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HomeEntertainment NewsINTERVIEW: How Tinubu’s policies will transform Nigeria - Minister Bagudu

INTERVIEW: How Tinubu’s policies will transform Nigeria – Minister Bagudu


Shortly after his victory in the 2023 election, President Bola Tinubu nominated Atiku Bagudu as member of the Presidential Transition Committee, signalling a powerful message about the relationship between the two politicians.

After the inauguration, Mr Tinubu appointed Mr Bagudu as the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning.

Mr Bagudu, 62, was a federal lawmaker before serving as governor of Nigeria’s north-western state of  Kebbi for eight years. He is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). As the chairperson of the APC Governors’ Forum in 2022, Mr Bagudu played a key role in the emergence of Mr Tinubu as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections.

Last month, Mr Bagudu sat with a PREMIUM TIMES team in his Abuja residence for an interview that was agreed to focus on his ministerial role, the Tinubu administration and the 2023 election. He spoke on wide-ranging issues such as his relationship with President Tinubu, the composition of the federal cabinet, fuel subsidy removal, budget processes, inflation, state policing and other issues.

The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu during the interview [PHOTO CREDIT: Ademola Popoola – Premium Times]
Excerpts:

PT: One of your colleagues, the Minister of State for Defence (Bello Matawalle), has been in the news recently saying that northern appointees in the cabinet of President Bola Tinubu need to speak out more about the successes of the current administration. What’s your view on that?

Yahaya Bello vs EFCC

Bagudu: Thank you. I believe every appointee has an obligation within the area of responsibility he or she has been assigned and even beyond to communicate with the public appropriately, irrespective of region. And there is a lot to say in this government.

Secondly, we also respect space. For example, the minister of information and the media aides of Mr. President have been very, very active. In addition to occasional briefings, the president’s media aides even organise sessions for aspects of the government that need to be communicated and need to be interrogated by the media in sessions. And there is also the need to show that this is a government that is not afraid of answering the hard questions, because it is a government that is led by a leader, President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is both magnanimous and humble, who came to the presidency with the conviction that he will draw the line in order to make Nigeria better.



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Mr President always acknowledged that Nigeria’s fault lines need to be managed so that public officers are taken to task rather than personality or exploitation of the fault line. Every part of the country contributed in making him the president of Nigeria and that is very commendable.

From the North, President Tinubu has done very well. He is somebody whose personal conduct as a politician and as a Nigerian has been outstanding. He has built a relationship across the country. I didn’t know President Aswaju Bola Tinubu during the campaign or before the campaign started. I have known him for well over 30 years and I’m just one of several others who say the same thing.

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Nigeria's President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of Nosa Asemota | https://twitter.com/nosasemota]
Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of Nosa Asemota | https://twitter.com/nosasemota]

Also, he has supported the unity of our country. He supported people from the North who sought political power even when he is in a position to seek it for himself. He supported the late Shehu Musa Yar’adua, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the current National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and former President Muhammadu Buhari. So it’s not surprising that the North was very exuberant to also support him, not just because he has done all this, but in addition to the fact that he has the capacity.

In a nutshell, many groups have been saying different views from different parts of the country. There is not a unified voice. But for me, as a political appointee, maybe more than a political appointee, both before and now in government, I know that what the president has done in the last 10 months has been outstanding.

First, he took one of the bold steps that all the presidential candidates said should be taken, which is the removal of fuel subsidy. Aside from the subsidy, there is also a measure on the deregulation of the foreign exchange market so that investors can return to our country.

This is not even an issue of blame game. President Tinubu decided that he would not play the blame game. But Nigerians have been hesitant in taking some actions that should have been taken decades ago.

We want to be like Asian countries, we want to grow like Brazil but Brazil and those Asian countries that we want, we are competing with, have taken measures that we needed to have taken decades ago.

The president is even bold to acknowledge that. Let’s do it now. Some of these measures have consequences which we acknowledge. And that’s why again, a number of measures are introduced in order to ameliorate the situation.

