Hon. Ezechi: 2024 Budget Must Impact on Citizens

Hon. Nnamdi Ezechi represents Ndokwa/ Ukwuani Federal Constituency of Delta State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Representatives and he is the Chairman of the House Committee on Nigeria/South Korea Parliaments. In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, he speaks on the 2024 budget, insecurity and the state of infrastructure in his constituency

President Bola Tinubu, a week ago, presented a N27.5 trillion budget proposal before the National Assembly. How do you look at the estimates?

I don’t have any issues with the budget as presented by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and what the Federal Government intends to do in 2024. My major worry is whether these budgets, be it at the state or federal level, will ever impact on the lives of the common person. If you check, every year, federal and state governments present budgets to the Assembly but things seem not to be improving. But in this budget of Renewed Hope, I believe it will impact the lives of the common Nigerian and that is only when we will say the budget has worked.

There is widespread insecurity across the country. Do you see this budget making any impact in this area considering the fact that the security sector has the lion share?

In the area of security, as titled Budget of Renewed Hope, I am praying and hopeful that the unacceptable insecurity in our nation will be tackled head on. And it is only when the security situation in this country is reduced to the barest minimum, then we can say, yes the budget has worked. But whereby a reasonable billions of naira are voted for security and people are maimed, killed and kidnapped everyday, we will not say the budget is working. Now, people no longer travel even for short distances because of the fear of the unknown. This calls for serious concern and the government needs to act fast. On the issue of kidnapping, you will agree with me that Abuja is the seat of power and I have had cause to raise motions on the state of insecurity. In fact, no part of the country is devoid of security challenges.

This bothers me as a lawmaker and I constantly complain to the president that the only thing Nigerians can hold the government to high esteem is only when their challenges are met and tackled head on. If this government can secure the lives and property of Nigerians, we will applaud it. But because ordinary Nigerians cannot travel; people cannot do their businesses freely, then a radical decision needs to be taken. A member of my constituency was kidnapped and even people from other parts of the country, who live with her in the same neighbourhood were also affected. In fact, 17 people were kidnapped in total. And till today, as I speak with you, the only thing we heard from them was one person who called and was speaking Hausa that we should come to a bush in the Kuje area of FCT and take them.

This is FCT and not Asaba; these things ought not to happen. I’m not saying this because my constituent was kidnapped, but I’m saying Nigerians lives are in serious danger. This is the same country where my father worked in different parts of the country and he used to tell us how he travelled by road to any part of the country- Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto and all that without any problem. But today, you can’t beat your chest and say you’re travelling from Lagos to Yobe or Kano or Niger without thinking about confronting bandits or terrorists. Just a few days ago, kidnappers stormed the Apo area of Abuja and kidnapped people and made away without over ten victims and are demanding N10million. And the security agencies are aware. This thing is happening in FCT.

I don’t think the economy can grow in this state; so, Mr. President needs to tackle the problem of insecurity. Even lawmakers; how many lawmakers can travel by road now? Or how many can travel to their constituencies without security? Except in Delta state because of what the governor is doing. I don’t think any lawmaker will dare say he or she wants to travel to Lagos by road. I travelled to Abia state and I know how intense I was praying and whenever I told those calling me that I was on my way to Abia by road, they would shout. But this is a problem that we should not leave it for the president alone; all of us must speak out and tell ourselves the truth. In the last eight years, Nigerians suffered more than ever before and that must not be allowed to happen again.

The 2024 budget is tagged budget of Renewed Hope as you rightly said. But being a deficit budget, do you see any hope in this budget?

With the presentation and title of the budget, Renewed Hope, it sounds so hopeful. I also believe that there is hope. Although it is a deficit budget, I believe there will be positive change if it is judiciously implemented.

Nigerians often complained that the lawmakers have always failed in their oversight function and that is why budgets are never well implemented. But Speaker Abbas has assured that there will be a paradigm shift and is even involving the public in the budget process. What is your take on this?

