“Military Rule Fractured Nigeria’s Federalism”– Rep. Onuigbo

By Ikenga Chronicles October 1, 2016

Rep. Samuel I.  Onuigbo is the member, House of Representatives, representing the great people of Ikwuano and Umuahia North and South Federal Constituency, Abia State. He was appointed the House Committee Chairman on Climate Change, in November, 2015. Rep. Onuigbo was also a key member of the Nigerian delegation that accompanied President Muhammadu Buhari to the UNGA 2016, and the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

In this Independence Day interview with Ikenga Chronicles, Rep. Onuigbo talks about Nigeria’s climate change practices, President Buhari’s commitment to increased attention to climate change, the suspension of Hon. Abdul Mumini Jibrin, the merging participatory democracy in Nigeria, his commitment to his constituency, and the impact of military rule on Nigeria’s fractured federalism.

                                                                       Excerpts :

IC: Thank you so much sir for making out time to talk to us.

Rep. Onuigbo: Sure, let’s get to work!

IC: You are the Chairman, House Committee on Climate Change, what is Nigeria’s climate change practice like, and what efforts are being made to see that we reach international standards?

Rep. Onuigbo: First of all, Nigeria is now a global player on climate change following the signing of the Paris Agreement by President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR in New York. I was a witness to that. By signing the agreement, the nation has expressed in written form, its commitment to combating the devastating effects of climate change, and will consequently benefit from the immense opportunities available.

Again, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are fully committed to increasing their Nationally Determined Contributions on climate change. It is important to note that the president has exercised appropriate leadership to help in combating climate change.

(President Muhammadu Buhari, signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, with Rep. Onuigbo far left as witness)

READ ALSO: Onuigbo Commends Ikwuano/Umuahia Women For Being Agents Of Development

IC: Is there any way that Civil Society Organisations interested in popularizing Climate Change policies can be encouraged by the government?

Rep. Onuigbo: Surely. Lately, we have had a few NGOs and CSOs expressing interest in popularizing the finer details of climate change. When I was made the Chairman House Committee on climate change, one of the first shocking experiences we had was that most MDAs did not even know what climate change was all about! The ministries of transportation and health that are supposed to be key players on the issue of climate change did not even have a climate change department! But gradually, all that is changing now.

We need CSOs to continue to sensitize people on it, be it through dramas, seminars, etc. In fact, one CSO even talked about using beauty pageants to popularize climate change issues.

 At Least N8Billion To Be Approved For Climate Change In 2017–Rep. Sam Onuigbo

In terms of funding, there are no such provisions by the government for now. That is why awareness is necessary so that it can be woven into the budgetary allocations of MDAs. When the House Committee on Climate Change met with some MDAs, we found out that they had no budgetary provisions on issues of climate change. Some of them that had provisions in 2015, bizarrely reduced it in 2016! That shows how much awareness is necessary. With improved awareness, this will be improved on.

I do know though that the UNDP and other agencies are always ready to support organisations and individuals whose goals align with theirs. UNDP, DFID, USAID, etc can provide cash and technical support.

On the part of the Federal Executive government, like I said earlier, President Buhari is fully committed to it. I spoke to the Minister for Information Lai Mohammed and he told me that they are working on providing platforms for the creation of the necessary awareness.

READ ALSO: I Stand By My Assertion That Gov. Ikpeazu Is Doing Outstandingly Well–Rep Sam Onuigbo

IC: Recently, the House has been dogged by some controversies, what do you make of the suspension of Hon. Abdul Mumini Jibrin?

Rep. Onuigbo: The House of Representatives is a part of the legislative arm, with the Senate making up the second part. Without the legislative arm, you won’t have a representative government. So it is a key part of government. Therefore, if anyone is found to have breached the laws of such an institution, the person should be made to take an exit and purge himself of such excesses. When President Obama visited Africa in 2009, he stated that we are no longer looking for big men, but rather for big institutions. That is what we are making the legislative arm to become–a big institution.

IC: As a representative of the good people of Ikwuano, Umuahia North and South, what are some of your constituency projects and how are they progressing?