These measures are helpful to Nigeria, irrespective of North or South because they are to restore macroeconomic stability, to restore security in the country and make it better so that investors will feel confident. And equally, the security effort has been outstanding. A lot of the gains of the past have been improved, often, particularly, in many parts of northern Nigeria and the budget itself.

On the budget, President Tinubu has so far been involved with three budgets. He inherited a budget that was passed in June 2023, which is the N819 billion supplementary appropriation. He renegotiated that budget with the National Assembly. He said to them that about N500 billion out of that money was to support the vulnerable that might be affected by the interventions we intended to take. And they agreed with him and provided N200 billion out of it for agricultural intervention, N100 billion for CNG buses, another N75 billion for MBS and N50 billion for Nano credit. And I think that was a commendable first step.

National Assembly Complex
National Assembly Complex, Abuja

Then in October, the second supplementary budget came in the sum of N2.17 trillion. This is a supplementary budget that was meant for infrastructure and to meet the obligations and promises made to labour, which awards as part of the wage negotiation and to provide additional cash transfer to Nigerians. But the bulk of that was to the security services. Security is everyone’s business. When you spend on security, everyone becomes better off. And the whole idea of that is to ensure that our security is funded better even while we are not where we want to be.

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Thirdly, the 2024 budget. These budgets are budgets for Nigeria. They are not intended to favour or reward any particular zone. They are meant to provide the basis for the restoration of macroeconomic stability, resumption of macroeconomic growth, investments and employment across the country. And we are confident that is being done.

Take a look at the budget, which are the biggest ministries in terms of spending? You will see that agriculture ranks high. The two ministers in (the Federal Ministry of) Agriculture are from the North. Then you rank Education. The two ministers in Education are from the North. Next is Defence. The two ministers, again, are from the North. Same with the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Works is also top. The gentleman, Dave Umahi, is from the South-east. He is not from the South-west. So even the ministries that are the biggest spenders cannot lend themselves to the assertion that the budget is in any way shaped to deny any part of Nigeria.

So to conclude, yes, I don’t think politicians or other appointees have been shy about talking about it (the administration’s achievement) but maybe there is a need to do more.

PT: Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, who serves as the special adviser on political matters in the presidency, condemned the minister of state for describing members of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) as paperweight people following the forum’s statement criticising the Tinubu administration. Senator Kabiru Mararafa also asked Bello Matawalle to apologise to NEF on his statement. What’s your take on this?

l think first I’m not witness to the words that were used by both in terms of what they actually said. But, generally, I know that Matawalle and indeed all of us Nigerians are culturally sensitive to what is called an elder.

Even where we disagree, we can take a position against certain issues without any form of disrespect. It’s a part of our cultural form, it doesn’t mean we don’t disagree. And it’s across the country.

I’ve seen many northerners who from time to time have had differences with elders on issues. I have seen it in the South-west and in the South-east too. Some will go against the views of Afenifere, Ohanaeze or Arewa Consultative Forum.

Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle. [PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter handle of the minister]
Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle. [PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter handle of the minister]

But the central issue is that our president, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, campaigned in the North, among other places. We were with him during those campaigns. We know what northerners expected of him, we know what he promised, and those are the measures you start with evaluating any politician. And since he became president, he has worked hard to ensure that what he does reflects his campaign promises and reflects what he believes has been asked of him by constituents across the country. And in his effort to ensure that, he is respected all across the North.

I can’t speak for all or everyone but the majority believe in what he is doing and are thankful to him for the unity and the commendable policies that, even though causing occasional dislocations, but they can relate to in the long term of course.

So we are in politics, again. We are in politics. When you are managing two things, reform and politics, somebody may always express a view that seems to suggest or is suggestive of their talking on behalf of others.

But all of us in the cabinet know how fair-minded and magnanimous President Tinubu is. For example, I am the minister of budget and economic planning. I don’t feel second to anybody in the cabinet.

