(Hon.) Abdullateef Abdulkareem, a former Special Adviser on Legislative and Political Matters and former member, Lagos House of Assembly, was among the 23 Commissioners and 13 Special Advisers that were sworn-in on Monday, October 19, 2015, by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode at Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, the Secretariat, Alausa, Lagos.
He spoke to ENCOMIUM Weekly on his agenda for the ministry.
To what do you owe this appointment?
I see it as a call to service. I see it as another opportunity to improve on the activities of the government. The government of Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode has started in a very methodical way to bring about transformation. He has started with people consultation which led to Town Hall meeting.
What is your agenda for the Ministry of Home Affairs?
Home Affairs all over the world is in charge of homeland security. This ministry relates with religious organizations. There is need to ensure that we have the enumeration of all churches and all mosques and all religious organizations in the state. We want to have a database, for us to know the number of churches, mosques and religious organizations in the state.
It is also important that the religious organizations know who their members are and have a metal detector to avoid a terrorist coming into their midst.
Our job is to establish a partnership between the government and religious leaders. We need to partner them. We need to engage them because all over the world, religious leaders are development partners. So, we are going to take advantage of that.
The ministry is also in charge of citizenship matters. Our responsibility is to make sure that citizens imbibe the right culture, the right attitude. It is not all about enforcement but about enlightenment, so that they will avoid committing crime deliberately. Anyone who resides in Lagos State, the government has a duty to safeguard his welfare and not endanger the welfare of the citizens.
The citizens themselves must be enlightened in such a way that the government will sufficiently partner such citizens to the extent that there will not be enforcement.
Like I said, it is not about enforcement but about enlightenment. That is why Governor Ambode is adopting a new approach called, Citizens Engagement. He tries to re-orientate the traffic officers to engage the citizens to enlighten them, to wear a human face even when discussing with them. But some people took that for laxity. We want enforcement to be the last thing. The government is not interested in making revenue out of the enforcement. Government wants the citizens to enjoy a civil life. A life of respect and dignity. A life of understanding. We are all proud to be citizens of Nigeria. But whoever comes into this state has become a Lagosian by extension. The ministry is also in charge of money lenders. What you call Alajo (daily contribution).
Isn’t that under Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperative?
No, no, no. There is a difference between cooperative and money lending. It is the Home Affairs Ministry that issues license to money lenders. One of the first things we are going to do in this area is to amend the law guiding the operation of money lenders. The old law still charges N50 for money lender license. That is very unrealistic in terms of our present economic reality. The amount will be increased to an appreciable level. In two weeks, the regulations will come out to make it easy for money lenders to obtain their license.
This ministry is also in charge of the pilgrims board. To avoid the stampede that happened in the last Hajj, we are going to engage traffic officers. We are going to train hajj officials about traffic management. To us in Lagos State, safety comes first. We thank God that we went with about 3,047 and none of them was a victim of the crane that fell nor that of the stampede. That does not mean we are going to rest on our oars. We are going to ensure…
(Cuts in) What about those Lagosians that died in the stampede?
No, no, no, they are not part of our delegates. They went on a private arrangement. They went through private tour operators. Those who went with Lagos State, nothing happened to them.
Does that mean those who went with Lagos State were those sponsored by Lagos State government?
No. Lagos State no longer sponsors people on pilgrimage. That is part of the policy of the government to reduce cost. The Quoran and the Bible do not say people should be sponsored. It is for those who have the capacity to go. If you don’t have the capacity but you have the intention, you will have a reward. God does not ask you what He has not given to you.
The Christian Pilgrim Board (Lagos State) this year is adopting a very high level of safety because of what is going on in the Mid East, especially between Israel and Palestine. We have put in place measures to make sure all our pilgrims are safe because they will be travelling by the second week of November.
Last, the ministry will partner Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Lagos State branch, in a bid to bring all the religious leaders together to foster peaceful co-existence and harmonious relationship in Lagos State.
Will you say your appointment as a commissioner was something you were expecting or it came as a surprise?
It came as a surprise because my thinking was that I have had my own opportunity. I have been a member of the Executive Council (Exco) before I became a member of House of Assembly. So, I should give others opportunity to have their own chance. I am not the only one in Lagos State. There are more than 20 million people in Lagos. But now that it has come again, I must improve on my service delivery. I should make sure I am an asset to the governor and not a liability. I should make sure Lagosians enjoy the best of service this time around.
- TOLANI ABATTI