In this interview Senator Francis Fadahunsi representing Osun East urges the Federal Government to urgently address the grievances of the #EndSARS protesters to avert another major security challenge like Boko Haram and Islamic Movement in Nigeria (El-Zakyzaky). He also speaks on the adverse effects of the continued border closure, which he says is designed for the benefits of few people to control the economy. He spoke with Haruna Salami.
Q: How do you see the steps the government has taken to deal with some #EndSARS leaders, charging them for terrorism and freezing their accounts?
A: The boys withdrew from the panel. Generally, they are all our children. They need to be settled. They are fighting for their rights. It is the fault of the hoodlums that took over. It is those hoodlums that the government should investigate to know who they are. It is very easy; they are Nigerians. So putting the blame on somebody that it was targeted at the government, no. The protesters have told the government what they want. ‘Ok, we have heard you, we will work on it, that was what the Senate President told them; that if there is need to put some legislations to back the executive. We cannot do more than what we are doing. Ours is to legislate, which we have done. The executive is to execute. They should stop the blame game. When these boys were rioting, where were they? Now that they have down tools and soldiers have done their worst to damage Nigerian image internationally, automatically what Nigeria should do is to regulate the whole thing. When they continue like this, it will escalate. Whoever is arresting them is adding salt to injury. When we are saying youth, how many of them can you arrest? We don’t want the problem of youth; the youth is more than 30% of the population. What I saw during ‘Ali must go’ in Lagos, I know when this boys come on board .. that is what the Senate President saw and warned the nation that we should go to the round table and settle these boys’ grievances. Number one, they should settle University problem, let them go back to university, go back to their Polytechnics. At least 50% of Nigerian problem is solved. How much are the lecturers asking for, N110 bn. Federal Government should be able to do that instead of buying arms and ammunition to chase them up and down. Let the NYSC go for their service. Then the unemployed one, you sit down with them. I saw him (Buhari) on TV launching agricultural farm estate, it’s good. It is this 2021 budget that we should use to address the problem. We should concentrate on it and ask them to wait.
In democracy, if you continue to clamp down on youths and journalists, then you are in trouble; they will go underground and that is ‘wahala’. The other time they started with Boko Haram, we are still spending and spending. El-Zakyzaky, Islamic Movement Nigeria (IMN) is there. They have gone underground and you don’t know what those ones will do, and the security report will not give details of who and who are planning. So, Nigeria should take it easy.
Q: As former Comptroller of Customs, certain individuals were given the right to trade across the border despite the closure. Are you surprised?
A: I’m not surprised because I know what is illegal border closure and you have seen the result. Border closure is meant for the few privileged people to control the economy both in and out. You are seeing what is playing out. If the whole border is closed against other nations and two are given permission or waiver to carry on business with other countries, the others will be left out, the economy is worse for it.
There are lot of conglomerates that are producing soap, plastics, etc. What Nigerians are benefiting in other countries like Ghana, Togo and so on; go and see our products there – Omo, etc. But if Dangote and BUA are given power to transport their products to other countries, there will be trade inbalance. Ghanaians are fighting back because their things could not come to Nigeria. There are lots they are producing according to ECOWAS protocol. We are violating it, we are not giving exception to a few; automatically there will be scarcity. Now cement is N3,100. This is affecting the building industry because if people cannot afford cement, automatically the daily labour that all these boys normally go to sites here and there, they will not be able to go.
So, before it escalates to real problem between Nigeria and other countries, government should do something. The youth that go across the border both in and out are more than 1.5 million a day, they don’t have another job than to go to Ghana to work as artisans, to carry things and pay duties (ETLS ) and so on, but now they could not do it for the past one year. That is the result we are seeing now as youth restiveness. Unless government sits down and make proper arrangement to monitor the borders very well and allow things to come in according to ECOWAS protocol, allow the youth to do their business, the youth will be troubling Nigeria, there is nothing we can do.
The Senate has not succumbed to border closure because they know it must be supported by legislation. You have to consult other countries, particularly the West African subregion. If you see what Nigerians are suffering in Ghana, go and see their plight, that is retaliation and they continue to retaliate against Nigeria within the West African subregion we will be in trouble. Are you saying rice is not coming in? Rice is coming in through a few regulated people and they are not paying duty. Tokumbo you banned are coming in without paying duty. Why don’t you allow them come in and pay duty?Let the genuine business continue to run and you will see that youth will not trouble Nigeria again
If you incarcerate people, they will fight back. Border closure cannot last more than six months. The economy is grounding. Any taskforce cannot be more than 3-6 months or they will be corrupt.
Q: But you have oversight powers over the executive. You pass motions and resolutions to the executive. How effective are they?
A: National Assembly resolutions are not obeyed by the executive. To forestall youth restiveness, we have passed many resolutions to the executive, executive will not listen. Now that there is probem, they will be calling. I’m sure you heard the Senate President who warned the nation that there will be another problem if youth are not given opportunity to work.
The boys that go abroad to buy cars are now jobless. Why SARS brought problem is that when they came back they were doing Cybercafe trading, then the SARS was hammering on them instead of the EFCC. The SARS abandoned robbery, kidnapping and banditry. They were following these boys, following artists and milking them. That is why you see them fighting back. Do you see them fighting EFCC who has the real responsibility to do so? Because they couldn’t travel or do anything, they came home and started doing Cyber cafe business which the EFCC was arresting and arraigning them Then the SARS knew them because some of these Police boys were among the boys doing the same Yahoo Yahoo, they know each other.
There was a time I called the Commissioner of Police, Osun state and told him SARS is not for these boys, let EFCC do its work. He agreed, that is why you don’t have too much problem in Osun. Anywhere you see SARS running after these Cyber cafe boys who could no longer travel again, that is why you are having this burning of things here and there. It is not SARS; it’s the same government that prevented them from travelling abroad to do their business under regulation. That is what they are fighting.