Hajiya Maryam Ladi Ibrahim, a Kogi State delegate at the national conference, is the immediate past president of Association of Nigerian Accountants (ANA) and presently the chairman of Financial Reporters Council of Nigeria and board member of Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI). She spoke with EMEKA NZE on the need to establish a solid mineral producing states commission to tackle the environmental degradation arising from illegal and lawful exploitation of mineral resources in the mineral producing areas. Excerpts:
Are you a member of the Enviroment committee? On what basis is your objection?
No. I’m not a member, I just made my contributions based on the beautiful report that the committee submitted but I felt that some very critical areas were missing for example the solid mineral mining area was not explicitly talked about whereas the solid mineral area is where you have almost 34 states in this country have mineral resources and when the illegal miners or the artisans mine, they leave large gullies that become unprotected to the citizens of that area. So you have environmental degradation occurring in several places now in Nigeria. Because I’m from Kogi. I know that in Kogi. we have a coal mine site where you have giant gullies all over the place; You have the Dangote cement factory where the environment, the pollution that cement production causes and looking at that, I felt that we should have mitigating measures and we need to raise issues that can take care of the communities in these areas. I talked equally about the dredging of the River Niger because without dredging the River Niger, it’s a waste. I mean it ought to help us in inland water transportation system. I equally felt that the formation of SOMPADEC that is the Solid Mineral Producing Areas in the country should be critically pursued in such a way that the government would not just look at the oil and gas areas. You see, this is a vast area that if a lot of exploration is done by the government virtually over 50 per cent of our revenue will come from the solid mineral sector. So that’s why I felt that the environment committee should include if in its recommendations. Again we should equally encourage states to collaborate in the management of water that passes the states within the federation and that that comes from the neighbouring countries because without managing water all through our rivers… most of our dams like Lake Chad is drying up now, so many of my colleagues have talked about it. So it’s very necessary that we as a country take the management of our water very serious.
Kogi state is a very big state in terms of mineral resources which is said to be in abundance there, can you mention some of these mineral resources?
Limestone is very popular, that’s why you have a cement factory in the state. Right now as we speak if you go to Itobe there is another cement factory that is coming up. Just towards the Edo side, another one is coming up too. So we have the mineral resources that can make you up to four cement factories in Kogi state. As such if we don’t pursue this, it will get to a stage when the state will be polluted completely but if we mitigate it now, it would be better for the state and the indigenes
To what extent have the mineral resources in the state been mined or exploited?
That is why I am calling for the formation of Solid Mineral Areas Producing Commission (SOMPADEC) because it is the illegal miners that are mining all the minerals. The government is not getting much and you know the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has just concluded its tour and if not for NEITI, we wouldn’t have known what we are losing from the solid mineral areas. That was why I am calling for the formation of SOMPADEC. If it is taken up by the government, it will go a long way to helping us in this country to generate the revenue we have been missing.
Having been the President of ANAN and as a role model, what encouragement can you give, especially, the development of the girl child in view of the myriads of challenges faced by them even into adulthood?
You see, the reading culture is virtually gone but I equally know that government is encouraging reading and the education of the girl child is very key. We must all be ready to educate our children to see them through primary, secondary to the university or polytechnic and equally encourage them to have some level of entrepreneurship development. Not just because they have gone to the university or through the polytechnic, they must have some level of entrepreneurship development in such a way that at the end of their educational career, they should be able to be on their own and set up a small enterprise of theirs without necessarily looking onto government for the provision of employment.
Do you imagine the agony of the over 200 kidnapped Chibok girls and have you also joined in the clamour for their release?
Of course, I had joined the Change Organisation where we had registered our dismay and equally encouraging the government to do whatever it takes to bring the children back. We do appreciate the level of effort the government had put in. But you know as a mother, until we see our children back we will never be at peace.
Madam, what do you think could have happened because we expected that the girls who escaped would have come out to explain to the world that this was what happened or this is how we escaped and so on?
You know, that is a rural community where they are not enlightened. Because they are not enlightened, you don’t blame them. The parents of some of the girls were happy to have received their children and they felt that possibly they don’t want the image of the children to be tarnished tomorrow and you know the vices that must have happened having been taken away. So they just felt that there was need to give them protection. I think it is more of protection. Look at the community from where these children were abducted. It is a local government in arear that educationally, I will say they are very backward, enlightenment is equally not there. So we need a lot of advocacy to place the matter in the front burner of society to make all of them ready to talk, we should encourage that. If not, I will tell you not many northern girls will want to come out and start talking. It is the culture; the culture is that you are a woman- the way you are brought up you are supposed to be humble in a way. So a lot of changes are taking place and that has to be through education. Whatever it is, I want to say we should encourage our girl-child to talk.
