Senator Yusuf A.Yusuf is the Chairman Senate Committee on Special Duties.He is also a member of the Senate Committee on Banking among others. In this second part of his interview with Newsdiaryonline’s Danlami Nmodu, mni, he makes shocking revelations that Nigeria has 1000 revenue generating agencies, and many have not submitted their audited accounts. He also spoke on the Senate President Ahmed Lawan, the COVID-19 palliatives and President Muhammadu Buhari.The interview session was meant for the Senator to debunk an earlier report by this newspaper. However, he also answered question about issues of transparency and accountability especially the failure of some agencies to submit audited accounts. Excerpts:
Q: ..You were talking about some other misconceptions in the report
A: Yes ,quotes, “he wanted to know whether NIRSAL activities fall under legislative control or..” Yes, I asked this question and I asked it for a very pertinent reason, because as a legislator,I don’t know much about NIRSAL.I have come to oversight NIRSAL.I needed to know more about NIRSAL.
Q: Do you do oversight over NIRSAL too?
A: Of course.That is the Banking Committee, we oversight NIRSAL, because NIRSAL is under CBN.
Q:Could that be where the arrow is being pointed at you , thinking that you oversight them and you wife is there and somebody is thinking this man is eyeing his wife for position of MD?
A: If that is the case, is that where I should lobby for my wife to become MD?(Laughs)If I were to lobby,I thought I should go to other places.I should go to probably Governor of Central Bank, I should go to maybe Senate President, or I should try and meet President Muhammadu Buhari and lobby..How can I lobby through my own committee?Will my committee chairman appoint MD of NIRSAL? Will our committee appoint MD of NIRSAL? No. You and I know that.So you reporter has not done his homework to find out really why he was misled with information, cooked information about Yusuf and the wife of Yusuf, and then Yusuf lobbying for his wife to become MD. I quote something here, “despite not sure whether the organisation was a Plc or not, the senator went to request..” Of course, in over sighting, we request for information.It’s natural, we request for information and the information I requested up till tomorrow, I will continue to ask.You know, NIRSAL is an establishment of legislation, that means there is an Act..If NIRSAL is a registered PLC,of course, we want to see their Certificate of Incorporation, their Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association, their Form CO2,their Form CO7.It is normal, it is natural for one to ask. Or for one to say the senator went on requesting information on operation, income and this of its credit guarantee..What they are saying is NIRSAL is a PLC and all those documents are filed with Corporate Affairs Commission.And it is not my responsibility to go to Corporate Affairs Commission and ask give me the documents of NIRSAL? NIRSAL give me,give me certified true copy of your incorporation documents? It’s normal,it is natural.I can say this anytime, it is natural, there is nothing wrong with it.Quotes”,and they were not things he should be asking”.I should ask.The report said, “a source in the committee who added that the chairman had to caution him.” We don’t operate that way.You can ask all your questions, get clarifications.There is no way a chairman will caution you by saying don’t ask, stop this or stop that.I have a copy of the minutes.
Q:The impression I get is that you feel you are victim, or you are a victim of being caught between doing your official duties correctly and the perception that this official duty is being used to serve personal interest, correct?
A:This is what Iam saying.I cannot use, go and check, I was one of those who used Qur’an to swear, the day we were inaugurated.I swear, my personal interest will not override my official interest.I have no reason to do that.We wanted information from NIRSAL and we must get that information.We must get it, whether it is today or whether it is tomorrow or whether Iam in the Banking Committee or Iam not in the Banking Committee. It is a standard for whoever is there to ask for these documents.
Q: You are Chairman of the Special Duties Committee of the Senate, but you are also a member of the Banking Committee.
A: Yes.Iam also a member of so many other committees.For instance,Iam a member of power committee, Iam a member of Finance Committee,Iam a member of Trade and Investment Committee, Iam a member of National Planning Committee.I am a member of other committees.so any reasonable person will ask this reasonable question.
Now hear this:” barely a month after responding to sponsored reports against the organization, Inugba had to speak out against following another round of attacks…” This is what a staff of NIRSAL said,”it has come to our notice that some persons and groups who claim to be stakeholders” Iam not a stakeholder, “participants in various agricultural projects”. Iam not participating in any agricultural project, “are currently orchestrating a vicious and well funded campaign of disinformation and blackmail against us”. I don’t fall within this, why should I become a victim? Just because I want to know, just because I want to do my duty as a senator oversighting NIRSAL,I asked questions,so it was wrong to ask the questions.Is that what your reporter is saying? Was your reporter there in the meeting? Was your reporter there?
Q: Naturally reporters rely on sources
A: That is what Iam saying.Iam challenging his source, whatever his source, Iam challenging it, because if his source had said so so and so, they were faulty sources. And if your reporter is relying on faulty sources, I don’t know he is going to damage your paper. You see this?(Quotes)”in an effort to invest their bogus claim and invented credibility, these elements have been making the rounds of media houses that NIRSAL itself a CBN entity, is holding on funds ” These things happened even when I was in the 8th Assembly.There were so many protests.So many protests in Lagos, Ibadan,Aba, an what have you about NIRSAL, was I there? I was doing my 8th Assembly(work).8th Assembly,I was not even a member of Banking (Committee). And after that I went to do my campaign for my second term.So all their claims, the insinuation that Iam using my official position to make my wife the MD of NIRSAL is false.And if your reporter is relying on what some people have told him, people that attended the meeting, I think your reporter is very unfair to me, even very, very unfair to NIRSAL,very very unfair to my wife, very unfair to Central Bank of Nigeria, very unfair to Senate and very, very unfair to your paper because he has not fair to all those I have (listed)
Q: I was going to move further using this as an example.If oversighting can land a lawmaker into this kind of intrigues, how has it been performing oversight as a legislative function? Is it a deadly thing,a thing of blackmail? Is it productive?
