Chidi Nwachukwu, a Lawyer and Development Strategist is the Senior Legislatiive Aide and Special Adviser on Research and Strategy to Senator Ben Murray-Bruce representing Bayelsa East in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly. In this interview with Godbless Eduviere, he speaks on the activities of Senator Murray-Bruce in the last one year
How has Senator Ben Murray-Bruce impacted on his constituents in the last one year?
First, I want to start by saying that the distinguished Senator came into the Senate with lots of energy and passion to impact not just his constituents but the entire country. Few months into the business of legislation in the Red Chamber, he gave his allowance to widows in Bayelsa State and has made several policy changing statements through his commonsense advocacy series. He has been able to provide solar powered electricity in four communities in the Bayelsa East. Recently, he saw to the completion of ICT centres in five different locations in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
In the 2016 Budget, he is providing solar powered electricity to 12 hospitals and 15 schools in Bayelsa East. He has presented petitions on issues bothering on Bayelsans and the Niger Delta in general. Specifically in March this year, he presented a petition against the unprovoked military invasion of Ogoni Communities occasioning wanton killings of innocent citizens and residents. He also intervened by way of petitions regarding unlawful dismissal of some of his constituents by a government agency as well as some students from Southern Ijaw whose scholarships are being abandoned abroad by the current administration.
These petitions are receiving attention in the Senate as we speak. Although the Senator would have preferred that these issues are tackled expeditiously, but that is not case due to slow pace of things which is as a result of lots of issues competing for the attention of the Senators. However, he is doing his best to ensure that his constituents get the best representation from him.
Are there bills and motions sponsored by Senator Murray-Bruce?
Yes.The Senator has a total of eight bills currently in the system. He started with the Independent Prosecution Bill. This all important bill became necessary due the belief in some quarters that Government often use its agencies to witch-hunt its political enemies in the name of fighting corruption.
The essence of the bill when passed into law is to ensure that prosecutors involved in the prosecution of persons either for corruption or other offences are independent of the Government, which means that they can prosecute anybody. Remember Kenneth Starr who almost brought down Clinton Presidency in America. This is what the Distinguished is looking at.
Others are Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Amendment Bill, Energy Commission Amendment Bill, Nigerian Sports Commission Establishment Bill, Neighborhood Watches Establishment Bill, Economic and Financial Crime Commission Amendment Bill, National Institute of Credit Administration Establishment Bill and Right of Return Bill. Let me explain the last one, the Right of Return is a bill that permits persons of African origin to become Nigerian citizens through naturalisation. This will be achieved by amending section 26 (2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
It is important to note that under the international law, each country has the right to decide for itself to whom it will give citizenship. Nigeria remains the most populous black nation in the world, and has continued to play the big brother in Africa both in peace and in war times. Nigeria was instrumental to the abolishment of Apartheid in South Africa. Under ECOMOG, Nigeria played a leading role in peace keeping operations in war torn African countries.
The Distinguished Senator contends that not many people understand how much blacks in prominent Western countries such as Europe and America are desirous of identity. Many of them are tired of living in a heavily discriminated environment, yet the most talented of these Africans are hurriedly exploited by the same West with immense economic benefits to them, while their countries of origin suffer from brain drain.
The cardinal purpose of this bill is to rebuild Nigeria with some of the brilliant Africans that left the shores, some in recent times, others during the slave trade and wars that forced them out of their countries into the West as refugees. Some of these immigrants have continued to develop their countries of domicile both in science and technology as well as in sports. He believes they can do same in Nigeria as citizens through naturalisation. He also has two motions. One is the need to enforce the rights of every child to basic education, as provided under the Universal Basic Education Scheme, and the other one, is the need to tackle sea piracy and criminal activities in the Niger Delta by the National Inland waterways
Given the volatile nature of the Niger Delta and as a major stakeholder in the oil rich region, are steps taken by the senator by way of legislation to address the growing tension in the Niger Delta?
The Senator is very much concerned about the volatility of the Niger Delta and has had cause to address some of these issues in various public fora. The Senator is particularly worried about the level of sea piracy that has claimed many innocent lives in the region, and has sponsored a motion to that effect requesting the Federal Government, National Inland Waterways Authority to get more creative in tackling the menace.
Senator Murray-Bruce supported the removal of fuel subsidy. Why?
Well, the removal of fuel subsidy was generally supported by the Senate visa vis the National Assembly. The difference is that the Senator has continued to advocate that Government should develop a robust transport policy that will be subsidised rather subsidising fuel which only benefits a few rich individuals. If the public transport is subsidised it will benefit the poor who predominantly use it, which means that whatever price the fuel is sold at will not be of much concern to this section of the public.
As Chairman Senate Committee on Privatisation, What has he done so far?
Basically, he is looking at the privatised entities to see how they are carrying on their activities. You recall that efficiency and productivity features prominently in privatisation advocacy, and unfortunately some of them have not lived up to this expectation. He has questioned the continued poor infrastructure in the power sector, when it ought to have improved after privatisation through increased investments.
A public hearing is underway. But he is particularly interested in the revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited which is equally slated for privatisation. Precisely on the 14th of June 2016 he and his members of the committee embarked on a one day oversight function to Ajaokuta and in the company of some stakeholders involving some Ukranian steel experts and their Nigerian partners. He was disappointed at what he saw, a company capable of providing thousands of employment lying fallow, while many Nigerians are without jobs.
He used the opportunity to appreciate the efforts of former President Shehu Shagari for such a laudable initiative. Two days after the oversight visit, he called for a public hearing which was well attended by stakeholders and the general public. This is a huge task before the Senator but he is determined to make his mark as true representative of the people. He vows to revive the steel plant even if that is the only thing he achieved for Nigeria.