Barrister Iduma Igariwey Enwo is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member representing Afikpo North/South constituency in the House of Representatives. In this interview with PAUL OKAH, he says no serious-minded PDP member will contemplate contesting for leadership positions in the 9th NASS. He also proffers solution to the insecurity in Nigeria, among other national issues.
Second term expectations
I am grateful to my constituents for re-electing me for a second term in the House of Representatives. I am going to be a far better legislator than I was. Everything in life improves with experience. I am pretty sure that I am going to be a more experienced legislator. Coming with experience will come with the dividends that go with experience. It means I will do better in my core functions as a lawmaker. That will likely transform to more motions and bills on the floor of the House and some of them will directly impact on my constituency, Afikpo North and South, while other bills will benefit the entire nation. And when the entire nation benefits, I am sure my constituency will benefit directly from those laws. So, I look forward to being more engaged in my core duty of lawmaking. Aside lawmaking, I am also supposed to play a representative role on behalf of my federal constituency. With that will come the attraction of whatever is possible that will benefit my constituency. That is also part of my duty. I will try to get more jobs for a very large number of young unemployed people in my constituency. Many of them have remained unemployed for many years. My heart bleeds when I receive a deluge of text messages and reminders about jobs and all that from many of my constituents that I wish a situation of if wishes were horses. I intend to engage much more to find jobs for our many unemployed graduates. Of course, I also intend to engage and leverage on the relationship with my colleagues and see how far we can bring certain things into the budget that will benefit my constituency. I think those are some of the things I would have to concentrate on as we get into the 9th Assembly.
First term score card
If anybody said I didn’t do anything for my constituency in my first tenure, that should be during the campaigns. Nobody can question my achievements in my first tenure. I don’t think I am ready to indulge lazy people who can’t go to the internet to find out what I did for my constituency in my first tenure. In my first tenure alone, I sponsored and saw through not less than 12 bills with many of them passing the second stages of reading on the floor. I am not talking about the numerous things I attracted to my constituency in terms of empowerment. Many people benefited from my empowerment programmes, as can be seen on my Facebook page. We attracted many things, including tarred roads in various parts of my constituency. We brought solar-powered water to several parts of my constituency. Virtually every ward in Afikpo North and South benefited from the solar power project. We attracted a sports complex opposite Government College, Afikpo, even though paucity of funds forced us to stop halfway, but it is an ongoing project. It is for young people and sports lovers. I want to assure you that in this 9th Assembly, I will do everything possible to attract funds to complete that project. We built a primary school in Edda. We funded many indigent primary school pupils to pay their fees and for secondary school students to write their WAEC, among other things numerous to mention here. The above may not be the core functions of a legislator, but I am proud to say that I leveraged on my experience and my relationship with my colleagues to bring so many things into the federal budget which today is to the benefit and credit of my constituency. For more details, anybody can go to my Facebook page. Everything is there, I am not hiding anything. Also, as member of Appropriation Committee, I was also part of putting into the national budget the ideas conceived by our hard-working governor, Engr. Dave Umahi, to construct a bridge across Ndibe Beach. The design is there in the budget. I played a role together with Chairman of my Committee, so it is there in the budget. I also did a lot to attract federal government attention to the ecological challenges in the South-east. We brought a lot of people all the way from Abuja to look at the ecological challenges both in Afikpo North and South. I personally took them round and one of such projects appears likely to be awarded. The federal government is showing interest in starting with the one at Ozizza. So, we have done very much that even our harshest critics have been generous enough to praise us in terms of what we have been able to achieve within four years.
On power supply in Afikpo
Nobody can hijack power supply. People should understand the situation of power supply in this country. It is rather pathetic. Any accusation of a politician being behind the problems of power supply in Afikpo is rather irresponsible. Power supply has been privatised since 2005. Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, through Parliament, introduced the Power Reform Act of 2005. It privatised power supply and distribution in the country. It is now in the hands of businessmen, just like anything you can buy or sell in the market, so no politician or individual can hijack it. Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) owned by Emeka Offor, is in charge of everything about distribution of light to Afikpo and other southeast states. He knows how he gets his supplies from the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN). When he gets his supplies, it is his business how he distributes it. So, if people are not happy with the way it is being distributed, they should know whom to hold responsible. It is just as elementary and as simple as that. I have said it repeatedly that the Power Reform Act ought to be reformed. It deserves a lot of amendments. Some of the people who had the opportunity of winning the contract to implement or drive the programme in different parts of the country were not prepared to assume those responsibilities to the effect that some of them are not capable of investing in that industry. EEDC is a typical example. Ever since they were saddled with the responsibility of power supply in the Southeast, I don’t think they have planted a single pole in Afikpo, so how do you expect light to be there? I don’t think they have procured a single transformer for the entire areas they cover in Afikpo North and South. I have had to buy transformers on my own to donate to a community in Amasiri, Mgbom and Ndibe, all in Afikpo North. So, I have been doing what EEDC ought to be doing. In summary, private individuals or politicians have not hijacked power supply in Afikpo. It is EEDC that is not up to their job. They don’t have the capacity to do their job, so people should apportion blames appropriately.
