N30,000 minimum wage can’t sustain people –Gbande, Benue Rep

The lawmaker representing Katsina Ala/Logo/Ukum Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr Richard Gbande, tells LEKE BAIYEWU about the proposed national security fund

How do you think the National Assembly should function to fulfil its mandate?

The major responsibility of the government is to protect lives and property. We are in the hallowed chambers here, not because we are the best brains or the richest people in Nigeria but because our people, Nigerians, have given us their mandate in trust through the instrumentality of the ballot, sealed by the judicial arm of the government. As members (of the National Assembly) with people’s mandate, we must hold it in public trust. That is why our proceedings are in the public view.

We represent the yearnings and aspirations of our people; their lives and property are sacrosanct. We owe them a duty to know their priorities. We don’t even need a soothsayer to tell us that Nigerians are hungry and poor. As leaders at our level, it is our responsibility to direct, guide and get outcomes that are beneficial to Nigerians. It is our duty to know what is good for them. It is also our duty to be objective and open, in a transparent and accountable manner to our people so that at the end of the day, the confidence Nigerians have reposed in us will be justified.

The leadership of the House met with heads of security agencies and consequently passed a resolution to create a special security fund. How does the Benue State stand to benefit from this due to the herders/farmers’ clashes it has recorded?

When our Speaker (Femi Gbajabiamila) summoned the service chiefs, it was for the entire country. He discussed with them and he briefed us, that we must take the security of our country as paramount because we are accountable to Nigerians. And when we were having a debate about it in the chamber, the North-East issue was a perspective of the debate given by that side, but it was not only the North-East that was considered.

We even amended some prayers to cover the entire country. We are for the entire country. And until we de-emphasise sections, we will not move forward. So, we call on the service chiefs and the executive arm of government to rise up and embrace the entire country, to safeguard the lives and property of Nigerians. That is the whole essence of governance – good governance. And as a people who are the representatives of the people, we want this nonsense called kidnapping and killing of our people to stop.

If you see the mood in the chamber, you will know that we are worried. It is worrisome! We are disturbed! We are perturbed! If we are representing people and they are being killed every day, at the end of the day, we will be left with trees in our constituencies. You saw what happened two months ago when we were in the chambers and the Shi’ites came in through the gate. It took the intervention of our policemen who were on duty (to stop them). Even some of them (allegedly) lost their lives. So, we are disturbed and worried. We appeal to the security agencies, the operators of the security architecture of this country, to rise up to the challenges.

Then, we have some salient questions that are begging for answers on the level of sophistication and Information Technology. To whom much is given, much is expected. If the security operators are complaining of poor funding and the lack of necessary gadgets, it is also our responsibility to find a way of solving their problem. Giving people assignments without resources, equipment or tools commensurate with the duties they have to discharge will amount to nothing. That was why we discussed the funding of the security agencies.

I believe that with proper funding, they will look into this issue, tackle it holistically and at the end of the day, the major aim of the government, which is to protect lives and property, will be achieved. We are talking of just protecting lives and property, which is not enough; it is just the first layer. We have to enhance the standard of living of our people. We have to provide food on people’s tables. We have to feed Nigerians. We have to clothe them. We have to even give them a take-home pay.

Today, we are talking about the minimum wage for workers; it is N30,000 and we are debating it. Let us be frank, can N30,000 take Nigerians home? And how many of them are even working? We have to create an enabling environment for Nigerians to be comfortable and feed themselves and their families, and even train their children. But as it is now, we have a long way to go and all hands must be on deck to solve this problem.

What is the current state of security in Benue, especially as it relates to farmers and herdsmen?

With the promulgation of the anti-open grazing law, things are better in Benue State. There are no more problems of farmers/herders’ clashes at an alarming rate. I believe that we are doing our best to deal with the situation. But the situation of banditry is still on the rise, which is a national problem. If you take a holistic look across the country, you’ll discover that kidnapping is the order of the day. I believe with proper funding of the security agencies, it will be dealt with. We need to have hope in our own country. This is Nigeria, this is our country. I believe with what we are doing, at the end of the day, our country will be a place to live in.

What is really causing the conflict between the Tiv and the Jukun around Benue and Taraba states’ borders?

The issue of the Tiv and Jukun started with banditry and the people allowed it to escalate. These bandits, to some extent, can create problems. Most of the Tiv in Taraba State claim that they have been in Taraba but have been denied positions of authority. Even at our meeting between the governments of Taraba and Benue, it was very clear. They said as indigenes of that state, they should be given equal rights to perform and aspire to take leadership positions.

First Published on Punch Newspapers