Monday, 1 February 2016

WITH DISCIPLINE IN BUDGET EXECUTION NIGERIA WILL WORK, SAYS SENATOR JOHN OWAN-ENOH


Senator John Owan-Enoh
Senator John Owan-Enoh represents Central Senatorial District of Cross River state at the National Assembly. Owan-Enoh is also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance. In this interview with, he throws more light on the 2016 federal government budget, the deplorable state of federal roads, the gale of defections from the PDP to the APC in Cross River among other issues of national importance. Sit back and enjoy it.

Members of your party, the PDP, are seriously opposed to the 2016 budget of the federal government. In fact, they said it is not feasible. What is your take on this?
I don’t think opposition to the budget should be on party lines. I believe that in all fairness we can all give it a chance to work. Every budget remains a proposal, no matter how well intentioned, we need to see it implemented first. For me really I don’t think at this point we should oppose the budget. We should all give it a chance to work. The estimates, the parameters, the assumptions can be realized. Why not? All what we require is discipline, whether you are APC or PDP. Buhari as President has come up as someone who is very discipline. Leadership matters and means a lot. The perception about the President, I believe is very positive. If we take that discipline into the running of government and then the budget I believe everything will work well.

By your estimation what do you think the people of Cross River should expect as a benefits from 2016 budget even though that budget is alleged to be controversial ?
In all my years in politics, I haven’t been part of the executive before. The budget preparation up to the estimate was made as an executive bill and once it was made they took a recess. We need to get back and then look at the details of the budget when it becomes available and then we begin to engage. May be at that point I can say something categorically on the budget. For me really I don’t think at this point we should oppose the budget. We should all give it a chance to work. The estimates, the parameters, the assumptions can be realized. Why not? All what we require is discipline, whether you are APC or PDP. Buhari as President has come up as someone who is very discipline.

Leadership matters and means a lot. The perception about the President, I believe is very positive. If we take that discipline into the running of government and then the budget I believe everything will work well.

You are a senator representing Cross River Central Senatorial District, what are you and your colleagues from the Northern and Southern senatorial district of Cross River state doing or intend to do to attract federal government or its relevant agency to come and salvage the situation of very bad and deplorable roads in Cross River state?.
In our own case as lawmakers we do our best to ensure that certain things are done but implementation is really the problem. Implementation remains the problem because where resources are not equivalent perhaps to the things that need to get done; people get things done through favors. Unfortunately, sadly you are asking this question because you know the road to my village is not a good road. A contract awarded since 2009 by NDDC, the state administration has done all the roads linking to that main road but because of that technicality of not being able to award that contract when there is an existing contract, everything was stalled. What is going on in our State and our constituency is not because of lack of effort, there have been so much effort by lawmakers, myself inclusive, to get these roads fixed. Even the little work that is even going on is as a result of that effort. Sermatech is somewhere along that road, I am sure when some of you travel you still see Sermatech. They are sustained there only because of the little effort of getting N5billion into 2014 budget then. We would continue to make efforts, we would not relent.

But critics are saying that the neglect of federal roads by FERMA and other federal government agencies are as a result of you and the other two senators representing Cross River at the National Assembly not really pressing on the federal government to rehabilitate the roads? These critics also alleged that you `have not been speaking in the senate as compared to the lawmaker you succeeded?.
I don’t agree with what you have said. I don’t know what you watch because that is not the feedback that I get. Recently, the former deputy governor of Cross River State, Matthias Offoboche was buried, I have not seen retired Brigadier Anthony for a while, I attended that burial and when I was exchanging pleasantries with people and I met him, he said the trouble I was giving in the House of Reps that he has seen me again in the Senate, that I should keep doing that. So it is not true and I need you to get out of that mindset. In the Senate, I am speaking. The difference is that Victor Ndoma-Egba that was there was the Senate leader and on any matter on the floor he is the one that would speak, he led the Senate. You need to understand the legislature, he is the one that would move a motion, the minority leader will second, and he (Victor) sponsors every bill that comes from the executive. If I was a nobody they wouldn’t have been talking about me being minority leader at the beginning.

I emerge as Chairman Finance Committee and I am in the opposition. I wasn’t expecting to become anything in the Senate but I emerged as chairman finance. I was the Chairman of the joint Senate committee that considered the medium term expenditure framework and passed it. I am currently the Chairman of the joint Senate committee that is investigating the Treasury Single Account, TSA. And this is within a period of six to seven months and I still have about three years and some months. So the Cross River voice is not lost and would not be lost.

If you were to describe your relationship with the former Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma Egba what would you say your relationship with him is like?
I do not have any problem with him. Our relationship has not gone bad. Elections are over and the person that wins an election is the person that should have the larger heart. Without prejudice to the fact that I ran against him, that wouldn’t have affected how much respect that I had for him and still have for him. Without going into details of it, I just need to assure that I think we have a good relationship and it would continue to be good.

What is your take on the allegation that President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight is targeted against the opposition PDP ?
Corruption is corruption. If people corruptly enrich themselves I believe they should be held accountable. I don’t want to think here that there is a certain partisanship in the prosecution. I think we are judging too early. Let’s allow it one full circus. The new administration is just about seven months old and if this early those who are being prosecuted appeared to be all PDP, I believe it is because PDP was the party in power for 16 years. I believe it would come round. I believe that the President will not allow himself at end of the day to be seen to be a President who targets only opposition in the fight against corruption

Gov. Benedict Ayade`s administration in Cross River state is said to be embarking on very gigantic projects even when the state financial resources is said to be very lean. Worthy to be mention of the projects is the 260km super highway, deep seaport and garment factory projects. Do you see the governor fully executing these projects?
The governor came from the very first day when he was sworn in, and in his acceptance speech he talked about the signature projects. Again I believe that we should give it a chance to succeed. I believe whether you are from Cross River or not from Cross River as long as you are working and doing business here, we should all give it a chance because the working and success of those projects would have a tremendous effect on our state. We started our democratic journey in 1999 with our state hugely dubbed as a civil service state. Gradually, we are moving forward, we may not be there yet but we have a governor who is also very business inclined. So if he is travelling and bringing in investors why should that be a problem?

The only thing is that we should all commit him to prayers and hope that all the engagements he has with investors works, succeeds so the state can benefit. It is also too early to engage in this cynicism or whatever, the governor is someone that would say something, put his mind there and get determine to make sure it succeeds. Let us support him and make sure he succeeds in those projects he talked about-whether it is the road, whether it is the seaport.

In recent times, the PDP is said to have suffered loss of its very heavy weight politicians that defected to the ruling APC in Cross River State where you come from, don’t you thinks that the defection is a huge minus to your party and the defection is going to cripple your party come 2019?
So far, in my reading and monitoring of all the defections that has occurred, I found out that almost everyone who have defected didn’t support the PDP in the last election. I can’t speak about what would happen tomorrow but almost everyone who has defected didn’t support the PDP in the last election. I admit and I appreciate that in the last election the PDP itself became an internal opposition. So those that have defected to APC have only formalized the fact that they are now in another party. In the 2015 elections, they were not in PDP; they did not work for PDP. As a politician I would have wished that if for any reason they found themselves outside the PDP during the elections, after the elections they would have come back. We should also understand our politics; it is also easy to understand why they didn’t come back. If the PDP won in Cross River and also won at the National level , they would not go away. So you can understand why they are doing it. They won’t come back because the APC had won at the centre. We don’t know what is going to play out tomorrow but the challenge for the PDP in the state is to hold its own and consolidate and do well. (Source: National Mirror)