A former lawmaker at the House of Representatives, Hon Ned Nwoko, has stated that going by happenings in the country in the last two years, the possibility of holding general elections in 2023 is still surrounded by uncertainties.
Nwoko who was a guest speaker Saturday at June 12 lecture organised by the Correspondent chapel of the Nigeria Union of journalists, Abuja Council, however noted that as an optimist and staunch believer in united Nigeria, those clamour for disintegration and regional powers were political.
He also said there were “important justifications for some of the clamours especially when you look at the South East and the level of perceived injustice overtime.”
According to the ex lawmaker, “we must have a nation where we can conduct elections before you start talking about a general elections.
“If I were to be cynical, I’d probably have said how are we sure that there would be election by 2023 let alone talking about elections. But I’m an optimist, I believe in the unity of Nigeria, I love Nigeria.
“I believe there will be a country called Nigeria by 2023. I believe the clamour for disintegration or regional powers is political. That is not to undermine the fact that there are important justifications for some of the clamours especially when you look at the Southeast and level of perceived injustice overtime.
“Nigeria of today is quite different from Nigeria of three years ago when the federal government was just concerned with Boko Haram in the north east.
“The federal government is not only distracted with what is happening in the northeast and northwest of Nigeria, but currently faces huge challenges in the south east as well as north central. A lot has been happening in Benue- state and of course southwest as well. But I believe Federal government is equal to the challenges that we are currently facing.”
On the current debate on suspension of twitter in Nigeria, Nwoko said he supported the federal government’s action stressing that there must be a measure of control and regulation for social media in countries where they have presence.
He also stressed that the social media platforms must pay taxes to governments and provide employments for some Nigerians for the over 100 million population that subscribed to their services.
“On the current issue with twitter, I wholeheartedly support the position of the federal government. Twitter and other mediums that are operating virtually in Nigeria must be subjected to some regulations by any nations, not the least Nigeria. I remember some years ago 2009 or so. British government had some issues with Google and some some of them. Yes they quickly established offices in island, Dublin where they were made to pay taxes and be subject to internal laws of the land. But the British government and European union members insisted that there’s urgent need for these media outlets to have presence in their countries and this was done.
“Yes you must be thinking that it is your right to freedom of expression but we must support our government for the following reasons.
“One, as it stands now, if you have any complaints against twitter or Facebook or any other such other operators, who do you complain to? You write to them in America, you probably will take years to get any response to your letter, if you are lucky. So if there is an office , if they set up a corporate office in Nigeria, there will be a full fledged office in Nigeria where complaints within Nigeria or within Ghana or wherever it is in Africa can be dealt with expeditiously.
“So dealing with consumers, we are all consumers within the context of of what I’m talking about, there is urgent need for these mega companies to have presence in Nigeria.
“Secondly, when they are here in Nigeria federal government would be able to have access to some of the information and will be able to control some of the obscene materials that should not v lbe out there in the public. There should be some control.
“It is not right that they should operate in Nigeria or any other country without any form of control. That can cause a country like nigeria to break up by the news that is put out there, not them but the users. So some kind of effective control is very important. Thirdly if they have an office here, I’m sure that many Nigeria’s will be gainfully employed.
“They will not employ you and not to pay you properly. They will employ you and pay you the same way they employ your colleagues in America, so that will affect the level of income and your status who would be employed by them.Fourthly, if they are operating here they would pay huge taxes. You hear how many billions of dollars these companies are worth.
“Over years they have been operating in Nigeria tax free. That cannot be right. What I think is that if they operate in Nigeria where we have over 200 million people and maybe 100 million of the active users of the various social media platforms , the income that would be generated from their presence here in nigerian would not be less than 50 billion dollars in a year. Why would want to give up that simply because federal government has suddenly woken up from their slumber.
“They had been sleeping against your right to income , your right to income , your right to employment. So for me, it’s a very good development. If federal government doesn’t know what to do to make them do what is right, I tell you , I know what to do. All I need is your support to do it, the same way we dealt with Paris club and development club, we will deal with it. So I just feel that federal government should be supported.”
Honourable Nwoko called on the federal government to show courage to address the autonomy of local governments in the country, stressing that the president, though has identified the problem, has not taken steps to address the local government problems.
According to the ex-lawmaker, local government autonomy is the beginning and end of the problems of Nigeria, stating that financial autonomy is a must for survival of local governments.
“The local government system is dead. It’s all dead. All that the president needs to do is to execute some executive order, and this has been in the works. I know that local government workers, especially, the ALGON leadership has been pushing for the president to support the autonomy of local governments. Financial autonomy is a must. The idea of monies belonging to local governments being sent to state joint account must stop. It must stop because it gives room for pilfering. It does not give enough money for local government to function.”
He noted that state governor’s were not able to deal with the current issues because they do not feel it is a duty adding that they do not know what is happening in their villages and local governments except their own local governments and villages.
He advocated for the existence of one Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) while calling for the abrogation of State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECS).
There should be one INEC; one truly independent INEC, an INEC that is devoid of control from the presidency or from the federal government. What I propose is that such an INEC should have direct funding from the federation account that has nothing to do with the presidency but it would be statutory if one percent or whatever that comes into the account is for INEC.”
He stated that most of the problem in Nigeria starts from INEC and the elections.
He proposed an ombudsman, an independent body to become the governing body of INEC.
According to him, the governing body would be composed of foremost 20 pressure groups like the NIgerian Bar Association (NBA) the NIgerian Medical Association (NMA) Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) amongst others.