A Pro-people Lawmaker

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Senator Theodore Orji representing Abia Central senatorial district at the National Assembly has continued to offer effective representation to Nigerians, writes Emmanuel Ugwu

Nigerian citizens are well familiar with such constitutionally guaranteed freedoms such as freedom of association, freedom of worship, among others. They are also very much at home with their fundamental human rights such as right to life, right to live in any part of the country, among other rights. But imagine a situation where the freedom is extended to include how we are taking into consideration the quantity and quality of food on the table of every Nigerian. How possible?

Senator Theodore Orji strongly believes it is possible to legislate on what the people of Nigeria eat and as a matter of fact the government should be held accountable if Nigerians are not well fed. That was why the senator representing Abia Central came up with the SB.71: ‘A Bill For An Act To Make Provision for Freedom From Hunger And The Right To Adequate Food Of Acceptable Quality, Right Of Every Child To Basic Nutrition and for Connected Purposes’. Happily the possibility of achieving this goal is now very high as this pro-people Bill has already become an Act following its passage on the floor of the Senate on Thursday, October 13, 2016. It is waiting Presidential assent and once President Muhammadu Buhari appends his signature and seal to the Bill a new vista would be opened on how Nigeria manages the food and nutritional needs of its citizens.

The food security bill is just one out of the nine bills that Senator Orji has sponsored in his highly productive legislative work in the Senate. This output was achieved in just two years of taking his seat as the representative of Abia Central zone in the upper legislative chamber. Though only the food bill has been passed into law out of the nine bills others are in various stages of passing through the legislative process. But one common thread that runs through all the bills sponsored by Orji is that they are all pro-people.

They are tailored to have direct positive impact on the people of Nigeria just as any good legislation should be. To further make the issue of food security a sustainable reality Orji, who is the Vice-Chairman of Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development sponsored (SB.259) ‘A Bill For An Act To Regulate the Manufacture, Importation, Distribution And Quality Control of Fertiliser in Nigeria And For Related Matters’. The bill which is for second reading would not only enhance food production but also help to preserve soil fertility by checking the use of inappropriate and dangerous brands of fertiliser by Nigerian farmers.

The Senator representing Abia Central is also keen to the revival of palm produce which was the bedrock of the economy of the Eastern Region in the First Republic. Indeed palm produce was fully exploited by the regional government led by the late Premier, Michael Okpara, who used the proceeds from this valued product to build Nigeria’s first indigenous university, the University of Nigeria Nsukka, several industries and infrastructure across the region. To bring back the good old days, Orji is proposing ‘A Bill for the Nigerian Palm Oil Research And Development Board’.

Take for instance SB.72 ‘A Bill For An Act to Repeal The Nigerian investment Promotion Commission Act, Cap 117 Laws Of The Federation Of Nigeria and Re-Enact The Nigerian Investment Commission To Provide For The Creation of An Attractive Incentives Framework And A Transparent Predictable And Facilitating Environment For Investment in Nigeria And Related Matters’. Expectedly if this bill becomes law it would open the way for influx of direct foreign investments in the country and also motivate local investors to expand their investments thereby creating jobs for the teeming unemployed youths of Nigeria.

Another interesting bill from Senator Orji’s legislative portfolio is the SB.78 ‘Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Bill 2016’. The motive for this bill is to make it part of the tools available to security agencies in combating crimes. The DNA, which is the major component of chromosomes and carries genetic information of every organism, is a major crime detecting channel. In developed societies DNA fingerprinting is widely used in fighting crime as criminals are easily nabbed through such device. It involves identifying somebody from DNA by using the analysis and use of DNA patterns from body tissues such as blood, saliva, or semen in order to establish somebody’s identity. Not only that, the DNA test and analysis is also employed in resolving paternity disputes. So the DNA Bill is sure going to make positive impact on the people in terms of security, fighting incidents of rape, murder, robbery, among other criminalities.

Orji has demonstrated his concern for the preservation of the environment. He reasons that if the wanton destruction of the environment is left unchecked the people would eventually pay dearly for it because of the inter-dependence of living organisms whether big, small or microscopic. This accounts for the motive behind Orji’s sponsorship of SB.79: ‘A Bill For An Ac To provide for The management And Conservation Of Nigeria’s Biodiversity, The Protection Of Species And Ecosystems That Warrant National Protection, The Sustainable And Equitable Sharing Of Benefits Arising From Bioprospecting Involving Indigenous Biological resources, The Establishment And Function Of the National Biodiversity Institute And For Matters Connected Therewith’.

On the health of the people Orji wants a situation where preventive measures are enhanced to reduce to the barest minimum possible outbreak of diseases. He has therefore sponsored a bill (SB. 256) ‘A Bill For An Act To Provide For The Establishment Of The Nigerian Centre For Disease Control And Prevention (NCDC) And For Matters Connected Therewth’. Nigeria has in recent times had to grapple with outbreak of diseases that needed the urgent and effective response to avert a major catastrophe.

The Ebola disease episode is still very fresh in the minds of Nigerians following the lives that were claimed after disease was brought into the country by a Liberian. There have also been national apprehension over indents of Lassa fever and most recently Monkey Pox. Perhaps with the passage of NCDC Bill into law the nation would be better sure footed at all times to tackle such health emergencies. That’s the pro-active thinking of Orji.

In the political front Orji is advocating for an end to the practice of sending names of commissioners or ministerial nominees to the legislature for confirmation without assigning portfolios. He should know better about the snag in this age long practice of the executive arm of government. Orji had presided over the affairs of Abia State as governor for two terms of eight years before he got the mandate to represent the people of Abia Central in the upper legislative chamber.

So to straighten issues concerning the appointment of cabinet members Orji proposed SB. 129 ‘A Bill For An Act To Alter The Provision Of The Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) To Enable The President And the State Governors To Designate And Assign Portfolios to Persons Nominated As Ministers Or commissioners Before Confirmation By The Senate Or the State House Of Assembly’. When this particular Bill was presented it was lumped with many other Bills on constitution amendment and all would be treated together. The prospect of having square pegs in square holes in the appointment of ministers and commissioners would greatly enhance good governance.

Orji’s legislative work in the Senate is not only centred on pro-people bills. He has sponsored motions that are weighty, relevant and pro-people. The motions generated resolutions of the Senate in response to the issues raised and the need to take prompt action. On January 1, 2016, the Senate passed a resolution mandating the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) to publish reports of its investigations into the causes of air accidents in Nigeria over the years.

The Senate similarly acted on Orji’s motion and passed a resolution on January 13, 2016 calling on the federal government to immediately set up the Public Procurement Council in accordance with the Public Procurement Act 2008. After that, Orji expressed concern over the indiscriminate blasting of rocks at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and other parts of the country. These activities posed danger not only to the environment but also to the health of residents of the areas where the rocks are blasted. To save the situation the Abia Central Senator moved a motion which resulted to a resolution on April 10, 2016 on the need to check indiscriminate rock blasting in the FCT and other parts of Nigeria in accordance with international best practices.

Having demonstrated high productivity within the first half of his four-year tenure Orji has continued to attract commendations from his constituents. At several town hall meetings with stakeholders, Orji has readily presented his score cards of his legislative accomplishments which were rated very high. Indeed he has set an unprecedented record in representation at the National Assembly as far as Abia State is concerned. For his outstanding legislative achievements, Orji’s constituents are already clamouring for a repeat performance. Hence he has been adopted by stakeholders of Abia Central as well as youth groups across the senatorial zone as consensus candidate for 2019.