In this no hold back interview, National Chairman of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Fredericks Fasehun, touched on the controversial pipeline protection contract among others.IDRIS ALOOMA was among the selected journalists he spoke to. Excerpts;
Reaction to Non-payment of contract sum by NNPC
When oil pipelines were being vandalised and disrupted, we felt concerned that the economic lifeline of the country was being threatened and we applied with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to provide security along the oil pipelines that were in 2011. There was no response from the authority until about a year ago when they summoned me for a meeting and I had a meeting with the authorities of the NNPC in Abuja and they were highly impressed with the outcome of the meeting, but for six months or thereabout, there was no response from them again.
So, when they eventually responded, they said there was no way the government would do business with an unregistered organisation, which is the O’odua Peoples Congress, OPC, and advised us to register the organization. We said no because there is no way you will register an organisation like OPC with the government. They would not accept your application and once your application is turned down at the CAC, that’s the end of your organisation. So, I didn’t do that.
I requested for the application of the contract with another company that I have, which is already registered and they said there was no problem. On the 15th of March this year, that contract was awarded to that company, New Age Global and Business Nigeria Limited. We needed to put many hands on deck to execute the contract and I turned towards the OPC members to come and be the foot soldiers. In all, 4, 020 OPC members were put in the pipelines after signing a contract with the NNPC.
The contract was signed and printed by the NNPC, given to us to read through and sign, which we did. Then immediately, on the 16th of March, we started deploying our youths to the pipelines. The contract signed was for three months and exactly three months, they said they won’t renew the contract, but when we signed the contract, I expected them to mobilise us with vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, torch lights, generators and these things in hundreds because of the number of people we were putting on the pipelines from Mosimi in Ogun State to Oyo state and for three months, we did that work with utmost integrity and righteousness and as a matter of fact, people were commending us that since we took over, there was peaceful interval.
It was on the 15th June that the contract came to an end, I expected them to pay us as it was in the contract, but up till now, they have refused to pay us as agreed in the contract despite all our efforts to make this a reality, they have turned deaf ears to everything we did. After the contract, the young men thought I had collected the money, which I’m yet to do.
While the contract was on, there was a change of government, but I personally believe that government is a continuum and any contract signed on behalf of the government should be honoured by the successor government, which has not been so.
We are anxious that the government may be playing pranks with us because while the contract was on, the government ought to have mobilised us and give us some money to start with, but they never did and we never complained.
Do they expect 4, 020 youths to spend three months in the jungle without payment? We don’t want to go legal yet and I thought these 4, 020 youths was parts of the government were complaining that there was unemployment in the society. If you now engage that high number, must you not pay them after three months? If you don’t want to pay them, it is sheer cruelty. It shows that the cry of the government to provide employment is an insincere cry and those youths have now been returned to the unemployment market.
On whether the contract was used to placate him and others
OPC is not a political platform. We saw that the country needed our service, which we responded to. I am the National Chairman of the UPN, and not a PDP person. I didn’t take the politicians to handle the contract, but OPC. When I applied for the contract some few years ago, there was an outcry by a political platform that I had been given a contract to the tune of N2.8 billion and that I had been paid. But this is the contract now and it has been executed and yet, not one kobo has been paid. It shows that the outcry was a lie.
The contract detail/sum
Each worker was to be paid N1,500 daily and that was the figure suggested by the NNPC and we were very anxious to engage people and let them feed their families despite the fact okada and keke marwa riders make more than that daily.
The total money of N1,500 daily should be divided into 4,020 workers daily and this was for three months. Each person was to get N45,000 monthly, which means at the end of the three months period, they were to get N135,000 each.
If after sometime the government refuses to listen to us, the only arbiter available to us is the court because we have held our peace for over a month and they have not said one thing for or against our payment. I’m not preparing to cause crisis in the country and if we go to court, we would be able to ask for other things, which include damages and special damages.
On whether he has approached anybody in the new government
I’ve not met anybody in government for the payment. We didn’t sign it with the Federal Government, but NNPC. So, that’s why I’m going to the NNPC for payment.
How much was saved the nation?
