11 Apr 2016

KINGSLEY IGWE

Banning Govt Officials From Flying First Class Is Hypocritical —adegboruwa



Human rights lawyer and activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, tells BAYO AKINLOYE that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration’s decision to bar government officials from flying first class is a smokescreen for its failure to resolve the country’s economic and financial crisis

The Federal Government through the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, said it had banned public servants from flying first class when on official trips. Do you see this as cheering news?

That statement of the Minister of Finance (Kemi Adeosun) that public officials are barred from flying first class is hypocritical and only a mere attempt to divert attention from the suffering and agony that have been imposed upon the Nigerian people as a result of the poor and ineffective economic policy of the Maj Gen. Muhammadu Buhari administration. Nigerians are no fools and we know what is going on. The issue of flying first class by government officials is mere tokenism because the people who are living the life of affluence are indeed the politicians. And I believe that if the Minister of Finance were to be serious about cutting cost, she should have encouraged her boss to let charity begin at home. How can a president be maintaining nine presidential jets flying up and down, all over the world as a way of escaping the crisis Nigerians are going through? How can a president who has budgeted over N1 billion for feeding in one year or over N4 billion for his own clinic in Aso Rock have feelings for Nigerians to be able to subsidise petroleum products?



Despite the 20 per cent reduction in travel expenses targeted by the Federal Government, you think the decision makes no sense?

If he reduced flying first class for public servants and increased the agony of Nigerians by subjecting them to trekking to work, by subjecting Nigerians to inflation and perpetual darkness and at the same time increasing the tariff for that darkness, that is wickedness. What we demand from the Minister of Finance is not palliative measures but an unfolding of her economic agenda for this country. She has virtually run this country aground; no economic policy, no economic direction, people do not have access to exchange rate, children are being withdrawn from schools abroad, middle businessmen and manufacturers are closing shop – what is she talking about flying first class? What is our business with that? Will that bring foreign exchange? Will that increase salaries of workers? Will that put an end to fuel scarcity?

I believe that the Finance Minister has not been able to appreciate the enormity of the responsibility imposed on her office. As we speak today, there is no budget as indeed the direction of this government; contractors are not paid; most state governors cannot pay their workers; and the president has gone to China to beg for N2 billion loan for which we do not know the duration and the purpose for which it will be dispensed. This kind of policy of denying government officials the opportunity of flying first class is not worthy of news given the current crisis we are going through in Nigeria.

Would you describe the decision as a misplaced priority?

I believe the Buhari administration has lost direction; he is now looking for populism by embarking on statements that will seem to tie into the minds of Nigerians. The government has discovered that Nigerians are beginning to be tired out by the anti-corruption song or national anthem since May 29 (2015, when Buhari was sworn in as president). Now that the anti-corruption war is not bringing food to the table of the masses, they now want to go back to populist programmes; that will not appease us in this country. I think that the president owes us a responsibility to unfold an economic agenda that will bring food to the table of Nigerians and not to be deceiving us by embarking on populist programmes. How much has the President recovered so far from the Peoples Democratic Party’s regime? How much has been returned and what are the recovered looted funds being used for? The government cannot just keep us in darkness. A Federal High Court made an order that Buhari and Obasanjo should account for the looted funds of (Gen. Sani) Abacha and the looted funds of (ex-President Goodluck) Jonathan and he (Buhari) is refusing to do so.

What is our business with whether public servants are allowed to fly first class or not? We have major economic challenges in this country that affect virtually every part of our society. Inflation has gone up while power generation is less than what the President met when he came into office. It is almost one year since he assumed duty as the leader of this country and he has no agenda. He has denied virtually all the promises he made to Nigerians when he was campaigning. His government has lost credibility and integrity – and the President does not care. He has been flying up and down. Is it because he has access to jets? What is our business with first class?

But reductions in government expenses like this are seen to be good for the country.

What Nigerians want is food on their table. We want electricity and we want an end to fuel scarcity. If we are subsidising the President by paying his feeding allowance which is over N1 billion in one year and subsidising his health care, paying for his medical bill to the tune of more than N4 billion; why can’t he subsidise fuel for Nigerians? And why is the All Progressives Congress-led government being hypocritical? In 2012 when Jonathan wanted to remove fuel subsidy, we occupied Ojota Park every day; (Former Lagos State Governor, Babatunde) Fashola sponsored the protests. He was there to give a speech. Today, it is this same Fashola – these same (Bola) Tinubu people – now saying that Nigerians should bear the brunt of fuel subsidy removal. This is hypocrisy. I think Nigerians should reject this APC regime for fraud. We are tired of this and I think the President should be man enough to resign from office instead of imposing something on our people. Who is interested flying in first class? All we want is food on our table; we want education for our children; we want violence and crimes in our land to reduce. We want people to respect the rule of law and not to be shooting people who are agitating for Biafra. We want respect for all our people, not to be killed by herdsmen calling themselves Boko Haram.

Nigeria is currently at the crossroads and the solution does not lie in populist programmes or denying people flying first class. We are not interested in that. I call on the Nigeria Labour Congress and all activists who protested against Jonathan’s government back then to wake up now and do the same thing against this government and not act as hypocrites. There is no difference between 2012 and now; when we insisted that subsidy should remain back then. We should insist it should remain now.

Are you saying President Muhammadu Buhari is insulting people’s intelligence?

It is beyond insulting people’s intelligence. Buhari as a person was not prepared for the presidency. He has no agenda; he has no programme – he has no blueprint.

But, he had contested for the office of the President on three other occasions before 2015. Does that not suggest a sign of preparedness?

He was just going to campaign every day denouncing Jonathan’s regime without a clue of any solution. Every day now, what we hear is blame; every day he keeps saying the PDP had ruled and ruined Nigeria for 16 years. What is his solution? As a matter of fact, his anti-corruption war is not working because it is selective. The government is taking us for granted. The President told us while he was in the opposition that it was wrong for Jonathan to send soldiers to Ekiti during the state’s governorship election. This same Buhari, under his watch allowed soldiers into Rivers State for the purpose of elections. We are in a regime of hypocrisy. It is clear that the president does not have an agenda for this country. We cannot continue to use anti-corruption crusade to cover up ineffectiveness, ineptitude and cluelessness (of Buhari). It is clear to all of us that the Buhari regime has taken us far back beyond what obtained under Jonathan administration. Violence is ongoing and militancy is back in the Niger Delta with electricity collapsing totally to zero level which has not happened in a long while in this country. Obviously, the Buhari regime has no plan for the progress of this country.

During Jonathan’s administration, ballot snatching was already becoming history; votes of the people already counted then. In all the (alleged) corruption of Jonathan, he brought Prof. (Attahiru) Jega who introduced card readers into the nation’s electoral process. That innovation can be attributed to have contributed to the defeat of Jonathan, the then incumbent President. However, with the emergence of Buhari, the first election conducted under his watch in Kogi State left much to be desired. There, he allowed the votes of a dead man to be inherited by somebody who did not participate in the election. The second election conducted in Bayelsa State was all violence and ballot snatching. The same thing happened to the third election in Rivers State. No election ever conducted under the Buhari administration has been conclusive because of the attempt by the APC to influence the outcome. It is always violence because the ruling party does not respect the will of the people. This government engenders thuggery and chaos. Nigerians should rise up and occupy Abuja; they should occupy Lagos and other places because the country has actually collapsed. We are being fed with lies every day.

KINGSLEY IGWE

About KINGSLEY IGWE -

I've even gone so far as to verbalize it specifically, time is too precious to waste on trivial arguments and negativities. I'd rather get on to the more fun and rewarding stuff right away!

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