Rep. Sam Iheanyichukwu Onuigbo, Member Representing Ikwuano/ Umuahia Federal constituency
Rep. Sam Iheanyichukwu Onuigbo, Member Representing Ikwuano/ Umuahia Federal constituency
Rep. Sam Onuigbo says he looks forward to seeing a Nigeria wherein every citizen whether Ijaw, Efik, Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba can attain the highest office in the land, without let or hindrance. “A country where everyone has a sense of belonging because he or she feels fairly and equitably treated. That is my dream.” In this exclusive interview with Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable, the Federal Lawmaker it up you we we went further to say that the primary function of a government was to provide security and welfare to the people.
Hon. Sam Onuigbo
National Assembly member, Hon. Sam Onuigbo trained in Finance, Accounting and Corporate Governance. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, London; Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Management – Chartered; Member, ASIS International, Virginia, USA and Patron, Nigerian Institute of Management, Umuahia Chapter. After over 17 years of unbroken and meritorious service with the US Embassy, Nigeria, during which he held the highly sensitive position of the Supervisory Fraud Prevention Specialist, he voluntarily resigned. He is a recipient of several Meritorious Honour Awards from the US Department of State; Professional and Vocational Service Awards from Rotary Club International; Award of Honour from the Forum of Commissioners of Finance of Nigeria; several Long Service Awards from the U.S. Department of State; Letters of Commendation from two former US Ambassadors to Nigeria. At the National level, Onuigbo was Special Adviser, Public Affairs, Office of the Speaker, House of Representatives, National Assembly, Abuja. At the state level, he was Commissioner, Ministry of Lands and Survey; former Commissioner for Finance. He is currently the member representing Ikwuano/Umuahia North/South Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives after becoming the first representative from the constituency to be re-elected. Since assuming office as a federal legislator, Sam Onuigbo has sponsored motions and bills that have impacted the lives of not only his constituents, but also Nigerians at large. In 2019, he was elected to the Board of Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE) International, as the Vice-President Africa (the first Nigerian to be so recognised). He is also the current President of GLOBE Nigeria, after serving as its Vice-President between 2016-2019.He is also the Chairman of Climate Parliament, Nigeria.
You Chaired the House Committee on Climate Change in the 8th Assembly and have continued to be a huge advocate of the country and indeed the world paying attention to the impacts of Climate Change. Why should Nigerians be worried about Climate Change?
Nigerians should be worried about the devastating effects of Climate Change exactly the same way we are worried about every day survival needs. The negative effects affect us more because we rely on natural supply of water, rain and sun for our agricultural purposes. Those of us that rely on the activities of fishermen whose areas of operation have been so devastated to the extent that they do not even have where to keep their canoes again because of the impacts of coastal erosion have to be worried. We should be concerned because even the developed nations are also coming up with ideas; they are finding alternative ways of taking care of the environment. For instance, they are moving towards electric cars, renewable energy, as against the use of fossil fuel for energy, and when they succeed, it means we will be left with our fuel here, no demand, and no purchase. For an economy highly dependent on oil, that would bankrupt us, except if we begin now to key into just transition to cleaner energy sources and the commensurate economic benefits that come with them. We should also be worried because the impact of Climate Change has some security implications. The Sahel Region has been devastated by Climate Change such that farmers can no longer farm in those areas and as such they have been forced by environmental challenges arising from Climate Change to now start looking for where to stay and earn their living. Such farmers if they do not have other skills apart from farming will become ready-tools in the hands of insurgents or bandits. We should be concerned because the impact of Climate Change has increased the drought in the Sahara Desert which is now encroaching into where before was lush grassland. We should be worried as Nigerians because a place like Lake Chad that previously provided means of livelihood for between 35-40 million persons in countries that depend on it has dried up from what used to be 25,000 square miles to now less than 2,500 square miles, meaning that those people who were engaged in farming, animal husbandry and fishing in those areas are looking for where to migrate to. This has of course led to clashes. So Nigerians should be worried. The impact of Climate Change also leads to serious health challenges. It is estimated by the World Health Organization that about 150,000 persons die annually from the direct impact of Climate Change. This figure will rise to 250,000 between 2030 and 2050. This does not include the millions that die due to health issues complicated by the impacts of Climate Change. In fact, it is estimated that by 2030, 100million persons would have died from the direct and indirect impacts of Climate Change with global economic growth cut by 3.2% of GDP. So we should be concerned because Climate Change is a cross-cutting problem. It is not restricted to Ministries of Environment or Agriculture. It also concerns activities of the farmers, how they burn the forests, and how they bring down trees without replanting new ones. And then you talk of activities around the petroleum industry. In places like Rivers and Bayelsa States, the menace of soot is there, causing serious health challenges now and for the future. So, we should be able to look for ways and means of addressing these challenges taking into consideration the wellbeing of our people.
Most Nigerians are disturbed about the security situation in the country. How worried are you. Where did we get it wrong and what is the way forward?
I am disturbed because the primary function of a government is the provision of security and welfare for the people. Once you provide security, the individual can now go out and do his or her business and then have a good welfare. Without security, you cannot make any meaningful progress. No matter how rich you think you are, if you hear the sound of a gun around your neighborhood you do not need anybody to tell you that something that can kill you is coming close. So I think everyone is disturbed and everyone should really be disturbed at this point. Way forward? All hands must be on deck to stop the madness that is going on. The reason I am saying this is because if we fail to arrest this situation, it has the potential to engulf everybody and destroy all that we have laboured for and built over the years.
