From Obinna Odogwu, Awka
The senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Ifeanyi Ubah, has given an insight into why Nigeria lost billions of naira to the international oil companies (IOCs) in its oil exploration activities before his bill on Deep Offshore which eventually became an Act helped the country to stop the losses.
Ubah, a member of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), said that the bill was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari while he was on his hospital bed in London considering its importance.
He said that it was the first time a Nigerian president was signing a bill into law outside the shores of the country.
The senator, who contested the November 6, 2021 governorship election in Anambra State on the YPP’s platform, also gave reasons insecurity in the state has persisted.
The lawmaker also spoke on other issues of national concern in a chat with some journalists in Awka, the state capital and Sunday Sun was there. Excerpts:
You have been in the National Assembly for more than three years now. What have you been doing there?
Since the existence of Anambra South Senatorial zone, no senator has done, in his first tenure, 30 per cent of what I have done in my tenure. In the next few months, I will unveil my scorecard pertaining to Anambra South. And the essence of it is very important. Anybody given a mandate to represent the people must also go back to the people and tell them what they have done. But let me give you a few points. I will start with Nigeria and then come back to Anambra State and move down to Anambra South. Never in the history of legislation in Nigeria has any legislator raised a motion that got the president to sign outside the shores of Nigeria. No president has ever signed a bill outside the shores of Nigeria. I am the first senator that made that possible in the history of Nigeria. It is my motion and my bill today that is the highest bill that is giving Nigeria over N700 billion annually. In fact, I can tell you today that in the 9th Senate, my bill today is responsible for the payment of salaries to 70 per cent of Nigerian civil servants. As journalists, go and do your investigations. I raised a motion that brought about the bill for the Deep Offshore Act. This is an agreement between the Nigerian military regime and the international oil companies (IOCs) over the last 20 something years that enabled the upstream investors to drill Nigerian oil from the deep offshore. That agreement between Nigeria and international oil companies (IOCs) signed by the military regime has been like that and the agreement was that after 10 years, Nigeria will renegotiate. But since then, over 25 years, there has never been a renegotiation. They continued to milk Nigeria. And that constitutes close to 70 per cent of Nigeria’s total oil production. And they have been making this money annually. I am not saying N700 million. I said N700 billion annually. In the next three or four weeks, I am going to write to the president and make it a national issue because by right, Nigerian is supposed to be paying whistleblowers five per cent to my senatorial district and I think that we should revisit it because nobody in the history of Nigeria has given Nigeria this kind of upliftment. It is something that has never been done in the history of Nigeria. And immediately I raised the motion, it sparked international concerns and there was a lot of pressure which made Mr President to sign it on his hospital bed in London and made it a law. No president has ever signed a bill outside the shores of his country. My bill made Mr President to sign it and Nigeria is benefitting N700 billion. If you have a legislator that just went for the first time and raised such a thing, I don’t know what title you will give him. You know, it is the Lord that doeth all these things. It is not by my own power. It is the grace God has given me; by the little knowledge I have in the industry. And that was the very first bill Mr President signed. I have given to Nigeria what belongs to Nigeria. I have also played a role as a politician by proving that a journey of a million miles starts with a step, but a good one and contentment is the keyword. I am the very first politician that has ever gotten to the Senate of Nigeria with a relatively unknown political party and I got there and remained in that Senate with that political party throughout my tenure. It is a point of concern. It is a point of contentment and it is very, very important because people see politicians as unstable people who cannot stick to one political party. I know that before I came to this party I have been in many political parties. Maybe from one point to the other; either they disqualified me or they moved me out but I have always been a good party man. But thank God that He used YPP to bring me to the Senate. And in reciprocating, I am also giving back to the party. I remain the only elected officer of the YPP in the whole country; not a counsellor, not a House of Assembly member, or House of Representatives. But I believe that one with God is the majority. I am glad that today God has answered our prayers and our party is being recognised because of our tenacity; and I am having wonderful people, wonderful enablers that have come so that we can help to build our party. Today, we have two sitting House of Assembly members from Oyi and Nnewi South. We have them in our kitty. We have the former member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and others.
You have talked about what you did in NASS for the growth of the country as a lawmaker. What has been your contribution to Anambra State?