PT: You talked about how you campaigned for him in the North. One of your former colleagues who also played a major role when you were governors, to declare support for President Tinubu, was former Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State. Somehow you all left him out in being part of the government. How do you feel that your colleague with whom you played a major role to build this government was dropped out of the system? What’s your take on that?

Well, again, President Tinubu nominated Nasir El-Rufai, his excellency, former governor of Kaduna, for ministerial position. His name was taken to the National Assembly. Again, that shows character. That shows promise-keeping by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

But rightly or wrongly, or rather, constitutional democracy is based on the separation of powers. The Senate has been given a constitutional role in the confirmation process.

If they decide to deny any one of us, they are approving their confirmation power. The president is handicapped by our constitution to do everything. Is it fair? But that is how the laws have been set up.

Why did the National Assembly not confirm him? I wish they had done so.

PT: Are you still in touch with him?

Bagudu: Yes

PT: Some people believe that if the president had intervened, probably the National Assembly would have confirmed Mr El-Rufai.

Bagudu: This is now in the realm of speculation. What was done objectively is that the president nominated him. We know that his name was read at the Senate. He went to the National Assembly for screening. He answered all the questions that were asked of him although some were stepped down.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai [PHOTO CREDIT: Nasir El-Rufai]
Nasir El-Rufai [PHOTO CREDIT: Nasir El-Rufai]

So that’s an objective way to look at it. That is what happened. I can’t answer speculatively, but I believe for the president to submit your name, for you at least to be taken to the National Assembly, it’s the best measure of the president’s willingness and confidence in the person.

PT: Now to your own ministry, Budget and Economic Planning. El-Rufai raised something recently that many Nigerians have been concerned about – the issue of petrol subsidy. He said the facts show that the landing cost of petrol now is almost a thousand naira. So whether the government admits it or not, the NNPC through a system of recovery is still subsidising petrol and yet there is no budgetary allocation for subsidies. What’s the true situation of petrol subsidy in Nigeria?

Bagudu: Thank you. First, we are combining both law and public policy. The Petroleum Industry Act created a law that made the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation a limited liability company with a board and to function as a private company.

And then the public policy decision, rightly, commendably and boldly, that we can’t as a nation afford fuel subsidy, a decision that I am in support of.

And so, the policy has been effected and is still being effected. But sometimes we are confusing the two. Many people are confusing price movements and the policy decision. A policy operates on the average. That I removed the subsidy does not mean prices of petroleum will change on a daily basis.

Because, even airlines that many of us are privileged to use occasionally or big transportation companies, their fuel cost does not change in the day, but it’s an average.

So, our policy on fuel subsidy stands. But we don’t control the daily movement of prices. But as a policy decision, we have decided that we wouldn’t be paying subsidy.

However, exchange rate movement can affect petroleum prices. So that may bring more pressure on our oil traders to edge knowing that there is no subsidy or to take measures that are consistent with the policy decision. Maybe they will not be able to make as much profit as they were making before. But that’s life. The policy remains.

PT: So in clear terms, the government does not pay subsidy as we speak.

Bagudu: No. The government can only pay subsidy if there is a subsidy demand on it. And yes, the landing cost may be higher, but what I’m saying is you don’t change the policies. It’s just like the exchange rate. If you look at the budget, we use N800 for exchange rate. But the exchange rate any day may be at variance with that, lower or higher.

A petrol station
Fuel attendant at the petrol station

Why did we use N800? Based on all our computations, the hope is that the average throughout the year will be N800. Same thing with fuel subsidy. We removed the fuel subsidy on May 29, 2023, and we are not paying fuel subsidy.

Then the exchange rate unification. It’s a commendable move by the monetary authorities. The exchange rate, the spike, in a way affects prices, which affects landing costs. But again since that height of January 2024, we are now seeing a tapering downward of the exchange rate, such as, as we pray, by the year end, the average exchange rate will be even about N800.

