Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defence Senator Istifanus Gyang (PDP, Plateau North), in this interview, spoke on the recurring killings in Plateau State and his bill on minimum qualification for presidential aspirants, among other sundry issues. Excerpt:
What do you think could be the cause of the recurring clashes in Plateau State?
When you see the trend that is happening across the nation, particularly those states that are affected by banditry, you will agree that these are people that are driven by criminality, godlessness and lack of value for human life. For me, there can be no justification for what bandits are doing across the states of the North. If anyone has an issue, there are platforms for such issue to be raised.
You cannot continue to destroy lives, decimate communities, displace villagers and say you have a justification for it. I think the only justification is that they are advancing the agenda of the devil.
Some state governments in the Northwest have made several failed attempts to negotiate with bandits. Do you also support the idea of negotiating with criminals?
Nowhere in the world do you negotiate with criminals and terrorists. All such attempts have failed. What you do with crime is fight it head-on. You enforce the law against criminality. Fighting crime requires enforcement of law and order and the security agencies have that responsibility.
Do you support a regional approach to fighting crime?
What is important is that the states have to be empowered to be in a position to tackle crimes. That’s why some of us had advocated for state police, because as long as states are not empowered; as long as you have a unitarised approach to security, have a command and structure being in Abuja, it cannot go down to the communities.
There are insinuations that your bill on minimum academic qualification for persons seeking elective offices was aimed at stopping former vice president Atiku Abubakar from contesting the 2023 election. What’s your take on that?
I am not aware that Atiku Abubakar does not have the requisite qualifications but for now, GCE is the basic minimum qualification that is required to contest the office of the President of Nigeria. But I feel that anyone that must aspire to leadership at the level of the governor or president, should be someone that is equipped; someone that has both the right attitude and the required aptitude.
It is not targeted at anybody. We don’t make laws to target any individual. We make laws for the nation.
What should Nigerians expect from the Senate on resumption from the coronavirus lockdown?
The topical issue globally is about coronavirus and that affects and should target the health sector. What this has done is that it has exposed our unpreparedness as a nation and the fact that our policies and programmes and attention that ought to be given to the health sector and the wellbeing of Nigerians, has been abysmally poor. To that extent, what will now engage the National Assembly, the Senate in particular, on resumption, should be how to urgently upgrade the health infrastructure of this country.
Like every Nigerian is saying, there are some lessons to be learnt from the current incident that is the inability of the ruling class to give attention to basic health facilities because they have the capacity and wherewithal to attend to their health needs outside the country. Now it is a situation where all of us are limited and restricted to the confines of our nation. We can’t go anywhere now.
So, this is the time that we should now prioritise equipping and making sure that our health sector, our health facilities, health institutions, and entire infrastructure in the health sector receive massive upgrade to meet world standard in such a way that we cannot again be having this approach, which is a state of unpreparedness.
The issues of poverty should also engage the National Assembly on resumption. The twin issue of health and poverty should be paramount to us. The coronavirus lockdown has shown that if there is shutdown for one or two days, the whole nation, Nigerians, would be dislocated in such a way that hunger becomes an issue.
We have to address the issue of social security for our nation. We have to develop a platform for our social security. Other climes can survive for quite some time because of the social security that is already embedded in their system but ours is lacking and that is why the issue of poverty becomes the issue of life and death.
The health of our people and social security to address the poverty of our people and the economy of our nation would engage the Senate once we resumme.
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