Mrs. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje is a third-time member of the Federal House of Representatives, representing the Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State. She is also the chairperson of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs for the second time. In this interview with SOLA SHITTU in Abuja, she speaks on the 2016 budget, the Federal Government’s anti-graft campaign and the deportation of Nigerian citizens from other countries. Excerpts:
The Senate President has picked holes in the National Assembly’s oversight function, and the Speaker seems to also share his opinion. What do you think the House can do concerning oversight?
Everybody sticks to the fact that we must be alive to our responsibilities as legislators. But you would recall that at the twilight of the last administration, we had challenges with inviting ministers to come before committees of the National Assembly. Did we have the power to invite certain ministers before the National Assembly?
Of course, it was difficult for us to do the work we were supposed to do when we were working with an executive arm of government, with ministers who did not think that they had any cause to answer to the summons of the National Assembly. And so, it was a bit difficult towards the end. And I would say that, that was probably also responsible for the fact that we were not able to capture the last phase in the budget.
But let me also say that, while it is a concern for the Legislature, we also must engage the executive arm of government. The executive arm of government must realise that it is in a vertical relationship where all of us are co-partners in this Nigerian project. So we must be willing to keep to the spirit and letter of the constitution when it comes to submitting themselves to the oversight functions of the National Assembly. At least, everybody has seen all the stories that are going around. We all know that the constitution says every person is innocent until proven guilty.
We are waiting for the outcome of all the litigation. But even the fact that these mind-boggling figures, the sharing of arms purchase fund, are being thrown up, is a call for the executive arm of government to be committed to the spirit and letter of the constitution.
The House passed three pieces of legislation: the Foreign Assistance in Criminal Matters bill; the Assets Forfeiture bill, and the Financial Action Task Force bill. These three bills are awaiting presidential assent. The bills are critical and will strengthen the Executive’s commitment to the fight against corruption, because in the criminal assets forfeiture bill, for instance, if a corrupt person had proceeds of crime, there is no law in place to ensure that the Federal Government takes over the proceeds.
The FATF law is the international law that tracks stolen funds; we need to sign it into law for us to be able to deal with the movements of money and money laundering. The foreign assistance in criminal matter bill, we have to pass that into law; it will help us in extradition. It will also help us when Nigerian citizens are arrested abroad and we want them to come back. Aside from the extradition treaties and laws, we must have those laws in place. So, I would be urging the executive arm of government and Mr. President to please sign these bills into law so that whatever we do in this fight against corruption has the legal backing that is required for it to be effective.
What is your committee doing on the deportation of Nigerians from foreign countries?
Let’s speak about numbers and I think it is a very important place to start on this issue. There are between 2.5 to three million Britons of Nigerian descent and Nigerians who live and work in the United Kingdom legitimately and they are doing all sorts of things, from aviation to the field of medicine, to education. And as a matter of fact, it is said that Nigerians are some of the most educated migrant communities in the world. Now, of that three million, there is something called migration removal poll in the UK. Now, this migration removal poll has averagely 25,000 to 29,000 Nigerians. These are people who had either overstayed their visas, went to school in the UK and decided to stay back and had not converted their visas. There are also those who have served jail sentences and have not come back. These are 25,000 to 29,000 people.
Around the world, we get a lot of reports about people picked up on the streets and then put on aircraft and sent back to Nigeria. However, because of our relationship with the UK and the Nigerian affinity for the UK, Nigerians will necessarily think of the UK first.
We felt that because of the large number of Nigerians who reside within the UK, it was necessary for us to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding on migration. The intention behind the MoU on migration was for us to have a pact on the deportation process in the hope that Nigerians would be treated with dignity. But we must accept that every country will remove people who are in violation of their laws, be they
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