|Senator Dino Melaye|
Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West), on Sunday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to give presidential pardon and amnesty for treasury looters.
Melaye also declared that the leadership at all levels of governance must begin to sacrifice more to serve both as an example and an inspiration to the citizenry to bond together and pull the nation out of the current economic recession.
56 years of independence as a sovereign state should, and ought to be a time to roll out the drums and celebrate our journey to true nationhood. Unfortunately, the present economic hardship has denied Nigerians this luxury. What is required under the circumstances is modesty and deep introspection on how we got to this sorry pass. But more importantly , the current times calls for more sacrifices on the part of the leadership from the local, state to the federal levels.
Unlike so many other relationship fundamentals, leadership is a top-bottom dynamic if it must inspire and command loyalty and the needed follower-ship. At times like this, the leadership must sacrifice more, give up some of its pecks of office, show more compassion and empathy, and desist from leading opulent and offensive lifestyles that are capable of inflaming passions amongst the suffering masses.
The ‘Change Begins with Me’ gospel will resonate more with the people if those at the helm of affairs show the way and lead by example. While very tangible sacrifices are required of the leadership at the moment, perhaps the leaders can begin with a symbolic gesture. Since names and appellations matter, those at the helm of affairs must immediately drop those appellations that accentuates the existential divide between them and the citizenry until there is a marked improvement in the material condition of the people.
In this regard, I recommend that henceforth no President, Vice President, Governor, or Deputy Governor should answer the name ‘His Excellency’ until the material condition of ordinary Nigerians has also become ‘Excellent’. No Senator should continue to answer ‘Distinguished’ until the the masses of the people begin to experience a distinguished existence and no Federal or state Legislator should wear the badge of ‘Honourable Member’ until the ordinary citizen is himself living a life that can be classified Honourable in every material particular.
This is a first significant step in erasing the class barrier that misleads those at the helm of affairs into believing erroneously that they deserve a better existence than the ordinary man on the street, and thereby conferring them with the delusional legitimacy to amass the public till on their behalf.
As a means of addressing the dwindling state of revenues accruing to the federal government which is adversely affecting the implementation of the 2016 budget, deliberate effort must be made to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country. This can be achieved by improving the security situation in the North East and the Niger Delta since no serious investor will put his resources in a climate where insecurity is a daily fare. Government’s effort in this direction must be two-pronged: a combination of military action and a psychological warfare to win the hearts and minds of the people in the two besieged regions.
Government must also devise ways to pacify the Niger Delta Avengers and other militant groups in the region through a very creative, robust and efficient Amnesty programme. This programme must also be implemented simultaneously with a robust and sincere ‘Marshall Plan’ for the development of the region. The combined effect of the New Amnesty Programme and the Marshall Plan will not only ensure sustainable peace and development in the area, but also prevent the mutation of new militant groups in the future since there would have been a systemic disincentive for their emergence.
Needless to add, sustainable peace in the Niger Delta would lead to the security of oil installations, boost oil and gas production, increase foreign exchange earnings, attract more revenue to the coffers of the governments at all levels, facilitate the implementation of budgets and ultimately result in a marked improvement in the standard of living of the generality of the citizenry, and not just for the privileged few.
The diversification of the economy away from the current mainstay-oil, to agriculture and manufacturing must also be pursued more aggressively if Nigeria must be pulled out of the recession in the shortest time possible. In this regard, access to single digit interest facilities to investors in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors should be made less tedious and seamless. Tax holidays can also be considered as an incentive to get more investors, both local and foreign to take to agriculture and manufacturing to create jobs and boost the real sector.
Furthermore, relevant laws must be reviewed and new ones enacted to give states and local governments higher stakes and autonomy in the exploration and exploitation of solid minerals in their domains. This will breed competition amongst states and local governments, create jobs, boost the local economy and reduce unemployment, crime and other associated social vices.
Though an unrepentant advocate for integrity and forthrightness especially from public office holders, l however sincerely want to recommend that Mr. President grants Presidential Amnesty/Pardon to all those who looted our treasury provided they return all proceeds of their loot to the government within six (6) months of the declaration of the Amnesty.
This, I believe will encourage the voluntary return of the looted funds, empower the government financially to immediately commence the implementation of projects and programmes that will stimulate the economy and raise the peoples’ standard of living, and save the judiciary and other law enforcement agencies the agony of fruitlessly pursuing the looters in and out of the courtrooms. In the long run, this would be a win-win situation for both the government and people of Nigeria.
At the expiration of the six months’ ‘Moratorium’, all those who failed to comply would then me made to face the reality of aggressive and expeditious prosecution and eventual jail terms for convicts in accordance with the laws of the land.