Recession, a result of many years of waste- Senator Buhari

As the National Assembly busies itself with the work of the 2017 appropriations budget by engaging the MDAs, CSOs and other stakeholders in public hearings and budget defence sessions with a view to passing the bill early enough, Senator Abdulfatai Buhari (Oyo North) in this Interview with CHRIS EMETOH, discusses governments plans on cyber-security, e-governance among other issues in the 2017 budget.
*****We want to find out some of the provisions for cyber/security and e-governance in this 2017 budget. We know that Nigeria has been embarking on e-governance for some time now. At a point I think it was about 70 percent complete, but it looks like the completion period is one that keeps dragging and I thought that we should have been through with this automation?
 Well, without jumping the gun. So far so good with the e-governance thing, if you remember very well it is a project between Nigerian government and South Korea. In fact I am one of the beneficiaries, because I was in South Korea last April and as at the time we went in last April they have gone almost about 50-55 percent. At that time what was delaying it was our own counterpart funding. What delays most counterpart funding is always Nigerian government when they are not putting on the table their own counterpart funding.
 I am happy to inform you that last year November we had a seminar here in Nigeria at the International Conference Centre when the Korean people came and they were telling us that it’s almost about 75 percent. So, if from April to November and early December this year we have about 25 percent additional you can see that we are really moving forward.
 Coming to this year’s budget, the Minister of Communication is slated for next week when they come we would see the nitty gritty of what they are presenting and I am assuring you that it is one of their own babies too that they are eager to follow. If we now find out that the amount they are putting there is small and you know the new budget you can move in from capital to capital, but you cannot move in from capital to recurrent. Fortunately, I am a member of the appropriations and it is one of the few things I will put my eyes on because it will help and save a lot of things in Nigeria.
 On the cyber-security that you asked, we have not gone far. It is sad for me to inform you that in the last one and half years, I have been trying to call all the stakeholders and we have been shifting it at their own instance, two times that we want a public hearing, a national conference on cyber-security I was able to open my eyes on that in the sense that we have the capacity. When we are doing our oversight functions we went to Galaxy Backbone, NITDA, NMS and NIGCOMSAT; I was shocked with the type of equipment they have over there.
 I said some few minutes ago that when we were in Korea I asked my counterpart, Liu Chon who was the chairman senate on ICT and cyber-crime in Korea that what is the rate of attack in your cyberspace, he said zero percent and I now asked him how, he said they have gatekeeper. They don’t allow you to enter the cyberspace, so from the gate you are knocked off, they are blocking and at any point in time 24/7 their gatekeeper is working and they concentrated more on the attack of the gatekeeper even like inside. If you can’t get in automatically it’s zero percent. They now showed us a film at their security site, you can now see attack coming from China and Russia in particular but at the gate they are always hitting them.
 Coincidentally, in the same place they showed us Africa’s site where there were so many attacks entering from different angles. When we now came back to the country, during our oversight functions I now went to Galaxy Backbone that happens to be one of the agencies under me. I was shocked that we have that type of equipment, he was also talking about gatekeeper, then why are we not using it, they said they needed some money to be able to get that equipment to get the gate keeping, if not all what they are trying to do is to block.
 ******Is the problem actually with the government funding or the capacity of Galaxy Backbone?
 One funny thing with technology, technology is every seconds, not even every minute, the way technology has reached now. So, at any point in time by the time you say you are moving they have already advanced and moved to another place. We need to be very serious as a nation. Let me give you an example, I think a week ago, a colleague of mine, Senator Dino Melaye came with a motion and he was raising something on our cyberspace.
 He said they brought a genocide that happened in Rwanda in the early 80’s and it shows that it happened in southern Kaduna. In normal circumstances I think if we had this gate keeper it will filter it out and it’s one of the reasons why as a committee we are trying to bring a bill on cyber-crime and cyberspace so that Galaxy Backbone or relevant agencies that they operate from the office of the NSA they will be able to filter what comes into our system. Even all over the world there is always an attack, but you can filter it and it’s what you want people to see that you allow, but they need a law to back it up to be able to work.
 Look at the social media, everywhere all over the world social media is a strength, but in Nigeria we are not using it to the maximum, even the social media journalists online some of them are what I call junk paper. For God sake if there is sanction it is wrong for any paper that is worth it to report something that is false and you will use your own stupidity to kill the integrity of others even when there are genuine news people will now use it against you and say that is how they are, but if there is what is called association or censorship it will be able to control what comes in, what filters out; people will not use it as a place to attack a colleague, but they will rather use it as a place where they can improve the country.
 ******You are a member of the Appropriation committee and the 2017 budget is ongoing. We are looking at committees meeting with MDAs, some people have argued that the budget itself is called budget of recovery, but within the proposal there is no provision to actually enhance the lives of Nigerians, which areas should give the people hope?
 Well, I disagree a bit with you in the sense that we met for the first time two days ago, that’s the budget committee. They just gave us a breakdown of the budget, I have gotten mine and I just brought it back this morning. I will be able to answer that after going through everything, but you know budget is not something any individual can say I can see from page to page, not even the director of budget. But there is one thing I am happy about in this year’s budget, the benchmark of oil, because it is saying that you can sell your oil with the benchmark of $45 per barrel and as of today it is about $55.
