“We have to remove regulations” – Atiku

An exclusive interview with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party

Excerpts:

How do you see Africa faring amid an international trade war?

Atiku Abubakar: It is certainly not a good moment for Africa. The West colonised Africa, set up all the institutions in Africa, and eventually granted independence to Africa. Now it has been withdrawing from Africa over the years. First, they started with establishment of the European Union (EU). The moment the EU was established, the British started withdrawing from Africa, the French started withdrawing. So they left a vacuum. Africa has never been a US destination. So Africa was left on its own, whether for good or bad I don’t know. In one sense it is better for Africa to be independent. Of course, for the purposes of international cooperation, trade and investment Africa has to look elsewhere.

Are you happy that China is filling that vacuum?

Loans from China have [fewer] conditionalities [than] loans from the West. When you have less conditionality, there is the tendency that the money you borrow is likely to be misapplied, misused, misappropriated. And when the money borrowed is not invested in a sector that can make profit, then you are likely to default. With the West, they lend you money, and it has to be based on an investment schedule and there must be returns. In the case of China, they are just giving you money – “Okay go and build an airport,” or “Go and build a railway station.” Where are the feasibility studies? What is the return on investment? How long will it take you to repay the money?

You have called President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic policy archaic. On what grounds?

It’s not market friendly and because of that we have not been getting much foreign investment. If anything, in fact, we have witnessed a flip of foreign investment out of Nigeria. Many foreign companies have closed shop in this country simply because the wrong economic policies have been implemented.

You say you would let the naira exchange rate be set by the market. How would you deal with the resulting inflation?

I would prefer to float the naira because I believe that will bring about a more stable exchange rate. Therefore, foreign investors are more likely to return to Nigeria and invest as much as possible. We have to create more incentives for foreign investment and relax conditionalities, remove regulations as much as possible.

In an import-dependent economy, surely that will drive up inflation?

But what you forget, it has two side effects. There could be devaluation and there could be a lot of inflow of foreign currency into the country. The devaluation that is likely to result can be balanced with the relatively huge [sums of] foreign currency that will be coming into the country.

We had that situation prior to the departure of [former president] Goodluck Jonathan. At that time, we had a pile of foreign investment in the country, and there was stability of the naira. So people did not have to go to the central bank to look for foreign exchange because there was foreign exchange in the market and in the banks. So it could turn out to be a win-win situation.

You are calling for restructuring of the federation, which means the oil-producing states will get a bigger share of the revenue. How much?

That will depend on negotiations between them and other parts of Nigeria. But I know they can get more because in the First Republic the regions had 50/50. I don’t mind giving even 100% […], but I would tax those states to maintain the federal government.

You are in favour of giving all the oil-producing states in this country total control over their resources?

For now, it’s not advisable at this stage of our development. Even during the First Republic there was this derivation sharing between revenues and resour­ces, or between the regions and the federal government. So I think we could have a middle course. It would be unfair to ask me for specifics; that will depend on negotiations.

There is an education crisis in Nigeria, with growing numbers of children outside school. How would you fix it?

There is no will on the part of the Nigerian government, at federal and state level, to see that the standard of education is improving. We introduced free primary in 2004. We omitted to provide penalties for state governments that did not meet [those demands]. If I had the opportunity again, I would introduce a penalty clause, to make it not only compulsory, but if you don’t meet the target then you are penalised.

The numbers of children outside school are particularly high in the north. Would you impose special measures?

You make education compul­sory – if you don’t send your child to school you are punished for that – and you increase your edu­cational budget to train more teachers, build more classrooms. I tried to do it as a vice-president because I realised how backward the north was. You know that we have an educational tax?

If you import goods in this country we charge you educational tax. We collect billions at the federal government and distribute to these states to enhance education, but they misuse and misappropriate all this money. So if you tell [these states] I will go and directly build the schools, they will sit up and do something about it.

On security, you would give state governments the power to run their own police forces? What would happen if some state governors were to abuse those powers?

I want to devolve policing as well to the states. They’ll be free to run their own police forces. If they cannot, they can come together, two or three states to do it, depending on how they want [to do it].

We have the same thing. The federal government is misusing the police, is misusing the milit­ary. So if you are talking of abuse, every level of government abuses.

How would you tackle the clashes between herders and farmers, as well as banditry and cattle-rustling?

In each province in the north, we used to have a grazing reserve. During the season, the cattle are in the reserves. When it is off-­season, when farmers would have cultivated all their crops, then the cattle move out to the areas where the farmers have cultivated, allowing the grass in the grazing reserves to grow. These grazing reserves have been abandoned over the years.

One way is to make sure that we give local leaders the power to resolve disputes between farmers and grazers.

What role could economics play in resolving the crisis?

I have decided to set up a factory to produce livestock feeds in each of the zones in the northern states. I have set up one in Yola, one will be completed here in Abuja this December and another one will be done in the north-west. There, you have all types of animal feeds. You can leave your cattle in one spot and buy enough livestock feed and feed your cattle.

You get better meat and more milk. If this business model gets you more income, wouldn’t you go for it? There are cattle rustlers all over. Even in my own herd. I have more than 1,000 heads of cattle, and cattle rustlers came and took over 200 of them and drove away into Cameroon.

Although the Boko Haram ­militias no longer control swathes of territory, they still launch terror attacks. How would you counter them?

I happen to know how Boko Haram came into being. They were offshoots of political thuggery. Politicians used those boys in Boko Haram to win elections and then abandoned them and then there were no jobs for them. It was the same thing with the Niger Delta. In 1998, I saw it myself and I warned people.

It’s going to be a multifaceted approach. It will involve negotiations. It will involve military action.

