Q. When government attempted to remove the subsidy completely, it met stiff resistance from Nigerians. Some palliative measures were announced by the president. One of such measures, the SURE-P is now at the centre of allegations by the ACN that the president is using it for campaign?
A. The ‘Lai’ in Lai Mohammed’s name can actually be replaced with ‘liar’. He has distorted the terrain of political activity in the country. He is totally a person that has no vision. He has a total misunderstanding of what the role of opposition is in government. The role of opposition is not just to over-dramatize or even over-politicise every issue. If the president sneezes today, Lai will say that he is not sneezing well and that this is what the ACN has always been saying. But that is not the issue. I am disappointed in the opposition. They are supposed to take us on policy issues. For instance when we say fuel subsidy should be removed, you should give us reasons why fuel subsidy must stay, come up with rationale positions. Take us up Education, Health Insurance, Infrastructural development and the role of the private sector. These are the things that the opposition should do.
Opposition is not just to make a mockery of everything. If he says SURE-P is being shared by the PDP what about the money being used now to complete the East-West road? What about the money being used to complete the Benin-Ore road? What of the money being used to improve maternal care? Are those PDP people? This is nothing but crass nonsense. But for the fact that you have asked, I have decided not to comment on these menial things anymore. This is the only thing that Lai Mohammed understands. He belongs to a school where people are not thinking. They just react off the cuff. That is not the business of opposition. I expect them to go back to the drawing board, assume they are in power and tell the people what they would do differently. We are not hearing that from ACN.
Q. Is it true that the president is thinking of reviewing the list of pardon recently granted some ex-convicts?
A. No, it’s not true
Q. Is it true that Britain has written to the Federal Government asking for former governor Alamieyeseigha to be extradited to Britain for trial and the Nigerian government refused?
A. I am not aware, but even if the FG refuses I don’t see any big issue in that. We don’t take our country seriously. There were some Russians that came and stole Nigerian crude oil. There is absolutely nothing that the Russian government did not do to ensure that the people were not tried here. They applied every diplomatic force and efforts; and these are criminals, thieves who stole our oil.
I also remember some years ago I think in Malaysia or so where a Briton was prosecuted for a serious offence and there was going to be a capital punishment; even the Queen of England went to campaign for the transfer of that person to go and serve his jail term at home. This happens all over the world; why should Nigeria release a Nigerian citizen, who committed an offence in Nigeria for which he has been punished, to Britain? What is the interest of Britain? The offence was not committed in the U.K.; it was committed against the people of this country for which our laws have punished the man and he has served his term.
Countries such as Britain go out of their way to ensure that their citizens who commit crimes in other lands are not punished. They will use every diplomatic effort to make sure that they are brought to Britain to serve their punishment. Why should we now submit our own person, it does not make sense to me. But I am not aware if they made any demand to anybody, but if they have done so and Nigeria refuses, I don’t see any problem with that.
Q. I recall you saying that some of the factors the president considered in granting pardon to Alamieyeseigha is the role he is playing to stabilize the country’s economy especially with regards to oil theft; But I don’t know if you are aware that ENI recently announced they are shutting down their operations in Bayelsa because of oil theft and Shell also announced they will have to stop operations for some time to repair a ruptured pipeline that will reduce about 150,000 barrels per day of crude oil from their operations. How do you now reconcile the role that the former governor is playing in terms of reducing oil theft and what is still going on in the Niger Delta?
A. The situation could have been worse, but for the intervention of various people including Alamieyeseigha.
Q. Let’s talk about the relationship between Nigeria and the U.S. The counsellor in charge of political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Abuja was in your office. What was his mission?
A. It was just a routine courtesy call. The man was just appointed; he resumed office in September last year.
Q. But he did not convey to you the displeasure of the U.S. government over the pardon recently granted some ex- convicts?
A. It’s not his business to convey to me the displeasure of the U.S. government. They have already made that open through its spokesperson. But in spite of that displeasure, The U.S. government itself agreed that it’s a sovereign issue. The issue of pardon has nothing to do with any other country in the world. It is a Nigerian affair. Other people may approve or disapprove, but it is a sovereign matter. It’s not everybody that approves what the US does politically or otherwise. There are many areas where people don’t agree or disagree, but then it is their sovereign matter.
The visit of the counsellor today simply shows that despite everything, the relationship between Nigeria and the United States is intact and it is solid. The greatest evidence of that is the Bi-National Commission which deals with a lot of things including security, power and Energy, good governance, transparency and all that.
There is an irrevocable commitment on both sides, and it is one of the greatest assurances that our relationship is solid.