Ade Adeogun is a member of the House of Representatives representing Akoko South East/West federal constituency on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). A security expert and Vice Chairman of the House Committee on National Security, he spoke to OLAWUNMI OJO on why insecurity pervades the nation, recent security breaches in Imo State, and what must be done to forestall a recurrence, and state police, among other salient issues.
As a security expert-turned politician and Vice Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on National Security, what have you identified as being responsible for the level of insecurity currently pervading the nation?
The immediate cause is economic deprivation and poverty. A lot of citizens are jobless, hungry, and angry, hence they have resorted to crime as a means of sustenance. Added to these is the poor capacity of the law enforcement agencies to protect the citizens and forestall crime. It is a fact that when people find it easy to commit a crime without repercussions, the tendency is for others to see crime as a viable option. Lastly, as a nation, our leaders have not been acting or speaking in ways that discourage criminal tendencies. So, where wealth is celebrated without questioning its source, and where leaders flaunt ill-gotten wealth, citizens are bound to adopt a get-rich-quick mentality.
What would you suggest as a probable panacea to these security challenges?
We must address the issue of good governance. Poor governance is the foundation of our situation and we need to reverse the trend, such that government is able to provide for the welfare and security of citizens. We also need to build the capacity of the law enforcement agencies to maintain law and order. Crime will reduce once the law enforcement agencies show the capacity to ensure that no crime goes unpunished and are able to safeguard the lives and properties of even the lowliest among us.
You must be disturbed by recent events in Imo State where the police station and correctional centre were attacked. What, in your view, led to that?
The situation in Imo State is the most challenging national security threat today. Unlike the situation in the North West, which is basically criminal activities by fragmented groups of bandits and the Northeast, where the military is combatting the remnants of Boko Haram, what is brewing in Imo State and by extension the South East, is the manifestation of the earliest stage of insurgency. The goal of this group is to take control of a section of the entity called Nigeria, either as part of separatist agitations or to force a regime change.
The underlying factor is that some agitators are capitalising on pre-existing grievances against the government to plan an insurgency. So, we must all be disturbed by recent events in Imo State, which I see as part of efforts to obtain weapons in pursuit of a nascent insurgency and to portray the government of Nigeria as incapable of securing the people of the region. I just hope that those saddled with the responsibility of securing this nation see what is happening within the proper context and not treat it with kid’s gloves.
There has been renewed call for decentralising policing by allowing the idea of state police to stem insecurity.
What is your take on this?
It is difficult to have state police in the absence of well-defined federalism. It would take tremendous national consensus to amend the 1999 constitution, to provide for state police. I doubt if we are any close to such consensus. First things first; if we adopt federalism with all its appurtenances, then state police will be a given. For now, it is far-fetched.
Do you believe in the policy of zoning, in the light of the debate on where the next president should emerge from come 2023?
Zoning was an unwritten agreement between members of the political class to ensure political stability. I think it was introduced to protect the minority groups and give all sections of the country a sense of equity. I think it is a necessity, given how fragmented our nation is. It is a way of addressing fears of domination by some groups and giving all component parts assurances that they will have a chance at the saddle. Zoning in 2023 will depend on the internal arrangement of the respective political parties. In APC, the arrangement is a North/South exchange and I hope that arrangement is respected.
Constituency projects by lawmakers have been a subject of controversy. For instance, former President Olusegun Obasanjo believes it gives room for fraud…
We need to understand the genesis of constituency projects, to be able to put things in proper perspective. In more advanced democracies, where the government provides infrastructure and is responsive to the needs of the average citizen, constituency projects are non-existent. In Nigeria, it was introduced to bridge the gap in places where the executive fails to meet the needs of the citizens, especially given that most citizens expect the legislature to provide needed infrastructure, not minding that it is not part of the job definition of the legislature. The seeming controversy has been generated over the years because of a misunderstanding of the purpose of the constituency project as a mere intervention to ensure that government reaches every constituency with something, no matter how little.