The biggest problem in the world today is COVID-19. I am the only senator that used my position to gather my friends and we were able to move the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH) from their temporary site to the permanent site. We were able to raise a hospital for COVID through contributions of my friends for Anambra South. We also did the same to UNIZIK for Anambra Central. And now we are building another one in Odakpu Onitsha for Anambra North. It means my representation has added value to the state because I am not talking about Anambra South Senatorial District. I am talking about Anambra State. Under my tenure in Anambra South, I have decided to bring institutions because if you have institutions through my bills and my motions, and we are able to erect five institutions during my tenure, it means that Anambra South will be having subvention every year. So, today, I brought through my bill, a security installation. In the entire Nigeria, there is an institution for strategic security. You have it in every zone. Only the Southeast zone was excluded. I went to the Senate and insisted that the Southeast must have its own. In fact, we used to have an SSS office in Enugu at Independence Layout over the years, but for some reasons it moved away. There was a protest forcing them to leave. So, immediately they left, about 10 or 15 years ago, there was no representation of international security institutions in the whole of the Southeast. I brought it to Anambra South. By the grace of God today, we have erected a hall for them in Nawfija, Orumba South Local Government Area. If you go there you’ll see that institution. By the grace of God, before the end of the year, the security personnel will come to Anambra South to launch it. And that bill was fought between me and Abia State but we were able to bring it to Anambra State. If you go to Oraifite today you will see the Institute for Petroleum Research where we want to deal with issues in that sector. We are specializing in tanker safety in the whole country and we were able to create a bill that will harness that issue. So, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, the issue of tanker accidents and things like that will be addressed. When a tanker falls, you won’t know the driver driving it; you don’t know the vehicle that is towing the tanker. You can’t use Peugeot to be towing 911. Anytime there was an accident, you won’t see the driver. So, we are creating an institute where the drivers, the owners will make sure that they’re fully insured. And if at any point, the vehicle has the whole requisite requirement to be on the road, in case it falls, they will call the petroleum tanker police. So, that will also give us over 10,000 employment opportunities in Anambra South, Anambra State and Nigeria. I am bringing that institution to Oraifite. A hall has also been erected through my legislative input. We also have a hall in Mbosi in Anambra South where we have the Institute of Aviation Training. Mbosi is the hometown of the Air Peace boss. So, I am building institutions. We have also, for the first time, sickle cell anaemia institute. We are building it in Nanka. This is a total departure from what used to be. This is because when you have these institutions, subvention will be coming every year and we start training people that will be representing Nigeria in Lufthansa. We will create a law. We won’t want Lufthansa to be coming to Nigeria and all the international airlines coming to Nigeria without seeing one single Nigeria as a crew member. So, it will be an opportunity for us to get that institute certified and then use that institute to also help in training our people to become internationally… We are no more talking about roads, pipe borne water, and public toilets. No! No! No! We are using legislation to set up institutions that will train our children and make them internationally acceptable to international organisations. Under me, within these past three years, I have been able to use legislation to create institutions that can give over 30,000 jobs to Nigerians. So, these were my interventions. As a first timer in the National Assembly, I am not the chairman of any committee but I am able to do all these things. Some of my colleagues are ranking senators and they’re chairmen. If you check the demography of Anambra State, Stella Odua is the Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation and she represents Anambra North. Uche Ekwunife is the Chairman of Senate Committee on Petroleum Technology and she represents Anambra Central. In that same Central, there is the Director General of Budget. The Director General of FEMA is from Anambra Central and they’re all doing well. But if you come to Anambra South, we don’t have anybody. It is only Ifeanyi Ubah and I am doing my best. I am beating others in terms of performance. So, it is about strategy and that is why I am seeking re-election so that I can go and complete the good job that I am doing there. For the first time in these three years you have a N200 million hospital in Ula Ekwulobia. You have another hospital of about N150 million in Uga. These are things I have done. These are institutions that serve humanity and they are outside of the ones I mobilised my friends to do in Nnewi Teaching Hospital, UNIZIK and Onitsha. Also from my legislative inputs, we have been able to build a hospital in Aguata. Go to Nnewi today, you will see things that we are doing there. Also, by the grace of God before the end of this year, we have achieved presently about 78 per cent. Every community in my constituency has gotten something from me. Before October, I don’t know if I will hit 100 per cent but I pray that at least I can get to 90 per cent.