What practical things can government at the three tiers do to keep the youth away from criminality considering the fact that they are always the ones used by selfish Nigerians?
What they need to do is to create employment. They should start empowering the youths to keep them busy. In those days when I was working for a newspaper outfit, you go to work early and come back late–if you are lucky to come back that day. So you do not have any time to start thinking and implementing evil ideas. When people are busy, they will be able to get over evil thoughts. We need to go back to ethical re-orientation. We have to turn people away from unhealthy rivalry and primitive acquisition of wealth. I also want to appeal to the young ones to calm down because if you destroy everything, then what will be left behind for you to inherit when you finally assume leadership positions? Unfortunately, Nigerian youths who are the future of this country have been excluded in many things. What one can say about them is that they will inherit the nation’s debt and the many injustices we are sowing today. In my view, that is not what we should bequeath to our youths—the resourceful youths of Nigeria.
I have also facilitated a road that is under construction at Umuecheokwu, Umuovo, Old Umuahia and down to Amakama in Umuahia South LGA. And as I speak with you, I am working on two major projects. One of it is a market; the second one is a road project that will pass from Okwe in Ikwuano LGA, through Obuohia to Nkari in Ini LGA of Akwa Ibom State. When that road is done, it will reduce the journey from Umuahia to Calabar by one hour and you know Calabar is a major port in the country. Calabar also has an Export Processing Zone and major cement manufacturers are located there. We need good roads to be able to convey a lot of things coming from Calabar to other parts of the country. I also believe that providing alternative means of livelihood is an important way of impacting on your constituents. In view of that, we have also been able to do the following: training of select women and youths from Ikwuano/Umuahia Federal Constituency on fashion designing by the Industrial Trust Fund; training for mechanics in their workshops at Mgbuka, Ohiya Mechanic Village, by the National Automation Council; training of select youths from Ikwuano/Umuahia Federal Constituency on Solar Panels installation, POP and painting, and web design by the Industrial Trust Fund; training of select women and youths from Ikwuano/Umuahia Federal Constituency on fish farming by the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology, Lagos; training of 1,500 women and youths from Ikwuano/Umuahia Federal Constituency on how to start and manage small businesses by the Border Communities Development Commission. This was followed by provision of stipends; training and empowerment of small-holder poultry farmers with galvanized battery cages, bags of feed, Point-of-Lay birds (65 each) and money through the Ministry of Agriculture; training and empowerment of small-holder poultry farmers with galvanized battery cages, bags of feed, Point-of-Lay birds and money through the Federal Co-operative College Oji-River. There are more trainings and empowerment programmes being planned.
Give me a picture of Nigeria of your dream?
The picture of Nigeria of my dream is where there is justice, equality, equity, fairness, and where there is recognition of every segment of the country. A place where the nation is allowed to achieve its full potentials as envisaged by the founding fathers of this country. This country is an immensely blessed nation with human and material resources. You can see the records Nigerians are creating all over the world. I want to see a situation where these Nigerians are able to freely express themselves to bring out their highest potential, so that it is not only outside that you see Nigerians excel. I want to see a situation where Nigerians excel within the country and bring out the full potential of this nation and make it that happy, successful, prosperous and virile nation that we are all craving of for. In a nutshell, I would like to see where every Nigerian whether Ijaw, Efik, Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba can attain the highest office in the land, without let or hindrance. A country where everyone has a sense of belonging because he or she feels fairly and equitably treated. That is my dream.
What are your thoughts about the strike of judicial workers and parliamentary staff over autonomy?
It is very sad that a nation of the size of Nigeria could operate without the courts for months. This is a risky development because you need the courts to be working to be able to administer justice; to be able to ensure that judges deliberate on issues and even release those who are not supposed to be in jail. You need the courts to work so that those who need court order to carry out their business can do so. Of course, at the personal level, you need the courts to be on for lawyers to earn their living because it is a very significant segment of the country, so their strike is a very sad commentary. The question is why are we here? We are here because there is a disagreement between the Governors and the judicial workers and those working at the state Houses of Assembly. It is obvious that the Governors have resisted granting these people financial autonomy; a financial autonomy that the constitution prescribes in Section 121(3) is what the Governors are contesting and this flies in the face of ordinary people. Why are they contesting the autonomy of the Judiciary, an arm of the government? With this, they are creating a very poor impression of the country: the country is being seen in bad light. Investors will always rely on the independence of the Judiciary in case there is a business dispute. How do you get judgment; how do you get compensation for breach of contract if the courts are shut down? So for me, it is a source of concern, and I see it as double standard that the Governors accept other provisions of the constitution like Section 3(1) which lists the names of their states; Section 5(2)(a) and Section 308, that are favourable to their office, but do not want the one that has to do with financial autonomy for the Judiciary and the Houses of Assembly . If we want to move Nigeria forward, we have to obey the provisions of the constitution and then show the world that we are governed by people who rely on the provisions of our constitution. Not following the constitution leads to bad governance and maladministration and the by-product of maladministration is the kind of things we are seeing in the country today. So, everyone must appeal to the Governors to move fast and save the nation.
Culled from famousreporters.com