Senate President, David Mark
By Dele Ogbodo, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Shola Oyeyipo
Senate President, David Mark, Tuesday called on President Goodluck Jonathan to call his ministers to order, just as he described the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, as a careless talker, following his recent statement that National Assembly resolutions are not binding on the executive.
This came as the upper legislative chamber urged the executive arm of government to jettison bureaucratic bottlenecks and urgently make funds available to manage the devastating effects of flood in Kogi State.
Labaran, who appeared before the Senate Committee on Information and Public Affairs, over his comment, however, apologised to senators for his remarks.
Mark, who spoke after the Senate deliberated on the ravaging effect of floods, which has led to the destruction of lives and property in many states, said: “Labaran is a careless talker, he didn’t think properly before making his statements.
“I hope President Jonathan will call him to order. And for any who will henceforth talk carelessly, the National Assembly will take a resolution to let him or her go.”
He regretted that the floods caught the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), unawares, adding that the level of damage caused by the floods was beyond NEMA.
He said NEMA should be the coordinating body for disaster management in the country, while working round the clock to involve all other relevant bodies such as the military and police in proactively curtailing future disasters.
“We need to advise our people who build along flood plains, if there was a disaster like an earth quake, a lot of people would have died because of the lack of quick emergency response,” he added.
He assured Nigerians that the legislature would work with the executive to hasten the implementation of the bill on the Hydro Power Development Commission that was passed about two years ago.
To address the plight of the flood victims, Mark said the Senate would write Jonathan to forward to the National Assembly a supplementary budget for the affected victims, while also urging the executive to urgently draw up a standard operating procedure that will respond to future disaster management in the country.
Mark also acknowledged the receipts Jonathan’s letter, notifying it of his intention to address the joint chambers on the 2013 Budget.
The president also urged the Senate to consider for confirmation the appointment of Hon. Nnoli Nnanji as member, governing board of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), the nomination of Ms. Rita Begho, representing Delta State, for appointment as member of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the confirmation of Alhaji Hassan Sokodabo, representing Niger and Federal Capital Territory, as member of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC).
Maku, during his appearance before the Senate committee, headed by Senator Enyinnanya Abaribe, was asked to clarify his statement on the Senate’s resolutions, which he said were not binding on the executive.
Abaribe had read Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, which confer powers on the legislature to make laws and resolutions for good governance, adding that the Senate had given Jonathan the best cooperation that he needed in making his work easy.
In his defence, Maku said he had no intention to ridicule the lawmakers when he made the statement.
“I had no intention of denigrating the country’s highest lawmaking body and any other lawmaking bodies for that matter. I was appointed and appeared twice before the Senate before my appointment was confirmed,” he said.
He added that at the time the statement was being made, he was not speaking on behalf of Jonathan over the reversal of the planned introduction of the N5, 000 note.
“Resolutions from the National Assembly are strong. If that comment was misinterpreted, I tender my apology,” he added.
Also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ecology and Environment, Senator Bukola Saraki, while expressing worries over the damage caused by the over flow of River Niger and Benue at Lokoja, when the committee visited the state, said the situation is beyond the capacity of the state to handle.
“The devastation is more than what I could have imagined. This is the time we need immediate action. When the owners of residence already submerged by water come back, they would have lost everything. How they eat and survive should be of great concern to us,” he stressed.
He assured the people of the state that the committee would liaise with the Federal Government to facilitate a timely release of the ecological fund to tackle the problem.
He also added that his committee “will do all that is possible to give immediate and long term support to the victims of the flood and the state government,” stressing “we hope to go back to fashion out ways to bring succour to the people.
The senator also noted that the committee would work closely with the state government to ensure that such disaster is avoided in the future.
Meanwhile, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has expressed dismay over the Federal Government’s poor and uncoordinated response to massive flooding around the country, especially on the Lokoja-Abuja Road that almost cut-off the federal capital from states in the South.
In a statement issued in Ilorin yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party wondered how one could describe the administration’s lack of capacity to be proactive or respond in a timely and robust manner to the recent catalogue of woes and national calamities.
According to the ACN, the closure of the Lokoja-Abuja Road, which had cut off Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city due to flooding of roads and bridges has clearly shown the extent of country’s decayed national infrastructure and the seeming lack of capacity by those entrusted to salvage them.
“On a weekend of multiple disasters such as the Lokoja flooding, the bomb blast in Bauchi, and the two weeks of non-stop flooding all around the country, the President’s handlers showed more concern in informing Nigerians about President Jonathan’s trip to the United Nations General Assembly summit than explaining or proposing a coordinated response to these calamities, the party said.
The party said what was more worrisome is the fact that the President has not deemed it fit to comment on this disaster, nor any of the federal ministers directed to undertake a coordinated response to the disaster.
It said the general impression these lapses have given about government is that of incompetence and immaturity.
“The disposition of President Jonathan’s administration to the welfare of Nigerians confirms the widely held belief that the welfare or well being of Nigerians is definitely not a priority to his government otherwise why could the President not find time to visit even by helicopter the disaster zones to at least give hope to the victims or their relations.
“In the opinion of the party, the continued bungling of the Boko Haram insurgency which is harvesting more deaths almost on a daily basis , the unstoppable carnage on our roads, the executive somersaults of the administration on policy issues, and in general the slow, unfocused and uncertain responses of government to issues depict a government on internship,” it said.