A: My brother, it varies from one person to another.I have no regret whatsoever. And this one, was a report on NIRSAL.(Holds a copy of a news report)Everything they said here, did I ask a single question about what they said here in that meeting? If I wanted to damage the reputation of the MD of NIRSAL,I could have taken this and asked all the questions. I didn’t even know about this..
Q:What is the report about?
A: This (news) report is about (alleged fraud at NIRSAL and the pressure on police to hold investigations). I think whoever is using your reporter directly or indirectly, your reporter should have gone deep to find out what other papers have said about this…Why should he bring issue of Yusuf? To deter me from doing my job? To deter me from doing my oversight?This kind of whether you know they are blackmail cannot deter me, whatsoever, they can’t..I believe in Nigeria, I believe in President Muhammadu Buhari.I believe in what he is doing, I believe in APC as our party .I believe in making Nigeria better and Nigerians better.
Q: From there, let’s move to the Senate now.So you also believe in the leadership of the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan?
A: Of course, we didn’t have a better candidate.Iam telling you this from the bottom of my heart.We were there in the 8th Assembly with him.He was our Senate Leader in the 8th Assembly.We know his own capacity, we know his own capability inside out.
Q:If he is as competent and as good as you have painted where did this notion of some vote of confidence, that drama over vote of confidence some time ago, which was eventually stopped.It was a sign that some people were looking forward to leadership change in the Senate.Correct?
A:My brother, in politics, so many things can happen.There is what they call vocal minority.For me, our SP is doing a wonderful job
Q: That’s the Senate President.
A: Yes, he is leading us well.He has unified the House.He has unified both parties and we are working in good tandem, in an excellent harmony,unlike the previous leadership of the Senate, which was fighting..
Q:But there is the impression that the Senate is being made to become almost like a rubber stamp. Everything from the Executive goes without being questioned in details.
A:Were we elected to come and antagonise the executive? Is that what our electorate said, go and antagonise the executive? Of course, we have to work in harmony so that we can make Nigeria better.And what’s wrong with that?There is nothing wrong in working in harmony with the executive to make Nigeria better; and what is wrong with that? and that is not rubberstamping
Q: Let’s look at the pandemic we are facing now and its aftermath,the COVID-19 palliatives; incidentally your committee oversees the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry.I mean the response to the pandemic, in terms of palliatives are you satisfied with the facilities and efforts of the executive so far?
A: Yes and no. Whatever you do in this kind of situation, you are not going to provide palliative for each and every relevant person in this respect, let us be very honest with ourselves. However, within the resources that we have, we have to work with the platform that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs has inherited.Whether the platform is suitable or not, it is another matter.For me, the platform that is generating the activities now (was) not done the best way.I’m not satisfied with the platform.However being unsatisfied with the platform does not mean that we will not go ahead because if we say until we refine the platform in terms of conditional cash transfer, School feeding..
Q: Some people even find the School feeding as strange because how can you be feeding children, students or pupils who are at home?
A:This is what we are saying.Now instead of feeding them in schools, we said take the palliatives to the individual’s households, you can do that .But my problem is the National Social Register that was based on the thinking of World Bank and associating it with the Committee.The Committee where I came from, they are very very few, minimal number that are on the register. So we have to refine it.We need to refine it.So being in the process of refining, you cannot say stop. And then there is this COVID-19 that has come into it, what are you going to do? You lock people in their houses and cannot do anything.
Q: Are you comfortable…I am going into transparency and accountability issues.There were reports some time ago that some agencies were refusing to submit audited accounts and all of that.And the Senate had requested some agencies to respond.What is the response like?
A: Sir, NIRSAL is one of them.
Q: One of those that have not submitted their audited accounts?
A: Go to NIRSAL and ask them to give you their audited account for the past three years.
Q: And why have you not called on them to come and submit
A:No, a letter has been written, I’m sure they did.The Chairman of the Committee and the Secretariat, they must have written to request for those information.So there are about 600 or more revenue generating agencies
A: Yes in fact they are even a thousand now.I am just telling you the record that I have.They are what we call revenue generating agencies.So many of them that have not submitted their audited accounts. There are some of them that are in arrears. So many things, my brother, these are facts. But the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation is handling those issues ..I mean the office of the Accountant General of the Federation will request for their accounts of these and then the Auditor General where there (are) some issues will also go and audit and then submit report to the Public Accounts Committee ,which Iam also a member, public accounts committee.
Q: You can see why you are a target of everything..
A: So, it is not me who lobbied .It is not me who did this.People saw that probably I have my latent capability in adding value to whichever Committee Iam; and Iam very happy, I’m pleased to work within my own conscience,y own capability, my own capacity.I can tell you this, alot of things need to be done in all the Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government.A lot of things need to be done.That is why we are going to do a lot more oversighting just like what the Senate President has said, that we are going to spend much more time on oversighting than even doing other things.
Q: And is the Presidency cooperating with the Senate?
A: Well, the presidency, of course, certainly, President Muhammadu Buhari is happy with what we are doing,about trying to make sure, to do our oversighting well, to make sure that the executive can work well and provide service to Nigerians.