties to be there because we wanted all to participate. Although we couldn’t get the much number of participants as we’d have wanted, we still went ahead to deliberate and to make far reaching decisions. This is a very peaceful address to our leaders and the youth. We are not here for fighting. We are here to rub minds and see how we can develop and how we can get resourceful persons into leadership, not corrupt leaders. We need resourceful presidential candidates for 2023. If the presidency is not good, the whole country will continue to be in a mess.
How do you rate the APC government’s Next Level agenda which was launched towards President Buhari’s second term?
Like now, our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, he has a lot to do, because he promised us Next Level. Up till now, we have not yet attained the Next Level. He started with the target of agriculture; though his government has tried a lot in that area. Our northern governors, other state governments and others, they are not investing the money meant for agriculture as intended by Mr President. If I could remember my state, Kebbi State, I think Mr President gave us almost N20bn or above which is promise kept, but the returns on investment is too minimal, less than N2bn return on investment. We have tried to address the governor on how to do this but so many advices from people who are only interested in this money for their personal gains are there.
How can government achieve success with the Next Level agenda?
Government can only achieve the Next Level if there are two or three things along the line. One, whatever promise they made to Nigerians, let them fulfill the promise accordingly. The Buhari administration promised the nation security but especially in the northern part of the country, the crime rate has increased. The poor are suffering. The media is talking, Journalists are writing and I am sure that Mr President is seeing most of these reports and either overlooking or if he is seeing these issues, he is to address the concerns of Nigerians on the Security Chiefs. The National Security Adviser, I don’t know why he is silent. He is seeing all these atrocities in the country. Up till now, there is no remedy. Secondly, they are talking about the Single Treasury Account, (TSA). The TSA should bring development but there is a lot of corruption along the line because most of the taxes that government is charging are not going to the TSA account but to the personal ministerial accounts. This is known to many Nigerians. Up till now, there is no accounting for procurement and tendering issues. I have never heard any Minister or government official mention it. Also, where are our taxes channeled to? Where we are generating money is from crude oil. From the railways, where is the money? We are always borrowing money from the World Bank and other countries. This is the time for us to wake up and address our affairs as a nation just like the Chinese have done in the last few years so that we can revive the country’s economy to become more vibrant.
The youth are engaging in unlawful activities such as armed robbery, terrorism and cyber crimes etc. Can we rightly say the youth have failed the nation?
This is a very crucial topic too wide to explain. This is because, if there is no poverty, if there are employment opportunities, if there are a lot of companies in operation, you can never see a Nigerian youth lazing around. They have the zeal and mind to work and to serve in every angle. I do observe a lot of graduates, after their one year service, 92 percent of the youth, after serving the nation, they do fail to get employment. Why? Because government is not ready to provide employment. As I have said before, if there is a balance in terms of salaries, all those things can never happen. You will see that a fresh graduate in DPR or PPMC is collecting N200,000 plus but a primary school teacher is collecting less than N22,000. If you insert N22,000 into N250,000, it is almost his six or eight months salary, while a single person is taking that salary. Why? And their rate of labour, the primary school teacher’s job is harder than that of somebody working in DPR or PPMC because they stay in a good office, well furnished, and other incentives. But for the primary school teacher, its only pupils and the chalk, making his work more stressful than others. We need to reduce the salaries of PPMC, DPR, NNPC NCC and other places so that we can take this money back to the treasury for other purposes.
What is your take on the federal government’s agricultural policy?
Mr President should stop allocating the country’s huge amount of money to the state governors because they are not effectively utilising the funds, especially for agriculture. I mentioned Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Yobe and so on, they are into farming. The farmers who are farming are sourcing for money from their private pockets before they bring the farm produce into the market. Only a few can get farming loans, about seven to eight percent. More than 90 something percent are not getting. A few states are giving the loans but some states are not. And there is no proper checking from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. If this money released from the Federal Ministry of Finance, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, these two ministries are supposed to go and make 100 percent supervision about how the monies can be distributed according to the schedule.