Amend Constitution To Devolve More Powers To States, Make Centre Less Attractive — Abubakar

Amend Constitution To Devolve More Powers To States, Make Centre Less Attractive — Abubakar
June 01 05:29 2017 Print This Article

Mr Mohammed Abubakar is Bauchi State governor. He is chairman of Arewa Lawyers Forum of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA. He was also a member of the National Judicial Council,  NJC, when he emerged Bauchi State governor in 2015.

In this interview, he spoke on the administration of Criminal Justice Law and the dividends of democracy to the people of Bauchi State. He also spoke on the effect of the 1999 constitution, as amended.

Excerpts:

SOME states have adopted the Administration of Criminal Justice Act as part of their laws. What is the position of Bauchi State on this?

We have done a lot of work in that respect at the level of the Northern Governors Forum. At inception,  we set up a  committee of Attorneys- General headed by the Attorney General of Kaduna State, to look into the domestication of that act and then to amend the penal code to bring it in line with the realities of modern times. They are doing a great work in that respect now.

How has your experience as a lawyer affected your performance as a governor?

Of course it has helped me a lot. I was a member of the National Judicial Council, NJC, before I was elected governor. So, I attended my last meeting of the NJC on May 22, 2015.

Eminent jurists

It was a valedictory session for me. Speeches were made by eminent jurists who were in the NJC with the then Chief Justice of the Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed  in attendance. In his speech, he made a very particular point that made an impression on me. He said look, don’t forget the fact that even if people in your state do not hold you accountable, we in the legal profession are looking out and will hold you accountable. For that reason, there is no way I will let my profession down. I love my profession so much that I look forward to the timeline by which I will finish my tenure as governor and come back to my practice.

As a lawyer and a politician, which area of our law do you think we need to tinker with so that politics can actually deliver the dividends of democracy without encumbrances and unnecessary bickering?

First and foremost, we need to tinker with our constitution to make the federal level less attractive. The states are the centre of population in the country. That is where all the actions should take place. Federal government should be a policy making authority to regulate vital aspects of our national life like  defence,  foreign affairs and security at national  level. Federal Government has no business some sectors like agriculture, the federal government has no land, all the lands are in the States. So, the federal government should restrict itself to policies and relationship with all the international agricultural organisations. But the bulk of the work should be centred in the states.

Also in education, the Federal Government should restrict itself to policies and allow the states and the private sector to drive education. We need to tinker with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with the view to reducing the rancour that surrounds our elections, particularly elections into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Looking back at these last two years, how far have you succeeded in meeting yearnings and aspirations of the people in terms of delivering the dividends of democracy.  It has been alleged that you have not delivered on your electoral promises to the people of Bauchi State.

Let me say that anybody who tells you that, is either as a result of ignorance or the person has lost touch with the grassroots, because, it is a fact that I inherited four months unpaid salaries. I paid the four months. For that reason, the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, sent me a letter of commendation. My own Bauchi State chapter of NLC sent me another letter of commendation. Today, as I am talking to you, Bauchi State does not owe a single month salary either at the state or  local government level despite the fact that we have an unusually very large civil service workforce.

What successes have you recorded?

The first major job I awarded was a 117-kilometre road that started from Misau to a place called Udubu. I later increased it to a place called Gamawa because I noticed that even though Udubu-Gamawa is a federal road, it starts from Udubu and goes into Jigawa State. But the portion between Udubu and Gamawa is in Bauchi State and it will be foolhardy to build a 100 kilometre road, and then leave 17 kilometres in bad shape. So, I asked the contractors to include Gamawa. Today, that road is progressing. Since they started work, they have not stopped and I have given a reputable international company called SGC, a Chinese company that is doing work. They have built two standard bridges on that road and the asphalt is two-third completed.

In Bauchi, I started a road that has been a problem to road users in that place starting from the State Secretariat to Federal Low Cost Housing Estate, and from Federal Low Cost to Railway Road. From the state Secretariat roundabout to Federal Low Cost is a dualised portion, it is a small portion of about a kilometre or kilometre and half at most.

Delivering the promises

That is a very troublesome area, I have rehabilitated it and I am dualising from the Federal low cost to Railway Road. I have paid compensation to every person whose property was demolished on that road, among others.

Obviously there is a face-off between you and some legislators in the National Assembly from Bauchi State. What is the cause of this rift?

The cause of the problem to me is ambition on  the part of some of the legislators. Ambition in itself, is not a crime. But you see, there is a time for everything. We contested election in 2015, and we have a four-year tenure. Commonsense demands that the period of three years at least, should be devoted to delivering the promises we made to the people. Thereafter, you can do all the politicking you want to do. So, everybody has a right under the constitution to contest for any office that he feels fit to aspire to, they should wait for the time.

Also looking back, although two years is short, have you recorded any achievement?

I will say I give thanks to the Almighty Allah  for what he has enabled me to do. But it is important to understand how, when and where I started.  I took over a government in which I inherited a total of N125b debts, including four months outstanding salaries. This was what I took over. And I took over at a time when things were very difficult in the country. Bauchi State is a predominantly Muslim State and when I took over in May, we were expecting the Ramadan to start in June. Four months salaries have not been paid. The state was sitting on a keg of gunpowder, ready to explode at anytime.

Secondly, everybody knows that by June in Nigeria, we should be expecting rains. No bag of fertilizer was bought by the last government, knowing well that the rainy season will not wait for anybody.  I took over at a time when preparations for pilgrimage had commenced and time was always of essence in the preparation for the pilgrimage. So, at a given time, you will expected to pay a certain amount to  people and if you don’t do that, they will lose out. So, these three major things were staring me in the face.

Matter of controversy

I managed that by obtaining a N4billion loan and this loan later became a matter of controversy because of the lack of education and understanding of some people. I was accused of taking that loan without obtaining a resolution of the house of assembly.

Why did you not obtain the resolution of the State House of Assembly before taking the loan?

The reason  for that was that people thought because we had been elected along with members of the House of Assembly, that after my inauguration on May 29, then it was automatic for the whole House of Assembly to come on board,  but the constitution says that the House has a four-year tenure. The last House of Assembly of Bauchi State was inaugurated on June 15,2011. Therefore, they needed to spend their four years and their four years was to end on June 14. For that reason, I had to function for one month with that House of Assembly in place. So, when the need arose for me to obtain a loan, I invited the Speaker to my office, I told him as the son of this state, these issues were very germane, the issues I had mentioned.

Culled from Vanguard

 

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