Swap Chibok girls with Detained Boko Haram families – Faleke

Swap Chibok girls with Detained Boko Haram families – Faleke

Monday, June 30, 2014 2:55 pm

James Abiodun Faleke, a member of the House of Representatives representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, bares his mind in this interview with TheNEWS magazine on the state of the nation, the oil subsidy probe, the ongoing National Conference, Boko Haram, and other burning issues.

Let’s have an overview of your activities in the House of Representatives in the past three years that you have been there

James Abiodun Faleke

James Abiodun Faleke

I think the first thing to say is to thank the people of Ikeja Federal Constituency for considering me worthy to represent them at the Federal House of Representatives and since getting to the House, I have made it a source of joy and importance that I must represent them very well. We have brought a lot of community projects to this local government. The motions that I have moved on the floor of the House include the construction of overhead bridges, which is ongoing on Lagos-Abeokuta Express Road. I also moved the motion for overhead bridge at Berger. These motions were brought the same time but that one at Berger has not commenced. In terms of major federal presence, those are some of the things we could do because they see Ikeja as a developed local government and the only thing we could also do is to come in with our own constituency projects which we put in the budget. The Federal Government ministries execute the constituency projects.

We have done lots of solar-powered street lights, boreholes. We have done lots of empowerment programme for our people and I think basically, and most important to our people, is employment opportunities that I opened up for them. As at today, I have been able to directly bring [federal] employment to about 38 Ikeja residents and citizens. In terms of motions, I moved a motion on the amendment to the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC Act, in order to allow for life insurance coverage for the youth corps members. I brought a motion regarding Lagos-Ibadan Express Road, which is under construction. I brought a motion regarding the ban of sales of military and para-military uniforms in the open market in order to stop civilians from buying them on the roadsides. Armed robbers also go there to buy police uniforms and you would think that it is policemen that are doing stop-and-search and you would have stopped for them, only to discover that they are armed robbers.

We brought bills to amend the Code of Conduct Act, to allow for people who already have bank account overseas to declare it, rather than say you cannot have foreign account. Meanwhile, before some of us got into government we already had foreign accounts, legally operated foreign accounts, using it to pay school fees of our children. So many people have children overseas and because they found themselves in government they can no longer operate the accounts to even pay the school fees of their children. I think there’s a need for such accounts to be allowed and they must be declared so the anti-corruption agencies can scrutinise those accounts anytime they like, to see how and where the money is coming from and what the money is used for and so on. Most importantly, of course, I contributed to nearly all the motions that have been moved and passed on the floor. The fuel subsidy probe, as bad as it has been painted through the activities of Farouk Lawan and the clerk of the committee, I contributed immensely, to the extent that we were able to expose the inherent fraud that was involved in the subsidy scam. And I can say that so many of the people we exposed have been prosecuted in one way or the other while, unfortunately, those who assisted the contractors in the government to siphon the funds from the national treasury have never been dealt with. This is the irony of fighting corruption.

So what are you doing to ensure that they are prosecuted?

Well, for me as the chairman of House committee on anti-corruption, I have been writing to say that, ‘Look, if Mr. A was aided to have done something criminal by Mr. B, I think it is only right to prosecute those who aided them and those who actually took part in it’. We have been writing and we are waiting for such action to be taken. Again, we have carried out our own general oversight in lawmaking because basically, representation is about lawmaking, representation and oversight, and I think that in these three core areas we have done our bit.

What would you say are some of the challenges you have faced since you went there?

Well, I think the first thing is that I went there as a member of an opposition party and if you are not in the majority, there is little you can bring to the development or change of this country. Those of us in the opposition are finding it very tough to achieve our party objectives and manifestoes. For us to assist even the sitting government at the centre they also will not listen to you. They don’t want to hear your views as long as you are not part of them. Whatever you say is immaterial. We have passed several motions, several bills that have not been acceded to by the President, just because he thinks that it does not favour them and I think that the major obstacle has to do with the fact that the executive finds it difficult to obey the motions and bills.

Are you still running for a second term, because we heard reports that people are eyeing your constituency’s ticket in 2015?

I think it is just normal in politics that people show their willingness to aspire to any position, so I am not bothered that people are aspiring to come into the House of Representatives, especially Ikeja Federal Constituency where I come from, where I represent. It is normal in politics that everybody shows his or her own interest. I think what is important is for those people to play within the rules and to ensure that they come into party primaries to defeat the incumbent or whoever. If they win, so be it. We saw what happened in Ekiti. Except God does not want it to happen, I have not seen any reason why I will not return, because I have tried my best, I have performed, I have done what my predecessors have never done in this local government.

Would the ongoing confab come up with anything that would turn around the fortunes of this country?