Sometimes, where there is a conflict between the executive and the legislature, the executive uses the issue of constituency project to blackmail the legislature, by deliberately portraying constituency projects as cash grants, rather than project nominations that have to be controlled through a procurement process managed by the executive. If there is any fraud in the handling of constituency projects it can only be done with the collaboration and active connivance of the agents of the executing ministries and parastatals. It is like someone giving you the opportunity to plant tubers of yam, which must be planted on his farmland. Once it is on his farmland, he will advise when to apply manure, when to weed, when it is ready for harvest, which barn the harvest is to be stored, and when it can be distributed to consumers. Will it be possible to steal such tubers of yam from his farmland without his knowledge? Beyond the power to suggest projects and locations, lawmakers are almost powerless when it comes to the issue of constituency projects.
What informed your investment in education in your Akoko South East/West federal constituency?
The need to build the human capacity of the constituency is the first and major push for our investment in education. We needed to intervene to provide a second chance for our young girls, especially those whose education was truncated by early marriages and teenage pregnancies. We also intervened to provide opportunities for indigent education-loving youths to have access to tertiary education.
How many promises made to your constituents in the run-up to the 2019 elections have you fulfilled?
I crisscrossed communities, interacted with the constituents, and was able to identify the core challenges they face. We came to the conclusion that the core challenges bothered unemployment, low human capacity development, non-existent micro-economy, and poor infrastructure. Consequently, I assured them that if I were elected, I would give them a strong voice in Abuja and ensure that steps are taken to address the challenges that seem to impair the quality of life they live.
So far, we have attempted to address some of these issues. I started off by engaging 70 aides, who are paid from my emoluments. This is to serve as a direct economic stimulus for the local economy so that funds obtained from Abuja can be recycled within the markets and shops in the constituency, each time these aides are paid and through other direct financial interventions.
Secondly, I have been able to use my personal contacts to secure jobs for 33 constituents in the military, police and paramilitary agencies, government parastatals, and some Ondo State government institutions. I facilitated the grant of loans of between N100, 000 and N2 million each to over 200 constituents to support small businesses and enhance entrepreneurship development. I provided self-funded business support grants of between N100, 000 and N500, 000 to over 50 constituents. I have facilitated skills training and equipment support for about 500 artisans, mostly tailors, barbers, hairdressers, photographers, artists, shoemakers, concrete block makers, furniture makers, and other skilled areas, with a view to turning our communities into job-creating centres. We provided agrochemicals and farming tools to 1,000 farmers in the constituency to boost farming and crop production and supported them with training in contemporary farming techniques.
In education, I provided school furniture for 600 students and 50 teachers. I granted a three-year scholarship for 300 students of a private tertiary institution located within the constituency to provide an avenue for educationally disadvantaged teenage mothers, indigent education-seeking youths, and others. This intervention, in particular, was aimed at stimulating economic activities in a section of the constituency that has been overlooked by the government due to location disadvantage.
With the increased student population, we have roused sleeping communities in the area and provided catalyst for the building of new houses and stalls, investment in transportation, and turned this area into a new social hub. Due to the success of the first phase of the scholarship scheme, we have, due to huge demands, approved another three-year scholarship for 200 students who would be admitted into the school in the 2020/2021 session.
In furtherance of our support for education, we have also recently introduced a university scholarship scheme that would be granted to 100 constituents. To ensure that this scheme is completely merit-based, a five-man committee of eminent persons from the constituency has been constituted to conduct the nomination process.
In the area of infrastructure, we are presently constructing a bridge, erosion control line drains, and retaining walls at Agba, in Oka Akoko. I was told that this bridge is the longest bridge in the community. We are also constructing line drain, erosion control, and township road at Oba Akoko. We have provided a solar-powered borehole with a 12,000-liter storage capacity in seven communities. We facilitated and paid the counterpart funding for the construction of a community hall at Oka Odo, supported the rehabilitation of the public power supply at Owalushin, and initiated the provision of relief materials to 1,000 constituents by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
As a legislator, I have given the constituency a voice at the national scene. As we speak, I have four bills that have gone through the early stages of passage, to address such issues as business skills and incubation centres, firearms reforms, fire service reforms, and other areas capable of creating new jobs, whilst strengthening the capacity of law enforcement agencies to provide security for the citizens.
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