Finally the principal officers of the House of Representatives have been selected, and the South East seems to have lost out on this. What is your take on this decision?
Well the leadership has spoken and the party has spoken but we are not happy because we fought for our people the South East to ensure that equity is done, making sure that the rules that were set all along in the House of Representative and the past assemblies was followed so that nothing different will happen but unfortunately this is different, the South east did not get any position and we feel shut out by the party in that regard. We wouldn’t know what informed their decision but we are looking forward to explanations on this decision.
Will the South East members of the House take any action concerning this decision by the Party?
Well at the moment we are studying the situation, we would talk to ourselves and come up with a decision
One of the motion moves on the floor of the House is that President Buhari should make public the hand over note of former president Jonathan. What is you take on this decision?
Government document such as that are usually classified document and I am of the view that those who need such document should make use of the freedom of Information Bill instead of bringing it as an issue to the floor of the House to debate. Whether it should be made public, to me does not even arise. Whoever needs it should go get it through the process of the Information Bill.
Now that the House has fully commenced work, what should Nigerians expect from legislators?
Nigerians should expect the reasons for which they voted members of the House of Representatives which is to get to work and legislate on issues that bothers on the existence and better livelihood of the people they represent. Nigerians should not expect anything less, a lot has happened in the past few weeks up till today. I believe the Speaker and the party are trying to seen how fast they can put everything behind and move forward. But in doing that they have stepped the South East aside, a zone that is very active and very hard working, our people fought gallantly to make sure that we are not excluded but that’s politics, it has happened and we are strongly looking forward to explanations on that and then adequate decision will be taken.
One of the major targets of this government is to fight corruption and President Buhari has said he will probe Ministers who served under former president Jonathan’s government. What is your take on this?
Well, President Muhammadu Buhari may have some information we don’t have, we all know that this country is suffering from financial crisis right now, salaries of workers are not paid which has resulted to state governors seeking bail out from the Federal Government and there are lots of crutches here and there, the people are suffering, there is lack of money. So if there are information available to the President on monies that has been stolen by corrupt officials and he has those information and has access to what it would take to get those monies back, I fully give my support to him to get these monies back. Our external debt is increasing on a daily basis and that’s not good for our economy so if it is proven that some individuals are responsible for milking the country dry, by all means they should be brought to book. Anything that will make this country move forward should be supported.
Recently the American government promised to assist Nigeria to fight Boko Haram, do you see insurgency coming to an end soon in the Nigeria?
Personally, I am not exited about the promise made by America to assist Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram because this is not the first time they have promised to assist us in rooting out Boko Haram. What I propose we do as a country is to look inward and find out ways to gather information, how to get intelligence, military intelligence and the elite forces to fight Boko haram and root them out. It is possible to root them out, what we need is more commitment, more focus and to gather enough military intelligence and we should work on those intelligence and I think it will help. The U.S. made same promise in the past and it yielded nothing.
If I heard you clearly on the floor of the House you described the people of your constituency as been marginalised when you stood up to speak, can you tell us why you choose to address your constituency that way?
Yes, this is a position I have adopted and I will keep adopting it anytime I stand up on the floor of the House to speak until the attention of the Federal Government is drawn to my constituency and to my constituents. My constituency is suffering; there is virtually no federal presence in my constituency, we don’t have roads, there is no electricity and water, we are suffering from ecological problem and up till now nothing is done. A section of my constituency is at the verge of been dislocated and cut off from the rest of the constituency. If we are truly part of this country and we are not been marginalized, the Federal Government should come to our aid and make sure that we are not excommunicated and that we do not get disconnected from Nigeria.
Has a formal request been made before now at the floor of the House on these challenges faced by your constituent?
Well this is my first time in the House, we just had the first session and this is about the third time we are meeting but I have also insisted to make that known and subsequent time there are some other issue I will bring to the floor of the House and to the notice of the people and the generality of Nigerians. However, in the past we had done publications with reference to the erosion problem we are having and we know that Nigerians will not say they are not aware, I know this government is new and I also know that in the archive of the government they have these complaints I am making reference to.
Is the governor of your state aware of this problem if yes, what has he done about it so far?
Yes the governor has been trying his best, you would agree with me that ecological problems are not within the purview of the state government because they are large projects and we have a lot of such problems. In terms of road, the governor is trying because before this government came to be we have hardly had any serious enough touch of governance in my constituency, though the current governor is doing his best there are still much to be done; that’s why we are calling on the Federal Government to assist us so that it will compliment what the governor is doing to alleviate the problems and sufferings of the people of my constituency.
How can you rate the performance of the government in the past one month and some weeks, do you think the government has performed well?
Honestly I sympathize with Nigerians, people are in a hurry to see change because we know where we are coming from but I think also that anything worth doing is worth doing well, the President is bidding his time and it is too early to begin to judge him, he has been there for a month plus so he needs time to perform. Nigerians should be a little bit more patient for him to be able to put the government in order, nothing has gone wrong so far and I wouldn’t want to start judging him now because it is too early to judge.
Hon. Austin Chukwukere represents Ideato North / Ideato South Federal Constituency in Imo State in the House of Representatives. In this interview with Journalists in Abuja, he expresses his disappointment with his colleagues for excluding the South East in the appointment of Principal Officers of the Green Chamber. Dyepkazah Shibayan was there for The UNION. Excerpt