Bolaji Ayinla, who represents Mushin Constituency II in the Lagos State House of Assembly, is the Chairman, Public Accounts Committee (PAC). In this interview, he speaks on the ongoing constitution amendment, restriction of okada in Lagos and other issues.
Looking at the ongoing constitution amendment, some Nigerians are advocating a new constitution that will meet the yearnings and aspirations of Nigeria. Do you share that view?
It does not matter. It will only amount to waste of public funds. The more they start the whole process from the beginning, the more avenues it would provide for some people to turn it into a money-making venture.
I agree that constitution is very vital to the progress and development of any nation; it is the law of the country and where there is no law, there is no offence. If they are sincere about it, no problem, but there is no reason for a brand new constitution. Throughout the world, there is no country where a brand new constitution is made; they are only making amendments to it. There is always need to amend the constitution.
Let us take a look at the home front. When a father has children, he can make some laws such as ‘don’t go here, don’t go there, don’t do this’ etc. all because the children are still young and he wants to protect their interest. But when these children become adults, you amend such laws in order to suit their current status. You will not because they are now adults now make brand new rules.
So, I believe constitution amendment is a very welcome development as long as the amendment satisfies and tallies with the present status and development of the country. Constitution is always made due to the status or situation of any country. That is why the constitution of a White man is different from that of a Black man. The constitution of a country where there is light will surely be different from where there is darkness. Having a brand new constitution requires a lot of money and Nigeria needs this money for infrastructural development and other vital programmes that will impact positively on the well-being of the populace.
Do you really think Nigeria is ripe for the creation of state police?
Nigeria is overdue for creation of state police. State police plays a crucial role in the effective policing of any nation. Even countries that have good communication systems have state police, let alone Nigeria where there is no effective communication.
Communication plays a vital role in the effective security of any nation. When we talk of security, we are talking about the safety of life of the citizenry and the country as a whole. Why I am in total support of state police is due to the fact that Nigeria as a country has grown to a status where state police is required. With the creation of state police, it will be highly effective when you ask a person that understands the terrain of a particular area to secure the area.
For example, the present commissioner of police in Lagos state, Umar Manko is a northerner and does not adequately understand the terrain of Lagos. This does not connote tribalism or ethnicity; we are all one irrespective of our tribe or religious affiliations, but state police is the security system of a country which ensures maximum protection of lives of the citizenry. A situation whereby they transfer a Yoruba man to Jigawa, I want to believe that his first six months in office will be a sheer waste because he will just be sleeping and waking up like a dummy. But if that person is from that state, he knows the terrain of where he is going to secure.
One of the criteria for effective policing is that the person in charge of security is adequately familiar with the environment he wants to secure. If you are not familiar with the environment, it is going to take you a longer time. Being familiar with your environment makes your job easier and more effective. Somebody that was brought up on Lagos Island, for example, will know everything about the area like the back of his palm. He knows where the criminals are, he knows the violence-prone, the flash point areas, the escape routes etc. There is nothing a foreigner can tell him about the area that he doesn’t know about.
State police will reduce the incidence of crime and insecurity to the barest minimum. I want to implore the federal government to listen to the voice of reason and give it a trial and I can assure you that Nigeria will be far better for it.
Let us take a look at the issue of Boko Haram that has caused so much pain and anguish for the country today. With state police, the activities of the sect would have been checkmated a long time ago. But how will you tell someone living in Lagos to find a Boko Haram hideout in Maiduguri? It is not possible. Vis-à-vis an Hausa man living in the North to come and find OPC hideout in Lagos, it will be extremely difficult.
So, in conclusion, creation of state police will go a long way in addressing the issue of insecurity and crime-related issues in the country. The earlier we adopt it, the better for us as a nation.
Do you really support the call by Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi that the federal government should shed 50% of the nation’s workforce?
There is a situation whereby people said that 50% of the entire workforce should be shed. But in reality, if the overhead is more than the production, there is going to be a problem. Statistically we understand that. If you are paying the salary of 200 workers and you are only producing 50, there will definitely be a problem.