We said it from day one that, for us there is nothing that we will need to achieve that cannot be achieved at the National Assembly. The manner members were selected to the confab also does not give credence to whatever is going to come out of it. I have reservations about the way the President chose certain people to be there. And monitoring the discussion at the confab, you will also discover that so many of them actually don’t even know what they say. They have had the vision, they have had issues and for me, how are those issues going to be implemented? How are those recommendations going to be implemented? Is it through a referendum or they will be sent to the National Assembly? So we want to wait and see the way the President wants to push the recommendations of the confab. If it should come with a referendum, they should have done that from day one by choosing people from different tribes or through election or whatever. Electing people to go to the confab would have been the best rather than choosing people. And you will also discover that most of the issues that have been discussed are very sensitive – some have been good, some have been outside it. We have talked about almost everything they are discussing on the floor of the House. We have discussed revenue allocation, oil spillage, all sorts of things that even the President himself has refused to accede to. So we want to see what they want to do with the outcome of this confab.

As we are approaching 2015, there are security issues to be tackled. How do you think the country’s leaders can go about it because everyday we keep hearing about people being killed by Boko Haram and all kinds of militias all over the place?

Well, let me just recall again that I also moved a motion asking that the Inspector-General of Police should relocate his office to Borno State, which was also adopted. Even the senators passed the motion. When I look at the election that just took place in Ekiti and the way the place was policed and militiarised, when there is general election are we going to have the same number of policemen and soldiers in each state of the federation? The issue of Boko Haram, for me, is so sad that I find it difficult to continue to talk about it other than think and continue to pray for God to intervene and for God to direct the President to do the right thing. I strongly believe we should swap the children and wives of Boko Haram members in detention with the Chibok girls the insurgents kidnapped on 14 April. That’s my own point and I have said this severally, it is not the children of Boko Haram members that offended. So let’s use their children to negotiate the release of our own children. I cannot see a reason why you keep Boko Haram members’ wives and children in detention for an offence some of them did not know their fathers were involved in. Even when Obasanjo offered to intervene initially – not this last one – they refused. Again he has made effort and they don’t trust him. So if it has gotten to that level that you no longer trust your past president, then it is only God that knows where we are going.

The Boko Haram people should also see reasons why they should stop killing innocent citizens. If they want to fight the government, go fight the government and leave the innocent citizens alone. Come to Abuja and come and fight us. They shoud leave the people and stop bombing villages, burning houses and killing people who have no bearing or whatsoever to what is happening in this country. I saw a video where they were slaughtering human beings as if they were slaughtering goats. To me, those Boko Haram insurgents are inhuman. I cannot imagine where a human being would take knife and ask his fellow human being to lie down and be killing him as if he is killing a cow or goat. And they derive joy from it. There is no religion that allows such a thing. I have not seen it. I have asked the chief imams in my local government and they told me no religion allows the killing of another person. Shedding the blood of another person is uncalled for and I call on Shekau or whatever his name is to, please and please, come to the roundtable for a discussion. The only way out is to call for roundtable discussion. Even if we are in a war with other countries they still have to sit down and talk to be able to end the war. There is need to sit down and iron things out. We cannot use force to achieve this.

This reminds me that I also moved a motion on illegal border routes that exist in this country. Over 1,400 illegal border posts exist and of course, a committee was set up on that. We need to secure our border posts. If you go there, they only use bamboo and two drums to cross the roads. Why is it that, for a country as large as we are we have so much unemployment and we cannot employ youth or even retired soldiers to man the border posts? Honestly, I find it difficult to understand that the present government at the centre cannot understand or maybe he [the President] does not understand the level of insecurity that we have and the way and manner the northern part has been bastardised through killings by the insurgents. I don’t understand, whether they know and they feel it.
I think that they should have sat down to say, ‘Look, we need to bury our pride, let’s use an African method; let us negotiate. If Barack Obama can swap one American citizen for five Afghan terrorists, why can’t we swap the 219 Chibok girls for detained children and wives of Boko Haram members? Is it their fault that they attended school and were kidnapped and kept away from their parents ever since?

Do you support the clamour for amnesty for Boko Haram?

If you want to grant amnesty let’s start from the detained families of Boko Haram members. If they come forward for negotiation like some of the Niger Delta people were identified previously, why not, if they decide to lay down their arms? Let’s start from those families that have been detained and use them as a source of negotiating with Shekau and then we move on from there..

2015 is approaching, and there is talk that there’s crisis over who would be APC standard bearer for Presidency. Is there any truth in that?

I don’t think so. I don’t see where an outsider would be thinking that this is what is happening within our own house. It is funny the way the Peoples Democratic Party and others wanted to discredit us and continue to throw stones into the house with the intent to disorganise us. They don’t know that the way leaders and members of All Progressives Congress are thinking is different from the way they think outside there. They started by saying that our parties could not merge successfully; we merged successfully. They said we could not conduct congresses successfully, we conducted congresses successfully through internal democracy. Now that they have seen that we are moving forward against all their expectations, they are now talking about the presidential candidate. Is it their business? Let them wait until we present our presidential candidate and they will be surprised.

So there is no internal crisis within the party?

Even if there is internal crisis, if there are eight people that want to be president, it is normal for undercurrents to flow here and there. If that is what they see as internal crisis, it is competitive democratic movement. For me it is not a crisis.

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