THE SENATELAST WEEK WITH DELE OGBODO
The Upper legislative chamber usually bubble with lots of excitement and back slapping every Tuesday when Senators resume deliberations after weekend break, but it was business immediately the Senate reconvened last Tuesday. The Senate’s mood had been fouled by the statement earlier credited to Information Minister Labaran Maku that Senate resolution on the N5000 was merely advisory and not binding on President Jonathan. Rankled by Maku’s statement, Senate President David Mark asked the President to call his ministers to order and refrain from unguarded utterances. Mark called Maku a “careless talker”. The Senate President said: “Labaran Maku 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 minister who will henceforth talk carelessly, the NASS will take a resolution to let him or her go.”
As members of the Senate settled down last week after its recess, floods which ravaged several states and the unwholesome treatment meted out to over 1000 Nigerian female pilgrims in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj occupied the front burner in deliberations at the chamber. Senate, however, succeeded in passing the Occupational and Health Safety Bill as it closed plenary. But the following issues were highlights of activities that came up in the Senate.
NDDC and Its Budgets
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator James Manager, took the management and governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to task over its consistent delay in presenting its budgets and other anomalies in the budgets. Senator Manager while berating NDDC’s action said, “It is unfortunate that while the 2013 National budget by the federal government will be present early next month, NDDC is still battling to present its 2012 budget for scrutiny.”
He said, “I want to recall that the NDDC budget of 2011 was approved in December 2011” and warned that unnecessary delays in budget presentation would no longer be tolerated. The Managing Director of the commission, Mr. Christian Oboh, gave details of the 2012 budget amounting to N250, 857,925, 434.00, which he said represents the commission’s quest to consolidate its efforts in employment generation, wealth creation and poverty alleviation.
Appeal ICJ Ruling on Bakassi, Senate Urges FG
With barely two weeks to the expiration of time allotted under the International Court of Justice (ICJ) statute to appeal the ruling ceding Bakassi Peninsular to Cameroon in 2002, the Senate does not want Nigeria to allow the opportunity of a review to slip by. Speaking with one voice, Senate resolved that Nigeria should appeal the ICJ ruling saying it has nothing to lose by so doing. The Senate President, however, offered to personally write President Jonathan to urge him to appeal the judgment in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. In the motion, sponsored by Senator Abdul Ningi, the Senate said the ICJ judgment cannot be foreclosed yet as there is a window of opportunity for Nigeria to appeal before October 9. Mark said: “I think appeal is a line of action that should not be neglected because that is legal, since Nigeria subjected itself to the court. If that is what is available through the court, we should also utilise it. I think that is the most appropriate thing to do at this point in time.”
According to the motion, the Senate is determined to protect every Nigerian irrespective of tribe and tongue. Therefore, Senate “accordingly urge the federal government to invoke Article 61 of the ICJ statue to appeal the said judgment in the interest of Nigerians in the affected areas including Bakassi”.
Ndoma Egba Faults Tinubu over Call for Scrapping of Senate
Senate Leader Senator Victor Ndoma Egba used the opportunity of an interactive session with the media to address the call by former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, for the scrapping of the Senate to which his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, also belongs at present. Ndoma Egba said Senate’s 2012 budget of N150 billion is just three percent of national budget, a far cry from the huge funds discovered as subsidy payments to fraudulent petroleum marketers.