Rep. Onuigbo: When I ran for office, I did not specify that I will be doing constituency projects. What I promised was that I will provide effective representation for the people, remain accessible and responsive to the needs of my people according to the resources available to me. I do however understand that it is the norm to carry out constituency projects. I have of course engaged in some. I am a firm believer in education–it is the highest thing you can bequeath to anybody–so I focus on education. When I was campaigning, we had a campaign activity at a classroom in Ekebedi, and it was so dilapidated that when it started raining, we were drenched. So I promised to rebuild it. I have done that. I am also building a block of six classrooms in Ekebedi, and another one in Old Umuahia. I am also renovating the hospital in Obuohia Obi-Ibere, and another one in Oloko.

I am also working hard to ensure that the Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road, which is so bad now is repaired and eventually rebuilt in 2017.

However, I focus mainly on providing effective representation on the floor of the house and in the House committees.

IC: Political leadership in Nigeria has taken a revolutionary turn that has seen the people boldly demand for accountability from leaders. Where do you see us in the near future vis-a-vis the participatory leadership that is sprouting?

Rep. Onuigbo: The essence of democracy is to have one that is representative and based on the will and approval of the people. In no time, we will have better representation and accountability. One thing the PDP has done with sixteen years of uninterrupted democratic rule was to ensure that democracy is deepened. So we find that even a governor or senator can be kicked out if the process that brought the person to office was dubious. I believe that we will continue to undergo some kind of refining process, as we progress, but we are on the right path, and the people should continue to hold leaders accountable.

READ ALSO: For Fashola, It Is Nigeria First, Before APC–Rep. Onuigbo, PDP Abia

IC: Nigeria is 56 today, in terms of a scorecard, how do you rate our journey so far, in three spheres: political, economic, human development?

Rep. Onuigbo: We have done well. But I think if we had managed our resources better, we should have done better. We have moved to a point where we are easily recognised in the world. We are the largest market in Africa, and we have raised great entrepreneurs, educationists, technologists, etc. Of course we have had our challenges, but no one will deny that we have played key roles in helping other African countries. We helped some African countries gain independence; Mozambique, Namibia, easily come to mind. And we helped South Africa fight apartheid. We are globally regarded as the frontliner in African affairs.

We dream to have a better Nigeria. We are growing socially, economically, and politically. It must however be mentioned that the military fundamentally altered the structure of Nigeria such that we have a quasi-federal/unitary structure. If we are a true federal country, why would state governments be going cap-in-hand to Abuja to beg for hand-outs? A true federal nation will have all of the federating states able to survive without the centre, while they only pay the relevant taxes to the central government. So the military fundamentally fractured our federal system.

IC: Incidentally, you are Nigeria’s birthday mate! How does it feel and how would you rate your own journey so far?

Rep. Onuigbo: It is a good thing. I am annually reminded of how old I am, and thus have to re-evaluate myself. I am grateful to God that inspite of challenges (like Nigeria too), I have made significant progress.

READ ALSO: Rep. Onuigbo Expresses Satisfaction Over Progress In Umuahia School Project

IC: Politically, what are your future aspirations?

Rep. Onuigbo: Just what I am doing now–representing my people. Let me do that well first, then I can aspire to something else.

IC: Every achievement is a combination of personal efforts and those of several people behind the scene– your family for instance. How supportive has your family–especially your wife–been?

Rep. Onuigbo: My wife has been very supportive. She is the pillar of the house. She met me as the son of a farmer! Even though she had a better background (she is the daughter of a man who was a lecturer, and now the King of his autonomous community), she still supported me. Through my period of serving my community till now, and making several sacrifices that sometimes meant denying her and the family of some things, she still stood by me. I am thankful to God for her.

IC: Any Independence Day message to the people of Nigeria?

Rep. Onuigbo: I urge Nigerians to continue to support the federal, state, and local governments. We should collectively pray for the survival of the nation, and for God to grant our leaders the wisdom to work towards building a nation where fairness, equality and equity reign.

IC: Thank you very much sir.

Rep. Onuigbo: It was nice talking to you.

  • Rep. Samuel Onuigbo is on Twitter as @OnuigboSI 
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