‘I have no official car, constituency fund’
Victoria Nyeche is the only female lawmaker in Rivers State House of Assembly on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC). It took overone year for her to be sworn-in. She spoke with ANN GODWIN in Port Harcourt on governance in the state.
There are talks about Rivers State 2018 budget being shrouded in secrecy; as a lawmaker, do you have access to the budget?
I can categorically say that in this year under review, the budget estimate was made available to us, we saw the amount proposed but after it was signed into law, I am yet to get a copy of the budget, I don’t have the copy.
Last year, I didn’t get both the estimated budget and the signed one.
So, as a lawmaker, I do not have the information about the cost of governance, so I wonder how the man in the street will know or have access to developments in the state when we as part of government don’t have.
This is definitely abnormal and unfortunately, we seem not to know the difference between politicking and governance.
I believe that as a lawmaker, I am part of the government. I don’t even see myself as an opposition lawmaker, I see my self as part of government. I just happened to fly the flag of All Progressives Congress (APC).
I believe that the House is one and that all information should be available to every member of the House.
I think some lawmakers have the document, while I don’t.
I have always maintained that if Rivers State gets her dues as a federating unit of the nation from the Federal Government, then every constituency should get her dues, but its unfortunate that even as we speak, my constituency is yet to benefit from what we call constituency projects.
This constituency projects fund is supposed to be available to every constituency irrespective parties, but unfortunately that is not what is practiced here.
So, how do you contribute towards alleviating underdevelopment in your constituency without project funds?
The truth is that members of my constituency have been shortchanged.
They are being treated as if they are not from Rivers State, but it is unfortunate that Port Harcourt, the capital city of Rivers State, is sidelined in the issues of project siting.
But for me, I ensure that I represent my people, I make my contribution and live up to expectations.
I carry out my official duties with my private cars; I have not allowed the challenges and the discrimination to affect my responsibilities.
I have attracted other programs like health, environment, among others to improve the lives of my people.
I have sponsored two bills in this 8th Assembly. I sponsored the Rivers State Thanksgiving Day bill; it took a year for the bill to pass through first reading, I hope it doesn’t take another year to be passed.
The other one is the Senior Citizens Welfare Enhancement bill.
The objective is to create better medical services and welfare for the elderly.
During the 7th Assembly, I sponsored the Physically challenged persons’ welfare and enhancement bill, which was signed into law in 2012.
The Bill was born out of my compassion for the plight of those who are physically challenged. I felt it was expedient to make special provisions for them.
Are you discriminated against because you are the only female lawmaker or because you belong to the opposition?
The Challenge appears to be peculiar to those that are in APC, even when it comes to allowances, and entitlements, they have rates for those that belong to APC and rates for those that belong to PDP.
Even when we returned from recess recently, some persons were said to have received allowances, but some did not.
The interesting thing is that we have met with the leadership of the House and informed the Speaker, Ikunyi Ibani that we are not getting our allowances like others. He assured us it was general challenge.
But from my observation it is only members of APC that are going through such challenges; it is unfortunate that entitlements of lawmakers should vary in Rivers State House of Assembly.
What a PDP lawmaker gets is different from what an APC lawmaker gets and the PDP lawmakers receive these funds with all kinds of names.
Whether it is party allowance, I can’t tell, but the basic truth is that the Constitution does not provide for discrimination, it provides for equality, so what is happening is really undemocratic and unfortunate.
Have you received an official car? I learnt some lawmakers have received while others have not?
As a lawmaker I do not have an official car yet, others have official cars.
I have been doing my legislative business with my private car and there has been several promises that very soon, but I don’t know how soon that would be because we have barley few months for the tenure to run out.
All the PDP lawmakers that were sworn in with me have received their cars; the only PDP lawmaker who has not received his car just came in.
The sitting days seem not coordinated; some lawmakers come late while others don’t come at all. Why?
In the past, you have a calendar for sitting, so you know when the sitting is taking place, but this time, the notices for sittings comes impromptu and sometimes when you are out of time before the notice comes, it is difficult to be available.
There is need for advanced notices regarding sitting days.
How do you look at the crisis rocking your party (APC) in the state, don’t you think it will hamper your chances in 2019?
I see some of this internal wrangling as unfortunate, because I believe that for us to achieve our goal, we must be united.
Whatever we are doing unity is key. We need to be united to have progress to achieve a target, so these crises are regrettable and unfortunate.
I am an advocate of peace and unity, I believe that making peace in Rivers APC, everyone should be involved, it is not just Chibuike Amaechi, Dr. Dakuku Peterside or distinguished Senator Magnus Abe only.
I told some youths that came here that there cannot be peace when you do not stand for truth, so we should uphold truth, so that there can be peace and progress. So, if members of APC want progress, they need to stand for peace.
However, I believe that in every organisation, there must be one leader at a time, so since Amaechi is the leader, I call on all to subject to his leadership and that will facilitate peace.
But Amaechi is alleged to be dictatorial?
That is not correct. I am a stakeholder and I attend the leadership and stakeholders meetings of APC.
What Amaechi said was, let’s build the party for now and relax over who becomes the governorship candidate, but because some people have made up their minds, they are adamant.
I do not think that Dakuku has unveiled his ambition to be the governor.
There are two major aspirants, Abe and Dakuku. Supporters of Abe were not satisfied with the directive by the party leader; that was when they moved to open a campaign office.
I do not think Dakuku has opened a campaign office. He is not part of the challenges in APC.
Don’t you think Supporters of Abe left because they felt they might be betrayed or disappointed at the end?
The truth of the matter is that, in every political gathering, religious or social gathering, there is no way everyone will benefit at the same time.
There is no way everybody will occupy one position at the same time.
It is expected that every association will have interests, but at the end of the day, you go for the best.
That is why there are a lot of breakaways in churches, and I do not think that that is good.
I think we should have group interest, it is not out of place to have personal interest, but for us to have robust politicking, we need to have group interest.
The truth of the matter is that there is need for consultations.
With these challenges, are you still optimistic that APC will have its way in 2019?
Yes, we will overcome these challenges. Even in family settings, there are challenges and they are overcome.
Prior to 2015 election, the PDP had worse problems, worse challenges but they overcame it, so we will overcome ours.
Wike is commissioning projects here and there, are you not worried that will give him an edge over APC?
The work he has done is not in any way comparable to what Amaechi did. What has he done in the medical, agriculture and education sectors?
I don’t think he has done anything that is phenomenal.
Maybe people who did not believe anything good will come out of him, when they see small things now they become overjoyed.
Compared to what Amaechi did, he has not done anything.
Amaechi worked but the only reason we lost in 2015 was because Rivers State was robbed even at the Supreme Court, but 2019 will be a different ball game all together.
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