What committee did you belong and what were the major issues in the committee?
I worked under the Citizenship and Immigration committee. It is one committee, as we saw during the presentation and deliberations, actually took into consideration the interest of all Nigerians, the unity of the nation and for a peaceful co-existence of this country. Those contentious issues that should have been raised, as you saw, an adjustment was made by the lawyers, like when we had to recommend that the Fulani herdsmen that move their cattle from places to places, you can see the recommendation now being made that the world has moved tremendously in its agricultural development, so we felt that ours in Nigeria instead of allowing them to continuously move without any help to encourage or help them in their economic wellbeing and that was why our committee recommended as adjusted at the plenary that any state that feels that it wants to provide land and contribute to the resettlement and improve its agriculture with the Fulani herdsmen should do so and I think the entire plenary unanimously and consensually adopted that. Aside, we equally encouraged that the census that we conduct that people should be encouraged; you don’t start moving from one state to the other during census. If you want to be domiciled in a place, please be domiciled and let us know where your residence is. During election, you move to your village and tomorrow you want to be part and parcel of the area or to be referred to as an indigene. For example, you live in Ebiraland, Okene, Kogi state, if you don’t stay there to contribute your quota to the development of that area and at the end of the day, you want to be treated as an indigene of that place, it is not right. That is all the committee tried to say. That is to encourage all Nigerians that with the constitution giving us the right to live in any part of the country, we should equally while living there, be ready to develop and contribute to that area you so live.
What was the recommendation on women married to other states? Is it a dual citizenship of those states?
That was what we agreed. We should be able to allow the women because if you don’t allow them, in case of the death of the husband, if she just claims just the husband’s local government’s citizenship, a time comes in some cultures they drive the woman away and she becomes empty at the end of the day. But you know the lawyers are there to do the necessary compilations and adjustments as agreed.
Should women continue to talk about the affirmative action to confer some advantage on them in appointments? Isn’t it better to begin to talk of merit or competence before a woman is considered for appointment?
Thank you very much. That is the Beijing conference and Nigeria is a signatory to that affirmation and since the country was part and parcel of that affirmation, we should continue to encourage that. But that is not to say that women should not work in their own right, as much as possible, that whatever you are, you should showcase that you are competent to be able to hold onto that position, whether in a professional manner, whatever you are, you must show that level of competence and not just that you are a woman, you must just be given a chance. You must work hard to compete with the men, but then competent women abound in Nigeria and if we are not protected because of the vulnerability, definitely they will be short-changed by the numerous men around us.
How did you emerge as the President of ANA; was it by contest or by selection?
It was by election, there were very few women then and it was by election into the second vice president position of the association and ones you are elected then you will take your turn to the presidency but if you are not elected into the presidency level then you cannot go.
What is the focus of your organisation?
The focus is more of accountability, transparency and ensuring that training of accountants is done in the best practices as obtained internationally. That’s why we have the Nigerian College of Accountancy established in Jos where we train our graduate students from accredited universities and polytechnics, that’s degree and HND holders in accounting. There they go through the one year programme where they take series of examinations and if they are successful from one examination to the other, they will thereafter undergo a three- year accountant in training under a professional supervision whether in the private sector or public sector and thereafter if you are found to have conformed with the council’s conditions, codes and ethics, you ought to have been observed throughout the monitoring throughout the three years, you are inducted and you become a member of the association. But before then not all the graduate students get to become members of the association but then such people if they get employed into the Federal Civil Service with that post graduate diploma in accounting they placed in grade level nine.
Are you not worried that accountability has become one of the biggest challenges in the country? People who have custody of certain amount of money find it difficult to give account of what they have. What’s your take on this?
I am worried, worried not because the professional training is not being given. I’m worried because the value system has dropped drastically. In fact, the family value, the societal values and the entire values within the country must to be revisited and we must punish. We run a system within the country where we don’t bother. We celebrate those that have stolen money instead of applying the punitive measures; those that have worked hard and are living in poverty are not celebrated. We should reward those that have good records those that have worked sincerely, whether in the public sector or private sector and punish with a lot of sanctions, as much as possible to deter other from getting into corruptible things.