Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Senate) in this interview discusses his work as the president’s point man in the Senate and the state of affairs in his native Akwa Ibom State. Excerpts:
There have always been disputes between the executive and legislative branches of government. How have you been able to handle it?
I have been able to handle it because I have been a great part of the legislature in the National Assembly for the past 16 years. So most of the matters which are arising now are recurring problems which we have resolved before under the PDP administration which we have handled before.
So the experience which we have had before, we bring it in; that is why you don’t see any of those disputes lasting. It has been the question of the issue and not question of the integrity of either the legislators or the executive or even the President, his vice, and ministers.
Lately, you have openly condemned Governor Udom’s delivery of governance in Akwa Ibom state, what he has done wrong?
I will not say that the question is about governance not being delivered in the state; what I will rather say is that the state may be intolerant of people expressing their opinion on how governance is being run. The Governor causes his men to come after and attack persons who raise questions in the state about governance. When you are the governor or president, you are governing people and administering the money that belongs to people, and when you administer the money and the fund to deliver welfare, you owe a duty to account to them not just how much you have spent but the reasonability of every action you want to take.
We don’t have the opportunity of seeing the budget of the state publicly like the federal government has a website where you can log in and see the budget and what is to be spent on each budget were everybody can see it, it’s in the public domain. So if you don’t have the opportunity explain to us, let us know,
You mean like the proposed Governors Lodge in Lagos?
Yes, if you want to build a Governors Lodge in Lagos the people can desire to ask; ‘’Your Excellency the Governor, is Lagos State still the capital of Nigeria”?, if it is not the capital of Nigeria, any governor’s lodge is where the governors live. We have a government office in Lagos and lodges in Abuja and Uyo, If people are coming to invest in Akwa Ibom why won’t they come to you in the state where they are going to invest or come to you when you are in the state capital or in the nation’s capital which is Abuja? What is the significance of building in Lagos This is an investment for the state where we can’t pay salary and pension, so this is the time to diversify from Lagos and invest in the state because it is the money of the public?
The money that the state government uses to implement those budget is not the money generated by the state government and not internally generated; it is money sent by Federal Government they will collect the money, use in the project and programmes in the state and then they will be abusing Buhari that he has not done anything in the state.
Are they applying the money of the state to do something for the federal government? No!’It is the federal government allocation to them for the state that they are using and so if you are using the allocation and then using your state medium to say that Buhari has not done anything in their state mean while it is not the internal revenue generation of the state that you are using.
I have to correct that impression that president has given you the money to do this and we are running a federal government; we are not running a unitary government. It is only in the unitary government that federal government take money directly to go and invest in the state. We are running a federal government where each state gets money from the federal and uses it. If we use it in a manner that it causes hunger, not paying salaries, the federal government is entitled to tell the state that I have given the money use it effectively. So this is what we say that people think that have issues with the Akwa-Ibom, state governor.
Are you saying that Governor Udom Emmanuel is not advocating to have people’s consent but uses his discretion to act?
He is using his discretion, and most of those things are approved by the State House of Assembly, but you cannot see any document that shows a plan in the budget for the year and years to come that this is what we want to spend on, a ruling plan and a development plan.
So is the proposed Lagos lodge a misplaced priority?
I want to say that if the federal government gives federal allocation to the state, that money belongs to the state, but the way the state uses that money must be to the public interest of the state. It must be something that is used only towards the welfare of the governor but should be something meant towards the welfare of the people. A governor’s lodge is exclusively for the governor, and you know that it was at that time that the Federal Government handed over the State House in Lagos, the whole residence of the president in Lagos to the Lagos State government.
Now you have the Governors Lodge in Uyo and Abuja for the governors, you have an aircraft exclusively for the governor, you have security vote in place for the governor, and an aircraft. For God’s sake, we are over five million people; pensioners, civil servants, and teachers are not paid now there is abandoned project like the medical centers which was abandoned because of lack of facilities, there is e-library which is not functioning now.
Do you think President Buhari is fighting corruption aright because there is no evidence of a jailed corrupt public office holder yet?
Nigeria is running a constitutional democracy, and constitutional democracy has divided and has assigned power to the executive, legislature and powers to the judiciary. It is the job of the executive to execute that which the legislature has made into law and directed as a policy, and it is the duty of the president to discover people who have corruptly enriched themselves or acting against the public interest, in this the president has done.
The job of the president is not to convict; it is to take people to court this the Ministry of Justice, the EFCC, and the SSS have taken this person to court. It is for the court to charge this person, acquaint them or convict and jail them. There are none of those persons who you will say that the president or the executive has convicted because it is not the job of the executive to convict.