Senator Ned Nwoko, represents Delta North Senatorial district in the 10th Senate, and was elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)._
In this interview with newsmen, the lawmaker proffered panacea to the perennial environmental challenges in the Niger Delta, his legislative agenda for his constituency, among other national issues.
Sir, coming from the Niger Delta side, your constituency, there has been lots of challenges like the Ogoni clean up and the flooding. So what are you bringing to the national assembly to make sure that place is totally cleaned up, and there is no issue of flooding, and everybody in that place lives happy. What are you bringing to the Senate?
A: I wish, I wish I were God, I’ll answer your prayers but you just said ” to make sure there’s no flooding,” it is only God and maybe the government that can stop devastating floodings everywhere. That matter came up today on the floor of the Senate. It has been a recurring issue everywhere across Nigeria, and particularly the Niger Delta areas because, the bottom of the country, if I will use that expression, is the Niger Delta areas. It takes the brunt of the floods that start from Cameroon, through Benue and Niger down to Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers into the Atlantic ocean. So we take a brunt of it. We know that there are solutions. And these solutions must be addressed without further delay!
One, the river channels must be dredged, and dredged immediately. I’m not talking about civil servants time, there’s urgency to dredge all these river channels. That’s number one of what must be done. Secondly, is to build embankments along the waterfronts because, if you dredge the Niger and Benue rivers but you don’t build embankments to forestall future floods, it is a problem. And thirdly, another third solution is to build dams. These dams can contain whatever flood that we have. And the dams can be used to irrigate farms, the dams can be used to generate power, the dams can also be used to provide homes with water. So there are solutions, it is just a question of how soon can these be done.Some of us don’t have the patience that the civil servants have. If you ask me, I’ll say look, let’s go to the… let’s avoid these bureaucracies of budgeting and all that, set up a small group to go and meet the President, President will invite experts in dredging of rivers, will invite experts in building embankments, will invite experts in building dams and tell them how much will it cost to do this end of Nigeria to this end of Nigeria. And the president will make a provision under a special arrangement, outside normal budgetary provisions. Special budgetary provisions can be made by the president, it doesn’t matter how much the cost is, because the cost of floods can be so devastating. Houses are destroyed, lives are lost, farms are destroyed, no light, no livelihood for those who are affected. And millions of people are affected annually. If I were to be president, you know what, I’ll invite 10 companies known nationally; they could be civil engineering, they could be water/dam engineering, structural engineers, and tell them to give me the cost and get and get national assembly to back him up in this special expenditure. And this can be done within one week. One week we can be addressing this issue with all the experts involved and we can simply say to the experts, you know for example dredging of Niger, if the length is about let’s say 500km to dredge the Benue and River Niger, 500km of work that needs to be done, we can say 5 major companies take 100km each, do you understand? Mobilize them to site immediately and stop the unnecessary flooding every year. It happens ever year, and we just think that it’s enough to pass a resolution and then send it to ministry of environment and ministry of works, and you know how they work there; for the next 6 months, they’ll be one file from another….this is beyond that. It’s just like the oil spillage that you mentioned. Oil spillages and gas flaring, environmental degradations are such huge problems that should not be handled by civil servants. You know, set up a special task force, mandate them to do what has to be done.
Q: Nigerians heard the announcement of principal officers of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Following that, there was another reaction from the political parties, especially All Progressive Congress Chairman, was saying that they are not aware of the list that was announced at the plenary. Now Sir, what is the implication of this for Nigeria’s Democracy?
ANS: I think you should be talking to APC Senators about that. As far as PDP and other minority parties are concerned, I have not heard of any adverse reactions from any of the parties. So my position now… I’m more inclined into believing that the parties that constitute the opposition are happy with the nominations and confirmations.
Q: Let me put it in proper perspective. Before now, what we know is that the political party, the Secretary of the party will write to the President of the Senate or House of Representatives and announce the principal officers, either minority or majority. But now, we are hearing another new nomenclature, that is consensus. When did you arrive at that Sir?
A: Look, I’m sure you heard the Senate President mention on the floor that out of the 50 opposition members for example, that 38 signed the nominations of those principal officers/leadership. So what do you say?!
Q: We are saying that, it is a departure from the past.
A: It doesn’t matter if people are complaining, if the parties are complaining, they should write and complain. As far as we know, as far as I know, PDP has not complained, they have not written to complain. So it is presumed that they will settle the situation, certainly.
Q: Your party, the PDP, has also denied knowing about the list of the minority leadership, stating that they are still working on the minority caucus leadership. Sir, your colleague, one of the senators from Kebbi Central, Maidoki, said he is not aware of any minority leadership list, saying nobody has informed him earlier before the plenary. Were you informed about the minority leadership list before plenary?
A: We know about it. We know about it at least two weeks before, that some people were going about collecting signatures. And the law does not require any election. What it requires is some kind of endorsement. If they were able to get 36 Senators out of 50, that’s it. So the parties can say what they want to say, but the party in this case PDP, ought to have shown leadership before now, if they had wanted to be involved in the selection or the process. I’m sure they would have called everybody together, they would’ve done what needed to be done before yesterday. They knew when we were inaugurated, they knew when we were resuming after the break, so they could have done in-between time, they would have done what needed to be done. But that was not done. So, don’t cry over spilled milk.
Q: Sir, it is no longer news that the 9th assembly was defined as a rubber stamp assembly. Today, political pundits are of the view that given the way and manner the 10th leadership emerged, in the House and Senate, that the stage is set for another 10th rubber stamp Senate. What’s your take Sir?
A: We will just wait and see what happens. You know, there are things that can be done behind the scene, but most of it will be done through communications of the Executive, particularly from the President. Their motions and bills will all be done transparently on the floor of the Senate. So, you’ll hear….but at the end, all we want really is good governance, what should be done for the people and done, you know expeditiously….we just have to wait and see….it is too early to determine whether particular assembly is going to be rubber stamp assembly or not.
Q: Distinguished Sir, is there any form of crisis or disagreement in your party?
A: My party PDP?….
A: Is there any party without crisis… ?, ….well ….if it is in-house, let it remain in-house.
Q: Some say it is a victory for Wike faction and G5, against that of Atiku faction. What is your take?
A: I don’t think that is a true reflection of what happened. I don’t think so. We have a new leadership, minority leadership that cut across seven parties, not just PDP, so is Wike In all the other parties? We just have to wait and see what happens.
Q: Distinguished, the 10th assembly has begun, what should your constituency expect from you?
A: There are many areas of interests that we are trying to put together. Yes I’m a Senator for Delta North but I’m also a Senator for Nigeria. So many of the things I might be speaking on will not be specifically for Delta North. Like issue of flood for example, is a national problem, like issue of insecurity is a national problem. There are roads that run through my state and Edo State, that are major arteries for the east, and west and north, but we will be dealing with issues as they arise. Whatever…unless you are asking me about constituency project which is really not an issue because, whatever it is that is meant for my constituency will get to them, whether it is on education, or environment, whatever it is will get to them. But if you also want to know what will be happening as per specific constituency issues, you should wait and watch us progress.