For me and as a lawmaker, my understanding of the leadership style of Speaker Tajudeen Abbas is that of sincerity and total commitment. And he has advised lawmakers to take their oversight activities very seriously. Remember, yesterday, we began the town hall meeting, which is part of the process. All the stakeholders who spoke there at Transcorp Hilton said they were surprised that they were invited to make their inputs in the budget. This has not happened before. So, the speaker meant well for Nigerians; he is a man that believed that Nigerians must have a say in the budget. And if you listened carefully to his speech during the budget presentation, you will see how explicit and open he was- encouraging Nigerians to be part of the process. He has also charged all committees, especially appropriation.

I am also a member of the appropriation committee and he has charged us to be scrupulous and do a thorough job. We have held a lot of meetings and I see how all members are committed to improving the lot of Nigerians through this budget.

In one of your motions, you lamented about the sorry state of infrastructure in your constituency. Is there any inkling that this budget proposal can redress some of your complaints?

For now, I cannot say but within one week, I should be able to give you more detailed information. My own plea to the president is that the Ndokwa/Ukwuani federal constituency, which is one of the richest federal constituencies that produces oil and gas should be given its due in Nigeria. I stand to be corrected. In short, in my village Okpa; Okpa has one of the richest gas reserves in the whole of Africa. Now if you go to Ndokwa east where I come from, you will also discover that the eleven-oil prospecting multinational are operating in the constituency. You can’t find it anywhere in this country. So, what is the reward for being major contributors to the nation’s economy? The bulk of this challenge is that by the time we begin to involve equity in everything we do, in line with budgeting, Mr President would say, these people deserve attention. But the thing is, we are making Nigeria better but Nigeria is making our people suffer.

The country at large has never recognized the Ndokwa people. Take for instance, appointments into the NDDC Board. For the past decade, Ndokwa has never produced even a member of the Board of NDDC. But this is the statutory right of the people because we are the richest in the Niger Delta region. We are even supposed to produce the MD of NDDC or chairman. But we have none. This is not fair. One of the qualities that I continue to thank my people is that they are not violent and hostile. If you see what Ndokwa hosts, you will be shocked. There is no federal constituency that hosts these oil and gas facilities in the whole of Nigeria. Is like the government recognizes those who are hostile but we don’t do that in my constituency- there is no illegal oil bunkering; no vandalization of oil pipelines.

Imagine having over 600 oil wells in one federal constituency. And we are begging for a road to be constructed for us. Oil was found in the early sixties but go to Okpa, my place; there is no road. The only road you can see is a track road- the olden roads. There is nothing to show that the Federal Government has recognized this federal constituency for being the highest contributor to the nation’s economy. There is no federal presence. There is nobody from the constituency that is heading a federal parastatal and if you go to the oil companies, it is even worse. Despite this, the people remain peaceful. With what Ndokwa is hosting, if it decides to shut down this nation today, it is very easy but like I said, we are not violent people; we are peaceful people. The simple truth is that Ndokwa is underdeveloped and has been abandoned by the federal government. Look at the motion I sponsored on building coastal roads.

We should not have been asking for coastal roads if the right thing was done by the federal government. Ndokwa is generating power, electricity yet there is no light in Okpa. The light in Aso Rock is being supplied from Okpa, my village. We are generating 960 megawatts. Look at the projects they embarked upon since 2018. So, I’m appealing to Mr. President to look in the direction of the Ndokwa federal constituency and I believe that with the Renewed Hope budget of this administration, we will be remembered this time around.

In terms of constituency projects, what have you done for your people in the last five months?

I should be among the 30 members who have been able to build a market in their first three months of being in the House of Representatives. I am just waiting for the commissioning. The essence of that market is, you go to Kwale- Utabube, is a metropolitan town where different tribes reside and while I was in the village I used to pray that God would give me an opportunity to build the market because if you wanted to buy something, you must cross the expressway. But this market has come to solve the problem, and everybody is happy. I also put a lot of my constituency and I will be empowering them. I did not contest elections because I wanted to live big, but I came here to positively impact the lives of my people because I do not like what was going on. Since God has given me this op

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