Babajide Akinloye, Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Housing and a member of the Constitution Review Committee speaks with Gboyega Akinsanmi on the on-going constitution review and the need to initiate an executive bill that makes the adoption of electronic voting binding for the conduct of 2015 elections
The House of Representatives Constitution Review Committee recently submitted its report. What really delayed the report?
I do not think so because of the enormous volume of work that had to be done. Although we had a time limit but with the way things are, I do not think it is coming too late. The intrigue is much, and one needs to be careful because whatever goes into the constitution has overbearing weight. We once made an attempt to submit earlier. What happened was that the House of Representatives was trying to bring the report to the general view after the town hall meetings in each federal constituency. So we wanted to release to the public the feedback from each constituency before they are submitted for further collation. But I think there were complaints regarding certain issues.
Why was the proposal for autonomy for local government rejected?
It was not the committee that rejected it; neither was it the House of Representatives. The senate had also its input. But after the harmonisation by the National Assembly, the amendments are still coming to the states’ houses of assembly, where there must be two-third majority vote before the amendments can stand ratified. Like every other issues, people have their own opinion of what should be or not. For example, the issue of indigene-ship and residency is also contentious.
But in your view, is it proper to give local government autonomy?
The system of government we are practicing is borrowed. It is not our favourite. It is peculiar to us because it was imported from somewhere. So, we need to ask how things are done from the place we imported this system. Local government exists all over the world; it is the level of administrative control that differs. And we cannot argue against the fact that local governments are the closest to the people. We adopted federalism from the United States in the 1979 constitution, which transposed into the 1999 Constitution. So, how is local government administered in the US?
Despite the declaration of emergency rule in three northern states and constitution of the amnesty committee, terrorism has not really abated. How can the situation be saved from further degeneration?
I am not against amnesty personally. But before granting amnesty, there should be some structures in place. When it was granted for the Niger Delta militants, there was a complaint that the standard of living is not commensurate with the natural resources there. Now, amnesty was proposed for Boko Haram. Sincerely, I am yet to know what their grouse is. What is their complaint? If it is known, it could be addressed as was done in the Niger Delta. On the other hand, if what they want is to indoctrinate a part of Nigeria into certain ideology, then amnesty cannot solve that.
The anti-terrorism law is crucial to fighting terrorism if it becomes law. What is stalling the passage of the bill?
Terrorism is a federal offence. Other criminal acts are offences prosecuted at state levels. But terrorism, money laundering, corruption are federal offences. So, for me, I do not know why the anti-terrorism bill should be delayed. Most of the security challenges we have in Nigeria today bear semblance with terrorism. So, if such law is not in place, we are not fighting right. I do not know why it’s being delayed, but I would be on the side of those who want speedy passage of the bill.
Considering their antecedents, do you think mainstream opposition parties are well coordinated enough to defeat the ruling party?
I personally know that many stakeholders are sacrificing a lot to make this a reality. The topmost agenda on every stakeholders mind is how to make it work and not how to benefit from it. So, many are sacrificing things like personal ambition. From what I have seen, you will be shocked the kind of personalities that will be fielded for elections on APC’s platform. I do not want to make any authoritative statement but just wait and see when things start happening. Then, you will know that this merger is first and foremost for the sake of this nation.
Ahead the 2015 general elections, electronic voting has been proposed to the National Assembly as a way to stop rigging. Are we going to have electronic voting, knowing it would help resolve electoral rigging?
It is left to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to decide if they want to adopt electronic voting.
But INEC will adopt it only if the National Assembly makes it possible by appropriate legislation. Who are those working against it?
Sincerely, I cannot answer that question because the electoral law, which governs INEC’s activities, already allows for electronic usage to an extent, especially in the collation of voter register. But I think if INEC believes electronic voting is expedient, they can get it done. If legislators make the proposal for electronic voting, it may be politicised and it may become cumbersome. But if INEC does that, it becomes an executive bill and that could be done. So, I will suggest that INEC should bring forward an executive bill for electronic voting because I believe it will eliminate multiple voting and other related electoral malpractices.
Since you became a federal lawmaker, how many bills have you sponsored?
Right now, there are two bills that I am working on. There is one that has to do with building codes. This is being done at the committee on housing, of which I am the deputy chairman. We want to ensure issues of building collapse become history and that Nigerians can live in decent accommodations. I am also working on a private member bill that addresses pensioner’s problems. I think we need to have a body that will regulate the activities of pension fund managers and other practitioners, the same way we have the Nigerian Medical Association regulating medical practitioners and we have the Nigerian Bar Association regulating legal practitioners.
There is a pending bill before the lower chamber that seeks to sanction any company that do not comply with pension regulations. Is your bill similar to that?
No. What my bill seeks is to have an association that will regulation activities of everyone involved in pension issues. There is no regulatory body for practitioners now and that is why it is possible for people to perpetrate scandals and get away with it. The enforcement of the Pension Act is the responsibility of the appropriate government agency.
In the last two years, is there any remarkable change you have brought to your constituency?
My own kind of politics is getting things done, especially things that physically affect my constituents. I have been doing this as a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly and it is the same philosophy that I took to the National Assembly. But on getting to the National Assembly, I found that things are markedly different, despite my experience as a lawmaker. But I have been able to continue all my policies as a state legislator. I make education a cardinal issue then and partnered with an non-governmental organisation (NGO) that is running a skill acquisition centre for the education of selected constituents. I am still doing that and currently planning to expand it by giving the successful constituents grants to help them establish a venture. The grant will operate like a revolving loan so that many others can benefit long after I may have left office. We have also provided free bus service for students, especially those in secondary schools. We have erected solar-powered boreholes in different parts of the constituency and quite a number of transformers will be distributed soon. I have also succeeded in changing the popular notion that people only see their elected representatives when elections are approaching. I made it a point of duty to visit them on sanitation days and hold meeting with them at resident association level.