The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senator representing Imo East senatorial district, Samuel Anyanwu also known as ‘Samdaddy’ is the chairman, committee on Ethics, Priviledges and Public Petitions. He is also the Vice Chairman of the Committee on Customs Excise Duties and Tarrifs.
In this interview with Chinenye Ugonna of Naij.com, Sen. Anyanwu gives an insight to how he thinks the country’s economy can be diversified. He also talks about how he copes with the influx of petitions to the Senate and his plans for his constituency in the new year.
Read the excerpts below:
Our debt profile in Nigeria is increasing and the revenue for the country is reducing, how do you think we can diversify the economy in Nigeria?
Over time, I have been in support that we look at the realities on ground. I pray that this oil will dry up one day so that we will come back to our senses. I remember the days of the groundnut pyramid in the North, rubber in the West and palm oil in the east. Agriculture was the traditional mainstay of the economy in those days but because of the oil, you can see militancy everywhere. All the issues we have like the Dasuki gate are all based on oil. We must diversify the economy. There is a lot of exploration. You see foreigners will come to Nigeria with a brief case and leave with solid minerals and make a lot of money in their country. So yes, we are going to shift base to diversify the economy.
When you talk about debt profile, America has one of the highest death profiles in the world but they were able to stabilise their economy. All we need to do is have a critical economic shape that will look at things objectively.
Since the inauguration of the eighth Senate in June, there has been a lot of petitions coming in. How do you cope?
I am committed to my job and that is part of representation. When you are asked to do a committee job, you have to put in your best. It’s also because there is a lot of confidence in this eighth Senate. Other senators have told me that no one knew this committee was existing in the seventh Senate, but in the eighth Senate, it is the front burner and the conscience of the Senate. All we are doing is to ensure the best. We have received over 60 petitions and have attended to 35 of them. There have been 11 reports and out of that 4 have been accepted for recommendations. The one presently in the public domain is about the man suspended for 21 years orally. This explains the type of injustice going on in the country and these people need those who can speak for them. Sometimes, these victims do not want to talk because of the punitive measures they will get.
How are these petitions submitted to you?
We have a procedure. Based on the Senate committee standing rule, a petition must come through a senator and he must ensure that the petition is authentic vis a vis any judicial impediments. Once that is sorted, the Senate will refer it to the appropriate committee. Then they are referred to the committee that looks into it. Then we send a copy to the respondent to give the person time to look through it and prepare for defence. Out of ignorance sometimes, the petition is sent to the office of the Senate who refers it back to my office. Sometimes, some of the recommendations become a subject of litigation and we need to make sure that due process is followed so that we will not be found wanting.
How do you solve complicated issues when they come up?
We have had a few complicated issues especially when we were inaugurated. Most of the petitions then were high profiled. What you call the politically exposed persons. Normally, the committees sit and agree on solution then invite the petitioner. If it could be the same day or days after, we invite the respondent. We are not a law court, we are a fact finding committee, we sit and discuss as a group for other members to speak and it is looked at objectively.
After the controversies surrounding the frivolous petition bill, the Senate has not brought it up for a while, what is the progress of the bill?
We are looking into it. It has already been referred to committees. The areas that are controversial will be expunged. There will also be a public hearing so people can air their views. We must have a due diligent way of curbing corruption because the international people are watching. They have to be able to be comfortable enough to invest. When you go out of the country, it becomes a stigma that Nigerians are corrupt. In Nigeria, when little things happen, journalists magnify it. We must look at things that will build us as a country.
What do you think about the frivolous petition bill?
Well, I was there when that bill was brought up on the floor of the Senate. That petition is being misunderstood. When it comes to media, you run helter skelter to defend themselves. We are talking about those petitions that have put people in jail wrongly. We have what they call anti-graft agencies. When a petition is written against them, they arrest the person and because of work load, they can’t grant this person bail. So now before you write a petition against anybody, you must swear an affidavit so that the person will have the right to seek for revenge from the court of law. You do not wake up one morning and just write anything you want. In ethics committee, we see these things in the public sector which will make the person face embarrassment. There is a saying that goes, when you call a person a mad man in the market, when you come back to say it is not true, you have already done the damage. I had an interaction with the Human Rights department of the United States Embassy and they appreciated the bill. Probably they were thinking that we were trying to censor social media but that is not true. Even though you have freedom of expression, it does not give you the right to write frivolous things against people.
What are your plans for your constituency in 2016?
I did a lot for my constituency when i was the local government Chairman which i why i was able to run twice and also was in the house of Assembly twice. I believe they know why they chose me but my interest is the youths. I feel very sad seeing a young person leaving school without a job. What is a pharmacist doing in the bank? My aim is to create jobs because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. So they must see my signature at my senatorial district. If you give me the opportunity to make 20 million naira or the opportunity to give 20 jobs, I will pick the jobs because I believe in human development.
Everything about governance is about appropriation. Now that the budget has been presented, we will look into it. We are lawmakers but because of the way governance is done here, people do not know the role of a legislator. A lawmaker has no business building a bridge or a road. Our job is to ensure that it goes into the budget. Based on equity, we ensure that every zone or senatorial district goes into the budget according to their needs. Sometimes you see lawmakers going out of their way to build boreholes with their personal money. We are not engineers. You can expect that from a governor or a local government chairman. But because government agencies don’t do it, they shift the blame to legislators.
You just mentioned that from being a Local Government Chairman, to the House of Assembly and now a Senator. Do you plan to keep moving higher in the political scene?
I have always moved according to the expression of God. When you assume power and you think it is by your might then you are challenging God. I was not the most powerful, I was not the richest but I don’t know how I found myself here. I look at things the way they come. My next destination is in the hands of God. My ambition is in my mind so when God tells me, I will move on.
There have been many nullification of elections, What is your take on this?
I think they have their own procedures. As far as i am concerned, the Senate will go to look at the electoral law. If someone wins election, then goes to the tribunal and not out of your own making, someone’s logo was excluded from your ballot paper then your election is nullified. That is a flaw. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must find a way to straighten things out.
You mentioned earlier that the committee on ethics and privileges was not recognized in the 7th Senate. How do you compare the 7th and 8th Senate in this context?
I am not going to dis-purge the 7th Senate. The eighth Senate has an understanding leadership. Maybe the last Senate do not critically look at the petitions they receive but in the eighth Senate, we sit almost everyday. Every recommendation we do that impacts life into someone gives me joy.
What is your typical day like with the workload of being the Chairman of the committee on ethics, privileges and public petitions?
It is very hectic. I leave here around 6pm or 8pm. It is stressful. I love reading so sometimes i sleep off with my books, but I still find joy in doing what i am doing because there is dignity in labour.
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