And the same thing with subsidy. Subsidies are not computed in a day even if there is a claim. So even though the spike has affected the narrow landing cost of oil prices, we believe by the year end, all the gains will ensure that no subsidy payment is affected.

PT: Talking about subsidy and budgetary provisions, as the minister of budget and economic planning, are you satisfied with how the National Assembly treated the 2024 budget, the first full year budget of President Bola Tinubu?

Bagudu: Government is a work in progress. I commend the National Assembly because first, it’s a transitioning year budget.

Why is it significant to call it as such? Under our Fiscal Responsibility Act, the presentation of Medium Term and Expenditure Framework (MTEF) should precede the presentation of a budget.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sworn in on May 29, 2023, and he took bold measures from that day that affected the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, which should have been ready for presentation to the National Assembly by then. And understandably, like I said, maybe the departing government felt we should respect the person who is coming in.

Again, maybe that is one of the things that we should also interrogate. This issue of our transition happening mid-year, and then is not aligned with the budget process. So there was a bit of a lag between the cost price by the transition team and the presentation of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, which should be approved before the presentation of the budget. But the National Assembly was magnanimous, in spite of all that lag, to work harder. And like I said, they did the supplementary budget of N2.17 trillion. I didn’t hear complaints about that from Nigerians.

All the expenditure was largely for, like I said, security and infrastructure, and so that is the first. Maybe people tend to gloss that over. The president also negotiated the N819 billion budget. Again, I don’t hear any complaints about that. Then the 2024 budget.

ALSO READ: 2024 Budget: N800 to dollar benchmark strategic – Bagudu

So I commend them because, despite the challenge of time, they were able to suspend rules, suspend their holiday and consider the appropriation in time for it to be passed to respect the January to December cycle. That is commendable. That shows cooperation.

Then what followed thereafter? It’s interesting that National Assembly members have been accused of introducing budget projects that were not submitted in the proposal. Again, I have had course to say this in another interview, that National Assembly members, as indeed all elected members, are under pressure from constituents for projects and programmes of government that will benefit the constituents. Are they justified in seeking the inclusion of projects or programmes? I guess they are.

As minister of budget, daily before the budget, I receive letters, understandably consistent with my role, from interest groups, members representing constituencies who will request that: Can government kindly consider this project? This road is dilapidated. We want a new road here, we want erosion control here, we want a borehole here and all these form an input and the budget process is not a monologue. It’s a project.

Again, all these are a reflection of our choice of democracy. In my modest view, and I have interacted with civil society organisations, a lot of them, both before and after the budget, I say, please come and help us so that we can ease out what is it that Nigerians are not happy about.

If somebody, or if money is allocated in the budget and that project is not done, whether by a lawmaker or a contractor, that is a crime, let’s go after the person. Whatever is put in the budget, we should ensure that it must be done. The money must not be utilised for anything but what the law says.

Then maybe last but not the least is the efficiency of the constituency projects. And again, that is something I noticed many people fail to appreciate – the diversity of our country in the sense that today, somebody who is living in Maitama or Eti Osa in Lagos may think that why would government spend on water project and boreholes, because this is what people spend and do in their homes.

But a senator or a House of Representative member, who is representing a rural community, to them, the value of that water project is different from the value you can pass judgement and say why will the government do a borehole. But maybe that borehole has significance and a lot.

So my invitation is that civil society, enlightened society should play a role in interrogating the budget in the sense that these projects are being implemented.

How do we support their implementation and how do we also put pressure so that elected members will cooperate among themselves in order to ensure that we prioritise better?

PT: The other side of the project insertion you appear not to speak about is multiple insertions of the same project. So for example, the Agricultural Council of Nigeria, the National Assembly increased its allocations by, in some cases, duplicating projects. There was a N500 million project that was repeated four times. Why is the president not talking about that? Because in the process of making the insertion, the National Assembly is actually ridiculing what should be the Nigerian budget. In addition, some of these items were even placed on agencies that are not relevant.

