Wikileaks Reports Are Beer Parlour Gossips-Jonathan
The Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has described the Wikileaks report recently being churned out as a beer palour gossip. He also denied some of the reports against him as published by Wikileaks.
President Jonathan also talked on sundry issues in the country in an interview session which is still on-going as at the time of this report. Below is a summary of his response to some questions posed to him:
The issue of power has become a problem for the country. What is happening to the megawatts?
I am not going to talk about megawatts. A lot of projects are going on. A lot of turbines. But the issue with it is that as at the time the turbines were being installed, the gas supply to them is limited.
In the next three to six months, we will continue to improve on distribution.
Private sector should be involved in generation and distribution.
Before now, investors were not to sure of the project. We are also working on our dams. Some can generate 30 megawatts which could power a small village.
I can assure you that we are working hard and we will no longer go backward, but forward.
From 1999 to date, Nigeria has spent N2 trillion on the power sector with nothing to show for it. How much more are we willing to spend?
Not only Nigeria is worried. All of us in government are not happy that a country that can flare gas, has dams cannot provide power. The power infrastructure is such that if you don't complete the project, you won't get power. Even the smallest components must be fixed.
It is not the figures but you must complete it and bring gas to the turbines. Sometimes it can take over 200 kilometres from the gas source to the turbines.
It is sometimes complicated and people don't know.
Nigerians have complained about centralisation of power at centre. In those days the region used to take care of themselves bit his is no longer so and the people think power should be given to the States and local governments. What do you think?
Until 2005, there were no federal government lights in Bayelsa State. States are encouraged to do it. They are involved. We have a number of laws and responsibilities that are in the exclusive list. The power sector is not even a problem because it is where you and I can generate power. The turbines would be privatised. The only thing the states can do is to say that when they generate power, it should be distributed within the state and not send to other states.
If you look at the tariff in Nigerian power sector with those of other countries, you would discover it is still very low. The man who earns N18, 000 monthly would be happy if the tariff is increased and there is power 24 hours. His wife may be in business that uses power. The issue is not the tariff but the power. If there is power many Nigerians would make double profits.
There is a problem of foreign direct investments and cost of doing business is high in the country. Are you also bothered about this?
The cost of doing business is very high. We have agreed that we must bring it low and have the best global practice. People complain about our visa policies. So, why can't we give 10 years visas to global players? How can you improve investment with a two year visa for example when I, as a Deputy Governor then was given a five year visa.
Most Nigerians think there should be more money to the state government and local government instead of the federal taking a better part of it.
The revenue formula in this country is reviewed from time to time. When we just came in while I was in Bayelsa, the revenue was just N135 million, but it was reviewed later. The revenue formula is not static. It could be reviewed. Whether the federal earns the money or whether the state or local government earn the money, what we are saying is that it should be used judiciously. Majority of the prisoners today are sent there by the states, but the federal government takes care of them and pays the prison warders.
Recently, you intervened in the and the prices of cement reduced. But today, it has gone up again. What is responsible for this?
The issue of cement is like a tumour or boil on the body of a child. If you want to excise the tumour, the child would resist the surgical blade even though it needs the pain to go away.
The problem with cement is that our infrastructures are weak. It is easy and cheap to import cement now. But the good news is that by the first quarter of next year, we would be talking about exporting cement. Dangote himself told me that by December 2012, we would be exporting cement. But we must ensure our rail networks pass through the cement plants instead of using trucks to haul them.
We are talking about growth in the economy, yet there are challenges of Jobs and unemployment. How could this be resolved?
Our economy is growing, but the challenge is the number of youths we have. One key thing is to transmit the growth of the economy to the welfare of the people. If you see what is happening, we now have an economic team formed by a cluster of ministries. In agriculture also, we evolved a policy of not making Agricultural farms again, but to make them business so as to make it attractive. No one Ministry is an island now. They must complement each other.
In the last four months, we have lost trillions of naira to the capital market. What can be done about this?
The issue with the capital market is one sad story. Most of these banks collapsed because of the practice in the capital market. Stock market is not jackpot business. Many people did not understand trading in stock and several people including carpenters were convinced to invest in stocks. A lot of the stocks were overpriced. But unfortunately, the market is now against their expectation. We are not happy, but there is nothing we can do.
How is agriculture to be revived in the country?
We thought Nigeria should lead Africa. We want to be in the Security Council, but we must not be hungry or seen to be hungry. South West is the most industrialised in Nigeria, but the poverty level there is still higher than in the north central because of agriculture. Before now, all the Ministers were interested in is buying fertilisers and tractors, but that is not the same again. From Agriculture alone now, we are expecting about two million employments. We have changed. Only 11 per cent of farmers get the fertilisers we spend money on to subsidise. We are moving away from all these rubbish. Before the end of this administration, we would not import some food items like rice. People come to me for waivers on rice importation, but I am not giving because we must produce ours.
People are clamouring for a Sovereign National Conference. Do you support it?
I support that Nigeria must discuss and we are discussing. People call it different names, but talk is talk. We are going to set up a committee, but not the national conference, to collate issues that Nigerians have constantly talked about and forward them to the National Assembly.
I don't believe that Nigeria will disintegrate, because we have been discussing.
How can you reduce the cost of running government?
In terms of the cost, it is not just the political office holders alone, but in terms of jobs that are created. I have set up a committee to review the parastatals of government and reduce areas that need to be reduced. We cannot regulate that of the states because it is a federal system. There should be more money for capital projects and we will have to cut it down.
Many Nigerians have kicked against the six-year single term. So you regret making the proposal?
I have no regrets at all about making it. The issue of single tenure is to stabilise the polity which would translates into the economy. One problem why Nigeria has remained like this is that there has not been a stable political system since independence. The four year tenure breeds tension. As we are talking now, some people are already holding meetings against 2015. The four year tenure would not make the actors work as they would be pursuing the other tenure. This is not the first time the issue of single tenure is coming up. It happened during the time of Alex Ekweme when a five-year single tenure was proposed.
It is as a result of trying to reduce this tension that led to the proposal.
The cost of organising elections too is huge. In INEC alone, we spent almost N130 billion. The four years is quite short. In Africa, elections create a lot of social unrest. I really did not talk about six years but seven for the Presidents and governors while the parliamentary elections would be six years and multiple. We would throw it to Nigerians but I am convinced that it would stabilise the polity. You know people suspect every move you make and feel you have hidden agenda. People comment on it even though they don't even understand it and people are feasting on the rumour. It is only when they see the bill that they could comment.
Wikileaks has been churning out reports. What is your reaction to this?
The whole concept of wikileaks is like beer parlour gossips and I am not a soothsayer, so I don't know how true they are. The recent one about me is that one of my aides said I am part of the system that spoilt the Niger Delta as one of the old order and in another part, I was rated positively.
The one involving my wife being intercepted with huge sum is a lie. Nothing like that ever happened. She did not travel as the period they talked about. I for example only travelled once to Dubai. What I can say is that they are gossips.
Judiciary has been reduced to ridicule. Are you also worried about that?
We are all worried about that. One thing I can tell Nigerians now is that the judiciary would reform itself and the way I am looking at it, the Nigerian judiciary will come out strong and better.