What is your take on minimum wage?
We are in support; we are waiting for the executive. We have told them to go ahead with the idea. I have said it myself and the Speaker said it the last time, we are fully in support. We are waiting for the executive to make a move on it. We are prodding the executive to do that. It is justifiable for it to happen, how will it not be. If you look at the challenges the people are going through, more so all the indices have changed and that is the only indices that should stay the same? It is not possible.
Some states have not even implemented the last minimum wage. What is your take on this?
That is affordability, we have to understand that. I am not in the state but I don’t think that any chief executive or any governor would be irresponsible not to want to provide succour for his people.
One of the good news was when the Senate called on the executive to look at the report of 2014 CONFAB. What will the Senate do if the executive fails to bring it?
We will cross that bridge when we get there. As I said in my opening remarks when we were talking about devolution, I think we should not aggregate or rush to conclude where all Nigerians are on issues like this.
I think that we should try and ensure that we get everybody’s buy in on very major issues like this.
I want re-emphasise that we need to be very sensitive on how we go about addressing these issues. Because somebody is not on my own page does not mean that the person is not somebody I can engage with or do things with. As I said, I cannot kick you out of Nigeria. You cannot push me out of Nigeria, this Nigeria, belongs to all of us, we have chosen to be one despite all our diversities.
What is needed now is the political skill, despite those things that divide us, to be able to come together in the things that are important to make a modern country.
There is no point having a country that will not give opportunities to its people. That is why I believe that giving certain powers to the state would ensure and create better opportunities for everybody. But there are some that might think otherwise and the answer is not to stampede them. I think that because we must sometimes be on a slow pace, maybe at the slowest because to take the pace of the fastest we are going to leave people behind and at the end of the day we will not achieve anything.
My own advice on some of these issues is that: You points are well noted. If you say majority I will ask you majority of who? If you sit down with another set of Nigerian they will tell you that they don’t agree. My responsibility or our responsibility. as leaders is to converge and bring those different views together and I think we will get there, but we have to go in a manner that builds confidence and builds trust.
The Senate has passed part of the PIB and some have not been passed. Do you have a time frame to pass those aspects that are left?
We are trying to do it as quickly as possible, this is the most important part, the technical part of it. This is the part that decides the investment climate in oil and gas; this is the part that decides whether people want to come and invest in oil and gas. This is what is going to look at how revenue comes to the federation. So it is very technical, we are still targeting this year. Once we get back we will work on that as a priority. I can’t specify now what I think the time frame will be, but we are doing all our best to make sure that we pass it as soon as possible.
The 8th Senate appeared to be the most turbulent. How did you manage in the last two years?
It is because from day one we had an agenda, a Legislative Agenda. It will be interesting for you to get a copy of that agenda and look at those promises that we made, you will see that some of the things we have been doing are not by chance. It is like somebody who is working through a document and he is ticking it, We have been organised, we have been focused, we had an agenda. Our agenda was that the senate will be addressing the economy. That we championed Made in Nigeria was not by chance, it was part of our agenda. We said to ourselves, what can make Nigeria’s economy grow. People are spending so much on importation, why don’t we try and save that.
Government spends about N1.3 trillion, why doesn’t it spend that on locally produced goods? So let us pass a law that any MDA, before it goes to buy foreign goods must see that there is no local alternative. If we do that it means that that N1.3 trillion will be spent inwards.
We are talking of infrastructure in these laws. Railway law has been there for more than 50 years, nobody has reviewed it until we came. Ports, Inland Revenue and now we are talking about PIB. These are economy-based issues.
Ease of doing business, we are passing laws that will allow SMEs now get credits without having landed property as collateral. We are improving on credit bureau to allow banks lend to small scale businesses.
It is because we have been focused, determined and strong willed and not be distracted. Sometimes I see that all the noises are distractions. Anybody that finds himself in the position of leadership, must have own vision and focus.
Most of those noises are not in the interest of Nigeria, they are personal agenda. People who want a certain person to emerge as Senate President or Speaker make these noises. They say, since we cannot win the battle for the National Assembly let’s distract them.
Unfortunately the media nowadays need to do some cleansing because there is a problem. It is important because people sometimes are misguided by some of the stories. The other day I read someone saying that the 8th Senate is the worst senate in the history of Nigeria.