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Mufutau Egberongbe, newly elected member of the House of Representatives representing Apapa Federal constituency, also a two-term member of the Lagos State House of Assembly since 2011. In this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, reveals his plans to tackle the Apapa traffic logjam. He also spoke on the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, among other issues. Excerpts:
The opposition parties have alleged that the February election for the House of Representatives that you won was rigged; how would you react to the allegation?
Well, I am not aware of that; the election that brought me into office to the best of my knowledge was credible. I cannot be in so many places at the same time but for Apapa and my area, the election was free and fair. Look at the voting pattern for the President and National Assembly election; you would see that the election was not premeditated for it to go otherwise. But if you look at the Governorship and House of Assembly elections you would see that the designs were very different; it speaks a lot about the personality of President Buhari and the other candidates. So, if the election was rigged, the voting pattern and the election scores would have been different. You can see that the pattern in all the elections was the same, the APC swept the state.
The PDP said they would have done better, but for the threat to non-indigenes in the state by the APC; do you think they have no point there?
The opposition party had their way in some local government areas in Lagos State, in Surulere the PDP won Assembly seat and in Amuwo Odofin, Ogene Karo also won House of Representatives seat back; is it not true? These people are non-indigenes; these are mere excuses. If PDP can win election in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, they can win anywhere in the state if they are popular. If Rita could give the APC candidate that won in Ajeromi Ifelodun a close race, that speaks volume; otherwise how could this candidate win their constituency?
You are representing Apapa constituency which is associated with traffic logjam, and congestion at the port; what is your strategy at getting the authority to tackle this?
The traffic situation has always been a problem in Apapa; serious traffic logjam orchestrated by the tank-farms, the trucks that go into the port. It needs serious surgery; if you like call it serious emergency, but the new Governor of Lagos State has started well. There is presidential directive chaired by the vice president and Kayode Opeifa, a former Commissioner for Transport in Lagos, who is the vice chairman. But the efficiency should be different; we should look for alternative source of transport, we should look at the water as a means of carrying containers out of Apapa. We need to look at the rail too; the rail lines have been in Apapa for a long time but they are not fully utilised. A train-tank has 100 containers; so we should use more of the marine water way as alternative way of transporting goods. I am also suggesting that in the call up system, we should let the trailers carry their goods in an arranged format of 20s or 30s; through this way they can be more orderly. They can be stationed as far as Sagamu and come one by one. And another solar terminal in Liverpool would be commissioned soon; I hope that when this is done the traffic logjam would be a thing of the past. There is the urgent need for the Federal Government to help Apapa from the degradation it has suffered in recent times; they have destroyed all the roads including the bridges. We need an intervention fund to be used in repairing the roads; this is why they have suffered degradation this need to be abated. Many people have left Apapa.
The current plan is not working; I have been advocating for a solution for the traffic logjam in Apapa for a long time. I can remember that I even brought the former governor of the state, Babatunde Raji Fashola to Apapa to see things for himself. Even the present Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat was part of that team which was because of series of letters and advocacy to the house and I think one needs to speak and galvanise this issues.
The right agency can do it; and we citizens need more discipline; we are not disciplined, journalists should rise up; there should be more advocacy in the media so we can win this.
You have been in the House of Assembly for eight years and elected to the House of Representatives now, what are the memorable moments?
Yes, I was in the house for eight years, and from 2015 to date I was the adviser to the Speaker on political matters. When you are in such position, the whole state becomes your constituency; that is a bigger responsibility; that is otherwise you are able to tackle this issue of traffic logjam in the state.
The physical planning law involves about three agencies; that is the Lagos urban renewal; we can begin to go on and on.
But there is the perception that the Lagos House of Assembly is a rubber stamp?
People most times would just sit down and make general statement; how many of them have come to the House and sit down and observe the proceeding of the House. The House is rubber stamp and the governor came with Visionscape thing and we said no. It was so strong that it had to be revisited after it had been signed; we brought in stakeholders; we had to suspend it when we noticed complaints from Lagosians. The Visionscale thing came from the executive; the House was able to hold its own.
Look at the time it took to pass the 2019 Budget, in some states this is not the case; for example in Ekiti State when the former governor, Fayose sometime ago went to the House to submit the budget, he had the gavel in his hand. But that is not the case here; we have professionals who went through the bill thoroughly. Nigeria and some other countries have the best legislative House. People are too complacent when it comes to their responsibility; people should know that it is their responsibility to come to the chamber and observe what the Assembly is doing. We invite them when a law is being proposed and a public hearing is about to hold, how many of them show up? Even during election people would not come out to vote, the media have a role to play; it is not true that our actions are being premeditated.
What are we talking about, even as a businessman the policies of the state still drive your business; so, you can not shy away from governance.
Some Lagosians were wondering why Ambode refused to sign Lagos 2019 Budget before leaving office, rather Sanwo-Olu signed it; does it mean Ambode was instructed not to sign?
I would not want to speak for the outgoing government; but what I can say is that government itself is a continuum; the individual just represents the government, and wherever Ambode stopped the new administration will start. Governance is a continuum, and you can even remember that the former governor had said that all commissioners should pull out of government and handover in their respective ministries about three weeks to the expiration of the administration tenure, so how can they function? Who would drive the budget?
What I know is that the most important thing is, let have the light, roads and all the basic infrastructures and good environment.
I don’t know the logic by signing a budget just days to your departure, what we should be bothered about is what percentage of the budget goes to recurrent expenditure; gives us roads, infrastructure, etc.
We give in to sentiment a lot in this country; we need to spend our time on issues that move us forward; it is petty.
What should be Buhari administration’s priority in this second term?
The primary responsibility of government is to secure lives and property and there is a serious correction between economic growth and state stability; economy can always strive in a secure environment; so the issues have to be checked.
We have not done enough in terms of punitive measures for kidnappers in the country and the culprits; there is need for strong penalty to be meted out to them as punishment. We also need to have a role for the Obas and Chiefs and you think the monarchs do not know their domain more than us? The monarchs have the security guards and they just need to be empowered. I mean in terms of giving them allowance; the issue of security he should think more toward true federalism. Each state needs to grow at its pace, whatever resources need to be used in the state, let prune down the functions on the exclusive list and let the states have more of the responsibility.