HON. Sergius Ogun is a lawyer and member of the House of Representatives representing Esan North-East/South-East Federal Constituency in Edo State.
He is a practitioner in the oil and gas sector, including youth empowerment in his state. In this interview, he spoke on the implementation of innovations from the just concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) conference, need for government to focus on education and effects of stalling the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). Excerpts:
By Bartholomew Madukwe
BY next week, a new legal year would start. What are your expectations?
The legal industry is going through a process of improvement for the better. In the speech of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, at just concluded NBA Conference, he unfolded new criteria for appointing judges. The way is now open for Judges to be appointed from law practice to the Court of Appeal and even the Supreme Court. This is remarkable.
So I am very optimistic. We will see the implementation of innovations and it will affect the service delivery and output of our national social life. I am very optimistic. Law is my professional constituency and I believe strongly in the progress of the sector.
At the just concluded NBA conference, President Buhari reportedly urged lawyers not to defend corrupt clients, though the NBA President clarified the issue. What is your reaction to this?
It is a constitutional issue. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. Therefore from the perspective of the constitution, the allegedly corrupt client is not corrupt until the court pronounces him so. The law affords every citizen the right to a legal representation by lawyer. It will be unconstitutional to deny a citizen that right of representation and defense. The allegedly corrupt person should have his day in court and if found guilty, he/she will be convicted. I am sure PMB was quoted out of context.
I am sure he was not talking about legal representation in the law courts; maybe he was talking about conniving with perceived corrupt persons to perpetrate fraud. In that case, it is a case of being an accomplice to a crime and that is a different ball game, for which, the police is very well equipped to deal with.
Some experts in the Nigerian oil and gas industry have called on the leadership of the new National Assembly to review the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), what would you say about that?
The Petroleum Industry Bill easily comes to mind. Stalling this bill is costing Nigeria several billions of dollars. I am particularly interested because it affects me personally and challenges my vast years of experience. The essence of experience is to put them to work.
I intend bringing my over 25 years’ experience in the Oil and Gas sector to bear in this regard. As a member of the house and an experienced industry player, Nigerians will see the extent I will invest in the subject. I expect difficulties in all ramifications; we might have to educate our colleagues on the danger of not passing the bill or advice the ministry of petroleum resources to rework the bill for easy passage. I have always known that nothing is easy in this world; this knowledge guides me properly and prepares me to brace up for any challenge.
What is your view on the fluctuation in global oil price?
It is unfortunate that Nigerians are surprised about the fluctuations in the price of crude oil. As a practitioner in the oil and gas sector, I understand that this occurs every now and then.
So the question is, “how come Nigerians were not prepared for it?” Nigeria, being the largest black nation in the world, has no business importing commodities like milk and other food items that have cost the nation billions in foreign exchange. For this reason, I am interested in agriculture. We have arable and fertile land within my constituency with favourable weather condition. We have supported farmers previously and the solemn promise is to do more.
Through my agents, I guided them on modalities for applying for FADAMA loans. This was of tremendous benefit to some of the farmers. At the federal level, I will explore avenues to source for grants and intellectual support to improve their farming activities. This can be in form of agricultural extension support, provision of improved seedlings, simple farm implements and where possible, mechanized farming to improve productivity.
I recall a chat with a young man in my constituency last year, wherein I was informed that between 2012 and 2014 over 200 people died in a particular ward. He suggested that this could be as a result of elevated blood pressure levels. It is common knowledge that due to the agrarian nature of most of my constituents, staple food consumption is common practice.
Their dieting is not stringent or healthy and unfortunately, for lack of information, they may be inadvertently consuming food detrimental to their health. A case in question is a diabetic consuming starchy food, if he does not know of his medical status; he may continue indulging in unhealthy dieting.
There is a plan to sensitize my constituents through medical outreaches. This I have engaged in previously, I recall instances in Ugboha in 2012 and another in Obedu, 2014, which was done in synergy with another foundation, flyers, handbills and oral dissemination of information were done. Liaison with political leaders on the subject turned out to be incredible and quite revealing.
The medical outreach which comprised of mobile testing units helped to inform people of their medical status and proffered interim care. This proved a huge success and one that should be consistent.
Unemployment is having a corrosive effect on our economy. Do you have any plan for the unemployed graduates in Edo State?
There is a concrete plan to start a dairy farm as we speak. We have held positive discussions with partners in Ireland. This was facilitated during my visit to Ireland last year where I saw a lot of farms. I engaged a group to explore areas of mutual partnerships, this culminated in a meeting in Abuja with a positive agreement. We intend making a formal presentation after which we make progress. This has a potential to employ a good number of graduates and other downstream individuals for marketing adverts. We intend to benefit from the ready market in Nigeria.
We have several varieties of cassava, a staple crop which thrives well in all of our communities. These days, better improved varieties are available which can be cultivated with proper management up to three times in a season.
The market for cassava is limitless, and interestingly it is used for Cassava flour, and glucose syrup-a veritable ingredient for confectionary industries like Nestle and others. The market for cassava syrup is almost wholly international (imported). This is a useful vista for encouraging youths and unemployed graduates to go into serious farming.
Like I have mentioned, with the kind of support we intend to provide, we will create a robust environment needed for them to excel in Agriculture, which will further drive down the rate of unemployment in the constituency and Edo State in general.Many youths, today, seem to have lost hope in the country.
Do you see this National Assembly make any meaningful impact in the lives of Nigeria youths?
Teach a youth how to fish and you have solved a long term problem. We have industrious youths who can benefit from skill acquisition. This is another area where attention is needed. It is disheartening that due to a dearth in expertise, our people still go to Togo and other foreign nationals for their semi-skilled jobs. Good enough, we have an Institute of Construction Technology in Uromi, Edo State, which is in my constituency and they advertise short term programmes.
Their aim is to train people on tiling and fittings, diagnostic machines, automobile repairs, plumbing and close circuit television system connections. I have a foundation called Sergius Oseasochie Ogun Foundation (SOOF).