We want to eliminate budget delays, says Waive
Rev. Francis Ejiroghene Waive, the pastor-in-charge of Church of Anointing, Warri, and the only All Progressives Congress (APC) House of Representatives member-elect from Delta State, in this interview with LEO SOBECHI, says first term legislators are out to re-order the image and dynamics of the 9th National Assembly
First timers set to chart new course for 9th Rep
Is it true members-elect of House of Representatives are getting ready for the politics of the Green chamber and constituting themselves as a bloc for the 9th NASS in the election of principal officers?
Well, we have gone through training, induction as it were. I have also been reading the House rules, getting ready and working with my colleagues from APC (All Progressives Congress). It has been exciting. We, the first timers, make the largest block in the 9th House of Representatives. We are 165 and working on keeping the block together, not just for the election of the speaker, but to continue to influence things in a new direction.
What are the essential beacons of the new direction?
We all agreed that the image of the legislature is not good in the country and we think there is something we can do about that. We are also looking at the executive- legislature relationship. We do not think what happened in the 8th Assembly is the best; neither do we want to be a rubber stamp assembly.
We think there is somewhere in the middle, where we can give this country something better than we have experienced since 1999. We meet regularly. We have a structure with a National Chairman, Deputy Chairman for the North and South. We have coordinators for each of the six political zones. I serve as the Deputy Chairman for the South.
Have you been able to share ideas on budget and budgeting process?
Yes, at the induction, there were one or two lectures on how to deal with the budgeting process. Of course, there was one on bill making and one or two on just budget, the appropriation, how the committee works, the first reading and how each member must respond in five minutes to the general trust of the budget and so on. How the appropriation committee and the other standing committees would work on areas where they have oversight and report to the committee. And then the second reading, the harmonization after the third reading in the Senate and all of that.
We went through that training and on our own we have been carrying out research on reasons for the delay in the budget. We have been looking at what the issues are as a group with a view to doing something differently in the 9th Assembly.
The sad part is the issue of citizen exclusion in the budgeting process. People do not know much of what is contained in the budget and therefore are not able to hold the leaders and executive, especially the ministers, to account. Did you also talk about that?
Yes, we talked about the bottom-up approach, where our constituency will particularly originate capital budgets that they think are relevant to their various communities rather than the executive imposing projects on the people. We have also looked at the possibility of constituents being involved in public hearing and we think that the legislature could have been a part of the problem.
For instance, in my constituency if I could bring the budget down and cascade it to my people in my constituency offices… I intend to have one in each of the three local governments which is not a norm. The idea is to get to people at the grassroots. If they could see what is proposed, such that in the first, second and third reading, they could make inputs, particularly in terms of capital budgeting, they could also make input in debt servicing and borrowing, make their opinions known, which is then my business to bring to the floor of the house.
For recurrent expenditure, the constituency might not have enough capacity or knowledge to bring in input, but we want to look at the growth rate of recurrent expenditure and look at the factors responsible for this. In fact, for me as a person, I told my colleagues, we need to look at the constituents of that huge chunk. Are there ghost workers? What can we do to reduce that so that there will be more resources available for a greater majority of our people.
Did you touch on the issue of constituency projects?
Of course, we did. First, we looked at the legality of it and that was a bit contentious. We concentrated more on the usefulness. I do not think I can trace any constituency project in my constituency since 1999 that is working, useful and relevant to the needs of the people. In fact, I am unable to trace a site and say this was a project executed in my constituency. So, my first concern is to make sure that constituency project are actually executed. We felt it will be a long journey to move from illegality to legality. Rather, let us continue with it but first of all make sure that they are executed and make sure they are relevant to our people and that value for money is achieved at the end of the day so that this country will not continue to suffer leakages. To us, perhaps because we are newcomers or my antecedent and background, all of that is the bottom line of corruption which some of us believe we can gradually eradicate.
What can you say are the general expectations of your constituents and why they rejected your rival?
I think my people felt detached from him and noticed that he only shows up during elections and they used to watch the House sittings on television, such that when they see people from other constituencies make contribution, noticed that he never stood up to introduce himself since 1999 representing Ughelli South and North Constituencies to make contributions. No matter what he is saying, whether it makes sense or not, but that he should stand up to say something.
It is the reason why, when we had the APC Representatives getting together that was broadcast live by NTA, AIT, Channels and I spoke, my people were just hailing across party lines that I had broken the jinx and they believed that if I could do that at the party level, I would do even more on the floor of the Green chamber.
They are also expecting the constituencies’ projects to be executed, to see and enjoy them. They also expect to be carried along. The Federal Government’s presence to them is zero, but I think it is more of communication. For instance, when there is flood in an area, when the herdsmen strike, natural disaster, we do not hear of NEMA. I think it is not Mr. President’s problem, but the duty of the representatives to bring the attention of agencies of government to his or her people. It is a huge task and I think I am up to the task. It is my desire that after four years, they will testify that nobody did it like this and I should go back and do even more. I believe that is what my people are looking forward to.
What is your relationship with your state governor?
You know that I am an APC representative. My governor is PDP (Peoples Democratic Party). I am the only APC representative out of 10 representatives from Delta State. I have been a clergyman and well known too. I have been on radio for 20 years; I have been on television for several years. I have been a pastor for over 36 years. Next month in June, I will be 37 years as a pastor, most of which were in Delta State. I am well known by the people and His Excellency, the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa appreciates that. Once or twice, we met in public forum and exchanged pleasantries. I think he expects me to do what my people expect me to do and not disappoint them. I think our relationship is cordial.
On the flip side, you know what plays out in Delta State between Olorogun Otega Emerhor and Great Ovedje Ogboru. What faction do you belong?
If you check my political history, when I joined APC, I was dangling between the two. I do not believe in factions or tendencies. I believe that we need a united party to be able to offer what we profess, ‘Change.’ This division is not helpful to anybody. My prayer is for unity of the party. Having won the election and what is going on in the court, I am already being tagged as being one of them, but I am really not part of any faction.
What do you make of Senator Omo Agege? Is he becoming a third force or aligning with O’tega or Ogboru? How much cooperation or synergy can you build with him?
The distinguished Senator Omo Agege is my senator. My constituency is one of the constituencies under him. He is a wonderful and a very patriotic person. He knows the game of politics. I must give that to him. I think he is a major asset to the party. Call it Ogboru camp or O’tega camp, I see them doing little without the distinguished senator. He is a major asset to the party. I think we need to engage him, promote him because he is good for our party; he is good for our state and good for the country.