Bagudu: Thank you very much. Alleged multiple insertions. What is a budget? A budget is a law which gives the executive the right to spend up to what was appropriated for items. If there is a project that is inserted twice or multiple insertions…..there is a procedure because budget is one element. It doesn’t take away from the public procurement process. It doesn’t stop any literate member of society from saying there is a mistake here, there are multiple insertions here.

President Bola Tinubu at the 2024 Budget presentation [PHOTO CREDIT: @jidesanwoolu]
President Bola Tinubu at the 2024 Budget presentation [PHOTO CREDIT: @jidesanwoolu]

Sometimes there is an explanation, sometimes there is not. And we are not pretending. We are humble to acknowledge wherever we are wrong. It is a human process and we will fix it.

lf there is anything, any element that is of wrongdoing, we owe it to ourselves. We should also be tasked, somebody should write to me that we noticed this thing and it guides us. It helps us. This work is in progress so that either in the procurement process we deal with that or in the release or where such projects may come to the Federal Executive Council.

These are participatory processes that should continue both before and after the budget and we are humble. That is what the president Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu) used to say… I am human and we are all human and we are ready to be corrected where we are wrong.

Nigeria's President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of Nosa Asemota | https://twitter.com/nosasemota]
Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official Twitter handle of Nosa Asemota | https://twitter.com/nosasemota]

But it will take time to get 100 per cent. Before, we don’t publish budgets. We get this information because Nigeria publishes its budget. Go and google it, see how many countries publish their budget details. Even in the OECD countries, you don’t see their budget details. So the fact that we even took it upon ourselves to publish our budget details so that anybody can comment, that is good. That even gives us the information, but what do we do with it?

We don’t just condemn. We should say, well, this is a starting point, I will interrogate, I will comment. And a lot of civil society organisations do so in a systematic manner. One of them I know, BudgIt, they even come, they even make a presentation, that is responsible citizenry. They came to see me. They have the right to come and see me as they also have the right to interrogate. But like I told you again, the budget should not be equated with implementation, because even in the implementation phase, public procurement phase, memos to federal executives, a lot of these things might come up and be dealt with.

For the second question, where will a project, where will a ministry or an MDA execute, or rather be seen to be given power by the National Assembly to execute a project that is not seemingly within its mandate? Well, I think there are two issues here. Sometimes what’s relevant to somebody may look irrelevant to you, but which may not appear to be in its traditional mandate.

And again, yes, it may be so. But that is where sometimes citizen action is important because we have to think that sometimes it may not be so, it may look so immediately, but maybe you also want an explanation from the other side.

So let’s use it to improve the process. The government is a work in progress, we are making an effort to clean, to make it better.

It is helpful to the process for a community to say what we saw in the budget as a borehole that is being built for our community has not been built, but that should be communicated to somebody appropriately.

PT: Can you let us know a bit about the performance of the 2023 budget?

Bagudu: The 2023 budget, like I said, number one, is a transition year budget. And there are three, literally three in one. The main budget that was passed in January 2023, and the two supplementary appropriations, one of N819 billion, and then one of N2.17 trillion, at the end of the year.

Mr President, consistent with his powers, requested the National Assembly to extend the implementation of the 2023 budget, the capital component. Again, this is something that we will welcome debate on. Our procurement process maybe, can be aligned better.

And not surprisingly, Mr President has directed the committee, of which I am a member, to review the public procurement process because sometimes from commencement to award may be upward of six months.

So you can imagine if the National Assembly magnanimously pass a supplementary appropriation in October, and then the year ends in December. So the procurement process takes time.

And then the government we succeeded introduced a new mechanism of enhancing budget efficiency, which is called top-to-bottom cash management. Meaning, if the ministry is going to award a contract, previously what used to happen was we send the money to the ministry, but now you say no, let the ministry do the procurement process, let them award and then request for what they need, maybe to further advance.

