What a week! That expression aptly described episodes in the Senate last week. Events were both thrilling and though- provoking. Thus, the plenary session last Wednesday in the upper chamber was quite an exciting one. Humour, fun, excitement and all kinds of grinning expressions were the hallmarks of the day’s sitting. Ironically, the issue under consideration was a matter of serious national importance. Yet it was one exercise accompanied with fanfare without necessarily deviating from its main thrust.
The agenda was the confirmation of new ministerial nominees whose names had been sent to the Senate by President Goodluck Jonathan on January 16, 2013 as replacements for former Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji, and former Defence Minister, Dr. Haliru Bello, both of who were relieved of their jobs by the President.
The nominees are Professor Chinedu Osita Nebo who until his appointment was the Vice Chancellor of Federal University, Oye and Kabiru Turaki, a legal practitioner. Both men hail from Enugu and Kebbi States respectively.
Indeed, it was a moment of intense drilling as the nominees strived hard to convince their “examiners” that they were up to the task. Both men brought comic relief into the chamber by the volume of their submission.
But the most thrilling of the issues was Nebo’s response to a questions on whether he had the capacity to transform the nation’s power sector, which had in the past decades defied solution. He recalled how it is commonly believed that certain demons, witches and wizards had laid siege to the operations of the power sector. Without any fear of equivocation, Nebo did not mince words to state that venturing into another demons’ arena would be merely treading a familiar terrain.
According to him, as the Vice Chancellor of University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), in 2004, he salvaged the university campus which he said had become a den of cultists whom he said often went on rampage, killing and maiming at will while everyone lived in awe of the evil men day after day.
However, Nebo, who described himself as a minister of the gospel, disclosed that the ugly story soon became history when he ascended the office of UNN’s VC and forthwith commenced a spiritual revolution. In a short while, he said he had succeeded in chasing cultists out of UNN. Nebo, therefore, said with the same God-given ability with which he displaced the forces of darkness in UNN, he would chase away the demons, witches and wizards troubling the power sector if assigned the portfolio of power ministry. “If the President deploys me in the power sector, I believe that given my performance at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where I drove out the witches and demons, God will also give me the power to drive out demons in the power sector,” Nebo said. This expression provoked wild laughter in the chamber, lasting for so long and thus interrupted Nebo’s presentation.
Nebo spoke eloquently on his capacity to subdue demons, principalities and powers so much that he succeeded in carving a niche for himself as one man with the seeming exclusive preserve to demystify demons. And with that submission alone, Nebo appeared to have passed the test of confirmation. Thus in a matter of minutes, Senate President David Mark called on Nebo to take a bow and go. His counterpart from Kebbi State responded to the questions calmly. But it would seem Nebo had put himself on the spot as all eyes will be fixed on him, waiting to see if his magic wand can redeem the power sector if eventually sent to the ministry by President Jonathan.
Anyim and Nigeria’s Centenary Anniversary Briefing
Another development in Senate last week was the way and manner the Senators dismissed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim on the matter of the centenary anniversary celebration of Nigeria. Anyim was Senate president from around 2001 to 2003. The Senate had cut short its plenary on Tuesday to receive Anyim who was billed to brief the senators on the government’s agenda on the centenary anniversary celebration.
At the Conference Centre of the Senate building, Anyim had been well received by the senators. And on ascending the podium, they had thrown banters at one another, sending the hall reeling with laughter. For instance, Anyim had protested with a sense of humour what he described as the conversion of his former office to a restaurant by Mark and wondered where he would stay on his second coming to the Senate.
After the humour, Anyim set forth for the day’s business. Accordingly, he rolled out the long agenda for the forthcoming celebration as well as the raison deitre for the event. According to Anyim, that Nigerians have co-existed for a hundred years called for celebration.
He told the senators that the celebration would kick off from February 4, this year and run through October 1, next year. Nigeria will clock 100 years on January 1, 2014 following the almagamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates in 1914.
According to Anyim, the centenary project will hold in Abuja and all state capitals, saying the essence is to celebrate Nigerians’ co-existence for 100 years and stress the need for continuity.
He also listed projects to come up in the course of the celebration to include the creation of Abuja city, which he said would be a world class recreation centre. But as Anyim kept rolling out the centenary programmes, the lawmakers expected him to arrive at the method of funding the projects. Anyim perhaps disappointed the senators when he said the funding of the entire celebration would be private sector-driven without any government input.
This came as a surprise to them, prompting Senate President David Mark to cut the briefing short, saying if there would be no government funding for the event, then the briefing was totally unnecessary. Mark interrupted the briefing and before anyone could utter any other word, he called for vote of thanks while Anyim who was still warming up to answer the senator’s questions was dismissed with a warning from Mark that the Senate would not condone a situation where it hears later that government spent money on the programme.
Plight of Nigerians Abroad
Besides, the Senate talked tough last week over what it described as incessant harrassment of Nigerians in foreign countries. To this end, it said at least 776 Nigerians are serving different jail terms abroad and warned against the continuity of the trend. While passing a resolution on the motion moved by Senator Mathew Nwagwu (Imo North), the upper chamber’s main concern was the perceived maltreatment of innocent Nigerians abroad, recalling the recent deportation of 14 Nigerians from Spain for alleged wrongdoing but who were said to be innocent.
Worthy of note in the entire presentation was the perceived non-challant attitude of Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs’ Ministry as well as the foreign missions towards the plight of innocent Nigerians. They were alleged to play no useful role in the defence of Nigeria’s citizens which ordinarily should be their primary responsibility. Instead, the senators said the mission are usually quick to dismiss Nigerians as criminals without giving them fair hearing.
Eventually, the Senate called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Nigerian embassies across the world to be more proactive on matters affecting Nigerians in countries where they are in distress. However, this was not without a caveat - that any Nigerians caught in any criminal act should be made to face the wrath of the law in such countries.