The best thing to do in that situation is to reduce it to the barest minimum but not in the form of what the CBN Governor said. There are better ways of doing that rather than calling for the sack of half of the workforce. Already the country is battling with the issue of unemployment and when you now sack 50% of the country’s civil servants, you have definitely compounded the problem. I really can’t fathom how Sanusi arrived at that conclusion.
One better way to address this situation is taking a critical look at the number of years being spent in the workforce. You have people who have spent 35 years in the civil service, yet they do not want to go. The years of service can be reduced so that younger ones can take up these jobs as at when due.
Also, I want to suggest that we call in experts to critically look at better ways of handling the situation and come out with better suggestions. But the call by Sanusi for the sack of 50% of the workforce is unwarranted and surely not the best way out.
Transparency International recently ranked Nigeria as the 35th most corrupt country in the world. Do you really believe we are making headway in the fight against corrupt practices?
From that figure, I sincerely believe it is an improvement that we are making headway in the fight against corruption and I believe that with time, we will get there soon. I am very happy for Nigeria in this latest development. Throughout the world, there is corruption, but to reduce it to the barest minimum and ensure a corrupt-free Nigeria is what we are fighting for. And by the special grace of God we will get there.
Looking at the restriction on Okada in Lagos, don’t you think the state government should have made plans for alternatives considering the suffering being experienced by some residents of the state?
The state government is working on modalities aimed at cushioning the effect of the restriction of commercial motorcycles in certain areas of the state. His Excellency, the governor of Lagos state is a compassionate human who has the interest of Lagosians at heart. He is a legal luminary, a man with a sound mind who understands the impact such a restriction will have on Lagosians and I sincerely believe he is doing something to mitigate the pains being experienced by some residents. But let us not forget that there is no gain without pain. The action was taken in the best interest of Lagosians. If you go to okada ward in Igbobi, you will never allow even your enemies, I mean sworn enemy to ride on okada. Let us not forget also the fact that it also being used to rob innocent residents aside the avoidable accidents it has caused. Also, I think instead of condemning the governor, the okada riders and residents should be appreciative because in some other states, they banned okada completely, but here we only have restriction from 475 roads out of over 10,000 roads we have in the state.
As the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the Lagos State House of Assembly what is the motive behind the on-going consideration exercise of the year 2011 Auditor-General’s Report?
The exercise is a regular one. After the Auditor-General’s office must have done their work on the MDAs, they send the Auditor-General’s report to members of the Lagos State House of Assembly, who will then do their oversight function on the report, even for those indicted and those who were not indicted. What we look at is to make sure tax payers’ money is spent the way it should be spent, most especially the ones that affect the budget. Have they actually spent it judiciously on what it is being budgeted for? We want to know. Accountability would be ensured because you know that whatever you do, somebody is watching over you on how you spend the tax payers’ money every day. We gave the ministries time to do corrections on what they have done on the resolution of the House after the Auditor-General’s reports of 2011; we will get reports from the ministries. We will send our reports to the Lagos State House of Assembly, and the resolutions of the House must be carried out, and there is punishment for non-compliance.
What should the people of your constituency Mushin expect from you in the days ahead?
They should be expecting the second phase of the Village Square Meeting in order to support my constituency for improved condition of living and enhanced poverty alleviation programme. I am always seeking ways of improving on what we have done in order to bring governance down to the grassroots at all time. Just recently, I realized that there were lots of children going to school during the rainy season and their bags and notebooks got soaked and torn. Now, we have made provisions for an industrial bag for every school child in my constituency. 522 people have been trained recently and empowered in various skill acquisition programmes. We are not relenting in our efforts in making life better for the people in our constituency.
How will you assess Nigeria’s status at 52? Can you really say that we are making significant progress as a nation?
We are zero in terms of progress making. We may be trying, but we are not making progress. We are going forward and moving backward at the same time. If we move one step forward today, we will take two steps backward tomorrow. Take for example Malaysia, they used to come here and purchase palm tree. But go to Malaysia today, I tell you that you will marvel at the level of development in that country. I was opportune to go there and I tell you that I was highly impressed with what I saw. That is improvement. We should imbibe and practice that kind of improvement. I believe it is prayer that is still sustaining Nigeria. But for God’s love for this country, we won’t even be where we are today.