And once they receive certificates so that cash is pulled together, rather than all ministries holding money waiting for work performance. All these have placed a burden on the system to the extent that the 2023 appropriation had to be extended again to June 2024.

And again, one thing about the 2023 budget is that between January and May, we were paying subsidy. So, a lot of the money, over N2 trillion was used for subsidy payment between January and May 2023 and therefore there wasn’t much money to do capital projects. So it affected our ability. It was during the later part of the year that the removal of subsidy led to more funds for  capital projects and even for others.

Mr President, consistent with his powers, requested the National Assembly to extend the 2023 budget, the capital component. Because up to now such projects are coming to the Federal Executive Council.

PT: So when the media does investigations that show clear budget infractions and bring such your office, you will act on that?

Bagudu: Yes, please. We have investigative bodies. They are involved with the budget process. In fact, that’s how we’re helping. We have an IMAC project in the ministry. The presidential advisor on policy coordination has just launched another. All these are because, without that last-mile effort, nobody has all the answers.

It is helpful to the process for a community to say what we saw in the budget as the borehole that has been built for our community has not been built. But that should be communicated to somebody appropriately.

You can award the contract, what if the contractor tells you that the contract has not been approved? Maybe there is news that the contract has been awarded but, if the contractor tells you the money has not been released to him, then that’s another thing too. There are road projects – most common example is the Abuja-Lokoja-Benin that has been on the budget for 16 years. So without interrogating you may pass judgement.

PT: There’s something they called unused (unspent) allocations. If a ministry is allocated funds and does not use that money, or spend it, they return such to the government. I remember that the first time MDAs returned more funds they didn’t use was in 2011 or so. And that was the time Bankole was the speaker.

The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu [PHOTO CREDIT: Ademola Popoola - Premium Times]
The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu [PHOTO CREDIT: Ademola Popoola – Premium Times]

Bagudu: You see, whatever system you take in budgeting might have its advantages and disadvantages. If you are minister of works or ministry of works and you are doing a road project that is going to go on for the next three years and this is December, you have X amount of money, N10 billion, N20 billion, in their account for that project, do you return it to the treasury or do you keep it in the ministry in order to be able to meet certain payment as when due, so that the project does not suffer?

l think the keyword is whichever you decide to do, the keyword is transparency. But each one has its own merits and demerits.

That’s why I said we now have a bottom cash management plan where if the contract is N10 billion, the N10 billion is not advanced to the MDA at the same time. But the MDA will do the procurement and say that we require X amount, maybe N3 billion for advance payment and that’s what they receive so that the cash management is maintained by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

PT: The president spoke on budgetary reforms stimulating the economy without engendering inflation, but a combination of factors you mentioned have pushed up inflation. What is the administration doing to bring down inflation?

Bagudu: You know every budget has multiple constituencies that are looking at the budget. There are investors there, domestic and local, who are looking at the budget as a signalling tool. What does the government do?

And that is the thing that will determine whether they put money in this economy or not. So the first balancing act is what budgets do I do that investors and the people with wealth will take me seriously.

Then the dreams, the aspirations. Many people, like I said, have a demand for goods and services. We want good roads in our community. We want unemployment benefits. We want, we want, we want. So you have to balance the two.

So strategically, what we did in 2024 was to aim to reduce the deficit. And that has resonated very well with the investing public and rating agencies who rate countries and also to increase capital spending.

The capital of the 2024 budget is 39 per cent. This is the highest that it has been since 1999. Then the lag. So whatever policy I do, no matter how good it is, there will be a lag period. It can be a week or it can be a month before the benefit comes. We are not unmindful that the reforms we have may endanger some form of inflation.

But, for example, in the last two weeks, we have seen, consistent with what we anticipated, that inflation is beginning to taper down. I have seen the headlines.

I think one newspaper with the front page story mentioned the declining prices of rice. Today I saw equally in one of the major mainstream newspapers a report about declining prices of food items.