 Probably by the time we finish all things being equal we get it at $60 per barrel which means we have excess of chunk bunk of $15 and we are getting to control where we have it and then you multiply it by whatever difference we have that will be able to solve some problems. But we need to solve our own internal problems, with that alone it will give hope and it will be budget of recovery truly. I agree with the Emir of Kano when he said a country cannot strive or grow when you have 3 or 4 different exchange rates for dollar, I absolutely agree with him. We need to be seen as a serious country and that is don’t decide what dollar rate would be, allow the market forces liberalise it.
 I remember when we were in secondary school in the 80s, there was this book, O.A Lawal where they will tell you equilibrium, just a simple economy, but make sure that all what you should do is that you look inwards, shut your doors and when you do that the only way you can survive is that you must consume only what you produce.
 **There is a lot of talk about local content in the President’s speech when he came to present the budget. Now, it doesn’t seem that we are seeing much of that happening?
 You cannot say that because we have not finished it, let’s finish it. He has presented it and we would be able to go through them and by the time we go through them we will see. I remember last year the budget even before takeoff we had already started having turbulence like padding etc. But if you look at it this year the way so far the planning is something that is a bit okay. Like I said you can only get the impact of any budget all over the world based on implementation. If this is what you plan then you are able to achieve your implementation of your budget above 80 percent, because anywhere in the world 70 percent is a pass mark. Even the last budget give it to them they achieved over 70 percent which is something that is very new. I remember since I was in the House of Representatives, budget is normally below 20 to 30 percent, in fact they will tell you what will you do. So, the impact of last year’s budget we would be able to see it by the time we start implementing this one, but you will have to follow the contributions of our colleagues when we are doing the general principle of the budget.
 Like when I was making my own contribution I said one thing, don’t allow the budget of particular year to overlap to another year and the moment you do that you have created problems for yourselves. So, implement whatever you want to implement within the limit of their time so that you will know where you have your shortfall. Fundamentally, you can see the last year budget and be able to lay what is called a foundation and if we are able to prepare this one too and implement it, because you must not get a negative growth more than twice if not you won’t come out of recession. All over the world the definition of recession is when you have a negative growth twice and all what you need is to interject and push to zero; when you now push to zero at least when you are stable in zero but the time you do 1,2 or 3 budgets a day and you start moving to positive and that is the simple thing but it’s discipline. The discipline to do it is only the problem we have and I hope we would be able to do it.
**Lack of seriousness on the part of the government is actually creating opportunity for the so called ‘yahoo,yahoo boys’ to buy into this and start painting the image of Nigeria black, based on your earlier answer on cyber-security?
 You see the case of ‘yahoo yahoo boys’ at times and the funny thing is they even have an association. We wrote them a letter that instead of doing ‘yahoo yahoo’ to defraud other countries and give our country a bad image, why can’t you follow people like Facebook and do what they are doing.  Look at the young chap that was able to discover Facebook, Instagram and other social media, they were able to make name and make money.  You can even use that your talent to create awareness for others.
 Unfortunately for us, they used that talent to defraud and give the country a very bad image and that is the one that is not acceptable. There is a law in this country that was signed by former President Goodluck Jonathan in May, just like five days or six days before he left on cyber crime. Most people did not know that this law exist, but by the time we are able to do the public hearing, then the conference and we are able to amend the law, there would be what we call censorship, there would be what we call purifying social media in areas where people just use it anyhow.
 We must remember one thing, this country is greater than any individual, our country is first, so we are not saying anybody should not do business, you can do business, you can do a lot of transactions, but the fear of the unknown, of people attacking you must be addressed.
Let me give you an example of my personal experience, I left an instruction in my bank, I don’t do internet banking. If I want money I issue my cheque or I come to the bank, because our space is not safe enough, before you realise it your money has gone and insurance here in Nigeria they won’t pay. In a developed world when something happens to your money and you are sure that you are not the one who used that money and if they refuse to pay you that money they will tell you to take them to court you get more money. Nobody pities you in Nigeria. All they need is your data and the moment they get your information that’s all.
 **You belong to the ruling party, what exactly is going on and this is the year that is a make or mar year for your government in power, fortunately you have both Houses under the APC. What exactly is the party and your government doing to ensure that Nigerians get the benefits of democracy?
 You see the truth of the matter is that with the benefits of an insider the situation we met on ground is not palatable and everybody knows that. Having said this, I was arguing with a friend of mine and he said it is not palatable when you came in the dollar was N150 and now dollar is N500 what kind of palatable are you telling me. I said look at it from this angle, the situation that was on ground when we came in was very bad but that is not an excuse.
 I am even blaming not only the past government, I am blaming Nigerians generally even in our way of life, we never take things serious. We never planned, even forget about government. In every individual home, the way we do things is with lackadaisical attitude. They say make hay while the sun shine, when the boom was there in the early 70s we were there increasing salaries instead of increasing infrastructure. There is this popular adage in Yoruba that says “cripple why is your load bent, and he will say you are only looking up, you are not looking down”. At the time we are having it, I remember very well when we were in the University in the early 80s you will eat three square meals and you pay 50 kobo. At that time, other people when there is boom what they do is they invest in infrastructure for the generation yet unborn. Our own we were consuming it. We don’t plan.
 Let me take the upper echelon, the National Assembly members, you will see your colleague that you are in the same assembly with if he missed the chance of coming back in the election and after 2 months you will see him as someone who is broke because they don’t plan. You must be able to plan even you as a journalist we have a role to play. It is you and I that need to work on that.
I will say assess us after May 29th, 2019. Usain Bolt will tell you focus on the team, the end justifies the means. We may start slow and I can assure you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. When you see seriousness, when you see people that have hope give it to the present government, either we like it or not there is no lavish spending again and that alone is one of the achievements
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