Reform of the oil and gas industry has stalled. You have been advocating the wholesale privat­isation of the state oil company. Wouldn’t that make things even worse?

Without a stable regul­atory framework, the oil and gas companies will find it difficult to invest more in Nigeria. At the time, we pushed for the passage of the new law. We expected that Nigeria would be able to export up to about 4m barrels per day, but here we are still at less than 2m per day.

You’re now saying you would sell the entire state oil company? Or that the government should keep about 10%?

Yes, I would want to go ahead, there is no doubt about that. [The government should have] a very minor shareholding. Nigeria is in dire need of funds to develop its infrastructure and other sectors of the economy.

Your own company, Intels, which provides logistics to the energy industry, is under pressure. Is it – or are you – being targeted politically?

Intels has always suffered because I have been involved in the fight for democracy since the 1980s, when the military was in power. [Governments] will pounce on Intels – refuse me one licence or the other, close me down. Even the government that I served as a democratically elected vice-­president, the president closed Intels for six months when he had a disagreement with me. […] He never found a fault with it and eventually opened it again.

The last three years have been the worst in the history of Intels because our turnover dropped by 70%. Oil companies and gas companies are no longer investing in that sector because of the absence of laws that can guarantee their investment.

Aliko Dangote was able to build his cement production empire after your government banned imports. Would you impose more such bans?

I am one of the people who promoted Aliko Dangote, but I’m never for monopoly. Import bans to some extent, but certainly not for a monopoly.

As long as [a ban] is going to develop industries, which means creating jobs, as long as it is going to develop our infrastructure. I’m prepared to privatise the development of infrastructure in the country. That will create millions and millions of jobs.

You criticise the government’s anti-corruption strategy. What would you do differently?

You can’t deploy only punitive measures to fight corruption. One way of trying to reduce corruption to the barest minimum is also to introduce e-governance. If you are applying for a permit, if you are applying for a passport, why not apply online? Why can’t we also employ preventive measures to stop corruption?

What about the grand corruption? Billions of dollars of oil money have been taken from this country.

If we have evidence against you we arrest you and prosecute you, and take away the money.

Are you concerned about the fate of Nnamdi Kanu, the pro-Biafra activist?

I don’t want to be individualistic on this issue. I reject any illegal detention, any detention that is not based on law and order.

What about former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki?

Dasuki is being detained il­legally. It is only a court that will say whether he is guilty or not.

Would you favour a referendum for the people of the south-east, offering them the chance to leave the federation?

When we get there. We are going to have a conference to discuss reconstruction. Then we will see. I don’t think there is any part of this country that wants to leave this country. All what they want is fairness, equity and justice.

Are there any situations where where rule of law could be waved aside for national security?

No. The rule of law itself is a guarantor of national security. 

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18 Responses to “We have to remove regulations” – Atiku

  1. Samuel Ekeoma November 16, 2018 at 12:16 am

    APC will wish they had Atiku as their Presidential Candidate. Atiku is just too much

    Reply
  2. Silas Praise Usman November 16, 2018 at 12:18 am

    He has been in business for too long, he explains everything and gives solutions to almost every issue plaguing the country. Atiku is my next President

    Reply
  3. Abubakar Adamu saleh November 16, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Atiku Abubakar for president 2019 insha Allah

    Reply
  4. Abubakar Adamu Saleh November 16, 2018 at 8:59 am

    Atiku Abubakar 2019 insha Allah

    Reply
  5. anonymous November 16, 2018 at 10:39 am

    the next president of nigeria inshallah

    Reply
  6. Ayobiojo ololade November 16, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    Well done Atiku. Brilliant response .Please give room for Youth Participation in Government. Through a quarterly Town Hall meetings and also ensure your administration is a Technology driven one. You need technology in all these.
    And don’t forget to fulfill your campaign promises.
    Goodluck

    Reply
  7. Neo November 17, 2018 at 6:38 am

    If buhari wins the next election, suicide is sure. Because icant imagine living among such a dull minded humans

    Reply
  8. YUSUF SALEH DAN'DUME November 17, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    ATIKU WILL MAKE NIGERIA WORK AGAIN 2019 INSHA ALLAH.

    Reply
  9. BASIRU IBRAHIM November 17, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    SPORTING ALHAJI ATIKU ABUBAKAR

    Reply
  10. YUSUF SALEH DAN'DUME November 17, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    ATIKU NIGERIA 2019

    Reply
  11. Chinedu Nweke November 17, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    Well said Your Excellency! But, let me add this: One very important policy direction that will bring a great positive change to the country is huge investment in research and development via the education sector at all levels.

    Reply
  12. Ibeh Ambrose Uche November 17, 2018 at 11:31 pm

    The Educational sector of this grate Nation should be in part of your play as it has been bastadis

    Reply
  13. Kanu NKERE November 18, 2018 at 4:48 am

    sir ,you have said it all but you will have to do more on the energy sector and industrial revolution.

    Reply
  14. Johnson nwamarah November 20, 2018 at 11:38 pm

    This id the kind of president Nigeria need. Look at how he gave accurate answers on how to get Nigeria working again brilliant interview with prudent answer carry go our next president APC is regretting for not having you Sir as their presidential aspirant Atikulate is every body choice

    Reply
  15. Uduakobong Udofa November 27, 2018 at 11:49 am

    What Nigeria need at this point is Atiku Abubakar.

    Reply
  16. Abdulmuddalib December 1, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    please help me to contact me through this number oh sir Atiku

    Reply
  17. Abdulmuddalib December 1, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    07066405885

    Reply
  18. Mohd Umar Ibrahim December 4, 2018 at 2:35 am

    Up Alh. Atiku Abubakar Wazirin Adamawa 2019 Insha Allah

    Reply

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