The bulk lies with EEDC. It is wrong to leave substance to chase shadows by accusing politicians of hijacking power supply in Afikpo. There is no amount of motion I will move that will change the situation of power supply in Afikpo or anywhere else in Nigeria. It is for the executive arm of government, who in the first place initiated the privatisation, to re-jig the Act. They have to take a second look at it. I am talking of an enduring solution to the problem. You may be aware that even our Governor, Engr. David Umahi, has spent so much money to improve the power supply in Afikpo. That is not even his responsibility; I must be honest with you. He is just doing it as a caring governor because what he is doing is like taking government money to go and help a private individual, which shouldn’t be. But he is doing it because he feels the pains of his citizens in Afikpo North and South; otherwise, what should be done is to hold EEDC responsible. It is the company that bills people.
EEDC is the company that makes money from the enterprise. As they make money from it, they should invest in it so that they can get it right and for people to get satisfaction and value for their money. So it is not sentiment or a matter of what I can do. I have already done my best by supplying transformers. But the transformers are just symbolic things; they don’t go to the root of the problems. To get to the root of the problem is for government to take away the licence they gave to the individual who owns EEDC, because they are not up to the task. If you don’t have the resources, both material and human resources, to supply power to an area you have taken the responsibility for, then there is nothing else anybody can do than to take it away from you. So, I will always advocate that government should, as a matter of urgency, review those who have been given licences to distribute power in this country, because many of them are simply incompetent. It is the poor masses that are suffering and many of them don’t even understand where the problem is coming from, because since independence, up to 2005, we were used to public power supply by NEPA or whatever name they have been called over the years. Therefore, many people still think that it is government that is responsible for power. Government is only responsible for transmission, which is even expected to get into private hands in future. The problem of distribution of power supply in Afikpo is not the problem of transmission. It is not that EEDC does not get enough power, it is that they don’t have the capacity to distribute it. To distribute it, you need transformers of various capacities, as well as transmission lines. But in Afikpo, EEDC does not have transmission lines. They are using transmission lines planted around 1976 from Abakaliki to Afikpo. Many of them are wooden poles that have all gone bad. Many of them were planted even before the new road was constructed and are in deep and difficult to access areas, like the ones around Akpoha. So, during the rainy season, the poles fall and nobody can access or touch them. These are some of the things EEDC should look into, particularly on the issue of transmission. Right now, what they have done is to try and do a very lazy technical thing of linking Afikpo through Nkalagu or Ishielu area, which is most unsuitable. That’s why we are suffering what we are suffering in terms of power supply in Afikpo North and South. So, it is a technical problem with EEDC and not an issue of power supply being hijacked by politicians. Believe me, I am even having sleepless about the power supply issue, because I am not comfortable with many of my people not coming back home during Yuletide periods because of epileptic power supply. I have even sued EEDC for disconnecting me and we are presently in court as we speak.
Umahi’s journey so far
The governor has done well. He has surpassed my expectations of any governor in Nigeria. I won’t consider any project by the Ebonyi state government as abandoned. These projects started not long ago and so much progress has been made in virtually all the projects. I will encourage our people to be a bit patient with government at all times. These are capital intensive projects. Government needs to put their house in order, in terms of requisite resources to do some of these projects, so the projects initiated by the state governor, before the elections, have not been abandoned. Let me also put on record that the governor supported my re-election. If he didn’t support me, I would not have had the ticket to run in the first place. The ticket to run for a second tenure was at his grace and mercy, that’s the truth of the matter; so I don’t really have a problem with the governor.
The solution to insecurity is not to scratch at the problem, but to go to the root of the problem. Current measures by the federal government are merely palliative. They don’t go to the root of the problem. Nigerians didn’t just wake up to become wicked killers and evil people. We just didn’t wake up to lose our values about humanity. Nigeria has simply become a poorer country, so poverty is at the root of it. What we are seeing are symptoms of extreme poverty. So, if we want to bring the mass insecurity across the country to an end or to reduce it, we have to reduce poverty first and foremost. So far as we have very poor and unemployed people roaming everywhere, then we are bound to have all sorts of crimes everywhere.
9th NASS leadership race
I don’t think the APC is imposing any candidate on us. APC is merely making a preference. It is left for us members to make a choice. On the day of electing our presiding officer, there will be no APC party man in that hall. Everything will just be about members and there will be no member who will have a gun on his head in terms of where he votes and doesn’t vote. It is majorly the privilege and prerogative of the members to elect their presiding officer and that’s what is going to happen on that day. So, the PDP can have their own preference of who they want to elect as their presiding officer. That is a completely different thing altogether. So, nobody is imposing anybody. No PDP candidate will seriously run, because we are in the minority. It is the party in the majority that is in a pole position to run for the leadership of the House. The PDP is in the minority and it is a game of numbers; so no serious-minded person will go and waste his time in PDP. It is the same thing with the Senate, but that is not to say deals cannot be made. Nobody is saying that anything is impossible or cast in stone. No, I am not saying that. All I am saying is that it is a tall order. Even when the present speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, was elected, he was a member of the party in the majority. When Dr Bukola Saraki became president of the Senate, he was also a member of the party in the majority, so majority will carry the day. I am keeping who I will vote for to myself, though my colleagues are fairly certain of my stand. Those who know me know I don’t flip flop. I take a stand on issues, so people already know who Igariwey will vote for on that day. Since it is my privilege to keep it to myself, I will keep it to myself. However, everybody stands a chance in the APC among Ndume, Lawan, Goje, and Bago and any other candidate contesting for leadership of the 9th Assembly. They are not wasting their time by campaigning; the entire thing will be determined by members on Election Day.