We have seen how the foreign exchange rate has been on and been a major determinant of inflation in Nigeria. We believe in a short while, maybe two months, we’ll begin to see the effect of these measures remarkably on inflation and then the measures that are being taken to boost production, domestic production, also take effect.

PT: Is there a budgetary allocation for the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway and what is the government actually planning to spend as its contribution to the project? Lastly, the House of Representatives organised a discussion around state policing. In the past, you granted an interview opposing state police. Are you now with President Bola Tinubu who is in support of state police or your position hasn’t changed on the subject?

Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project (PHOTO CREDIT: @FMWNIG, https://twitter.com/FMWNIG/status/1782824528617304428/photo/1)
Lagos-Calabar coastal highway project (PHOTO CREDIT: @FMWNIG)

Bagudu: Lagos Calabar Coastal road has been on our development plan for long. This is a road that should have been built. Previous administrations have been interested in doing so. And it is our belief that it is a road that has a significant multiplier effect that will catalyse development. And again, that reflects the realities. There are projects when you want to do, particularly in a developing country, there are not many people who have the resources and the capacity to help you do them. So you have to negotiate with those. That is why there are a lot of PPP projects because even if you publish them in the papers, you don’t know who is serious and who is not. So, it’s better you negotiate with somebody who can help you deliver them.

Today, maybe if you look at the Lekki reclamation project, somebody will easily say, ah, I could have done this differently, ah, they didn’t advertise it.

But today l believe whoever loves Nigeria will be proud of that project. So a lot of these projects are being planned. Aswaju (President Tinubu) is planning to ensure that the rail networks are given priority and completed. He’s talking about the Sokoto to Badagry highway also.

So our president is profound and a dreamer. But let us also be careful that if we are just eager to criticise, we can even demoralise potential partners that may want…. because they look at this thing, if somebody is lending money to them, he said, but there’s public opposition to this, why will you want me? So we have to commend imagination while not sacrificing the right to interrogate.

And like I said, we have inherited a lot. So what we have inherited is a budget process where you will see in the budget what has been mentioned in the budget, is not the amount that has been allocated.

So if you look at our budget today, and I invite you to…when maybe when you have more, look at it again, you will see close to 2,000 roads mentioned. When you see the sums indicated, they won’t even do a kilometre or one per cent of those.

But the public procurement process allows the ministry to say, this is what can be done this year. So even where the appropriation is inadequate, you can go back and seek more.

It doesn’t mean when it is a N13 trillion or N10 trillion contract, you must have it appropriated as such in order to award it. That is not the budget process we have in Nigeria.

PT: We asked this question because former Vice President Atiku Abubakar mentioned a certain amount that was going to be spent on that project. Then the minister of works came out with another figure. So that is why we want you to clarify it.

Bagudu: I think I’ve answered that. But again, like I said, we should know that the world is not waiting for us. If we present ourselves wrongly to the world, even investors will not have the capacity or the support to come here. We go around the world (and) we see other countries doing better in these areas. Our president, Aswaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, believes in due process and we will welcome any kind of interrogation.

But let’s not be hesitant in just condemning. I always give the example of the Dangote refinery. Everyone who goes there will be proud to be associated with it. But maybe somebody will say, how was it? How did he get this land seven times the size of Victoria Island at the time that it was not built? Somebody may think, ah, this is kind. How can you give somebody….? But I think we will all be proud that has been made available, (an) imaginative, transformative project that we require, that we see in other climates, requires responsibility, responsiveness and accountability.

Then on state policing, I support my president. But I said it already President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu understands dissent. I’m not changing my view. I agree with him. But I have the right to express my view.

I was at a dialogue on state policing. Even the opening statement by the deputy speaker. He spoke about many issues that need to be appreciated in order that we can do it right. So it’s not even whether for or against, there are issues and that is what is important.

But I’m not flip-flopping, I was opposed to it as a senator, but superior argument and logic emerged.



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