Your constituency appears to be the hotbed of insecurity in Anambra State now. The state has declared curfew in the affected local areas. How closely are you working with the governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, to ensure that insecurity in the area is contained?
After our election, I am the very first person that called my governor to congratulate him and also gave him assurance that I will work with him and that I will not challenge him in the court even though I know some irregularities of that election as it were. But I said that the election has been contested, won and in order to give peace a chance in Anambra State, I have conceded and I am not going to challenge him. That’s a big relief from me. Secondly, I told the governor, I said ‘Sir, the best thing you will give to Anambra State is, number one, security; number two, security; number three, security. I said that after 90 days, if I don’t conduct an election, Ndi Anambra should stone me. I said it in my campaign. But also, I came back to tell the governor that the biggest thing he can give to Ndi Anambra is security. I didn’t just tell him that on the phone, I asked him to call the meeting of the legislators from Anambra State, let’s meet. I made that call three times. Eventually, he heeded to my advice and called a meeting where we all met in Abuja. In that meeting, the governor said that his first priority is to go to Okpoko and I told him not to do that. I am the only one that rose and said ‘Sir, it is a wrong move. Don’t go to Okpoko first. Give Anambra security because we need security. If you go to Okpoko today with your army and security details, people will not move around.’ And I said it before every elected member of the legislature from Anambra State in his house in Abuja. I am talking to the governor. I am so committed to the security of Ndi Anambra. So, it is not about telling somebody. It is also about somebody heeding to your advice and then doing the right thing. If the governor feels that he will invite me for us to discuss extensively on issues of security, I am free, but I have not had that invitation. But God bears me witness that I have spoken to him every time we spoke. If we have spoken about maybe four, five times since after the election, it is all about security in the entire discussion from my own end. I have not asked for anything else than for him to give Anambra people security.
What feedback do you get from your constituents concerning the state of insecurity in that senatorial district? We have heard so much from that side.
Well, I am sure you know that during #EndSARS, in the whole Nigeria, I am the politician that comforted EndSARS (protesters). Some of these uprising that is happening today are offspring from EndSARS. I am not saying in Anambra or the Southeast. I said in the whole country and I stand to be corrected. No politician came out and embraced the youths during the EndSARS. I did it. In fact, at a point I was begging the rioters not to destroy public institutions. If I have done it, then you can as well ask yourself some questions. Will I now keep quiet? Security issues are not something you discuss in public. But that’s why I have said that I have told the governor in the midst of everybody that was there. Uche Ekwunife, Stella Odua, Chinedu Obidigwe, Ifeanyi Muoma and others were all there and I told the governor that I was there because of the security concerns in Anambra State. I told him to leave Okpoko. Go and quote me. I said it.
The governor said that the people behind the insecurity in Anambra are from outside the state and his predecessor said that it was being sponsored by politicians from other states. As a politician on ground, what information do you have on this? Where do you think these people come from?
First and foremost, I am not the governor of Anambra State and I don’t have the mandate to go into that. But within my constituency and also with my privileged position in the National Assembly, I am doing the much I can to find solutions. I sincerely believe that issues that concern security are an all inclusive thing. We need to be having meetings with the elected representatives of the people. Some of these things have overweighed the elected local officers like the presidents-general and the traditional rulers. Most of the Igwes are now in Awka. So, if we are serious about insecurity, then we should be having from time to time serious meetings. For example, I may be representing an institution of security in the National Assembly as a member of the committee and another person might be representing another one. We are the representatives of the people. If you don’t have an election we are the ones that feel it. If there is anything that is happening, it is us that feel it. So, I am doing my best and I won’t go to say that people from outside the state are doing this thing because I have not confronted them. But at the same time, even if it is people from other states, some of them have lived in Anambra State. It is the rat at home that told the one in the bush that there is fish inside ngiga (cage). You can’t just come from anywhere and you start attacking our people without having a collaboration of somebody within. So, it is only the governor that is empowered by law to take care of that in the state. He receives security briefings. It is not within the context of my jurisdiction.