NNPC was losing about N7 billion daily from pipeline vandalism and all they owe us is about N1.9bn for the 4, 020 workers for three months. What they owe us for three months is less than what they were losing daily. So we have contributed our quota to the economic upliftment of Nigeria. The amount we are talking about is just for the areas that we secured and about 20,000 youths were put on the pipelines all together for the division of OPC contacted; we have the Gani Adams faction, Shoot at Sight and Tompolo. In all, there were about five groups and I’m only talking of a group that was responsible for the surveillance and security of the pipelines from Mosimi in Shagamu to Ibadan in Oyo state.
Are the pipelines safe now?
While we were there, it was very safe. You had police, soldiers, etc manning the place before we came and yet, NNPC felt it was going to die with the high volume of vandalism daily and when we came on board, the NNPC confirmed that we helped them to reduce vandalism to the barest minimum as all other strategies had failed in the past.
On security and whether Boko Haram could spread to the South West
Book Haram could have come to the South West for about four years now, but they didn’t attempt it. It wasn’t their wish not to attempt it, but they know that there is an outfit that can confront them adequately.
They have been to other places even outside the north, but we keep telling our people that they should not panic, give us information and once such information is given, we will act on it. Strangers are regularly being monitored especially those from the South Western parts of Africa. They threatened to blow up the 3rd Mainland bridge, but by the grace of God, they couldn’t carry out their threats.
On factions in the OPC
The disparity in OPC is blown out of proportion in the media. Gani Adams and I still meet regularly and even after this cancellation of the contract, we have met about twice to discuss the issue and the method to be adopted to pursue the case. I said earlier that I applied for the NNPC contract and when it was awarded, NNPC felt they wanted to divide it and I conceded. The contract we are talking about was executed between my group and that of Gani Adams.
Corruption in the system
Any government that wants to tackle corruption must execute certain programmes and unemployment is one of such programmes. Every nation has its own levels of corruption and types of corruption, but in our own country, every level of corruption is available; bribery, kidnapping, stealing, armed robbery and others. It is the responsibility of the government to reduce corruption to the barest minimum, but government in our own part does not seem to be tackling corruption. No country can wipe away corruption in its entirety.
We have legislators that have turned themselves to pugilists and wanted to go with the mace of the House of Reps, which is a sign of authority. Yet, the government is not sanctioning them or doing anything about it.
The change mantra
We expected true change, but unfortunately, the change that Nigerians were expecting has not manifested. The current government has spent two months in power and we’ve not noticed any change except change in personnel.
We were not expecting this level of change in personnel. You require personnel to execute your programmes. Government is a continuum. There is no way you can wipe off the influence of a past government from that of a successor government and we were talking about corruption, and our legislators have turned the legislature into a boxing ring and asking for several allowances; furniture, wardrobe, car and newspapers allowances.
The legislators that are demanding for wardrobe allowances have not been naked. The government should not approve of such allowances. Rather than approving their wardrobe allowances, the government should send fashion designers to them and sew T-SHIRT for those who don’t have the babarigas. Must we cloth them? N600,000 for wardrobe allowances each. That is corruption.
I agree with those calling for this. How many days do they spend there? They spend maximum three days per week and they are gone. What they are doing is part time job and they should be given part time pay.
Level of governance
In my own view, President Mohammadu Buhari has constituted the only government in town, the legislature is not on, they are on holiday. They didn’t start schooling and they went on holiday. For almost two months now, we have had a government that has not been governing except the auto pilot. Ours is a presidential system and there is what is called division of labour. The presidency can’t perform the functions of legislature according to the constitution. What the Senate is doing can’t be performed by the House of Representatives. As a result of all these, we have been disobeying our constitution at every level.What we have now is Buhari doing everything; no Federal Executive Council. Of course, Buhari wants to run his government, he goes on without the ministers because the National Assembly is not on seat.
There is so much impunity, dishonesty and others and we continue as if nothing is going on.
They promised us change, but nothing has changed; electricity, road, water, and security are not better and security is even worse. It’s as if government is not serious in confronting insecurity in the country.