Drama, Intrigues as Eighth National Assembly Enters Home Stretch

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Saraki and Dogara...where do they come in

The National Assembly last Tuesday resumed plenary after a two-week adjournment to consider some Bills and Motions pending before the two Chambers of the federal legislature, Deji Elumoye and Shola Oyeyipo report

The two chambers of the National Assembly resumed full legislative duties last Tuesday after their various committees had met for about two weeks to carry out some oversight functions as directed by the leadership of both the Senate and House of Representatives.

At the Senate, the day started with the reported invasion of the Apo , Abuja residence of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, by armed bandits as early as 4am. Ekweremadu, who raised the issue as soon as the Senate resumed plenary at about 11.15 am on Tuesday painted a graphic picture of the assassination attempt on him, his wife and son by armed bandits who beat all security network in his residence to gain entrance into the main building.

Speaking under Point of Order (Order 43), Ekweremadu told his colleagues “it is with gratitude to Almighty God that I will like to tell my colleagues, my constituents and the general public that myself, my wife and my son narrowly escaped assassination in the early hours of this morning.

“It was about about 4am this morning, that some people evaded the security in my house and got all the way to my room where I was sleeping with my wife – there was a struggle, there was a fight with heavy commotion and by the grace of God we eventually caught one of them while the rest escaped”.

Ekweremadu expressed concern that several hours after the assassination attempt was reported to top hierarchy of the police, there was no response until sene hours after.

Said he : “The annoying aspect of it or the one that is worrisome is that at that point I called the Inspector-General of police (IGP), his phone was off, I called some of his aides, their phones rang out and nobody replied till now, I called DIG operations, till I left my house nobody showed up.

“I now had my people invite the DPO in charge of Apo police station. We didn’t see him till about 5:30,am he sent his 2nd-in-command who came and he saw the dangerous weapons that they left behind, he left and said that the DPO was coming until I left my house by 9am, the DPO had not come.”

Ekweremadu emphasized the level of insecurity in the country saying “nobody is safe in this country, I want to appeal to my colleagues and the general public that we all continue to be prayerful, be conscious of our private security, it appears that the security is not in the hands of government but the Almighty God”

The Senate thereafter resolved to probe the assassination attempt on the Deputy Senate President and directed its Committee on Police to properly investigate the incident and report back to Senate in two weeks.

The Senate on the same Tuesday received confirmation of appointment requests from President Muhammadu Buhari. The requests include constitution of a six-man governing board headed by Dr Kabiru Nakaura for the National Bureau of Statistics, substitution of Chief Bode Mustapha with Mrs Ronke Sokefun as Chairman of Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC, confirmation of the appointment of Chidi Izuwah as Director-General of Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission and Abike Dabiri-Erewa as Chairman of National Diaspora Commission.

The following day, the upper legislative chamber through a motion moved by Senator Clifford Ordia (Edo Central) extolled the virtues of former Minister of Works and Housing, late Chief Tony Anenih urged the federal government to name the National Institute of Construction Technology and Management, Uromi after the late politician popularly called Mr Fix It.

The Senate also made a u-turn on the funding of the 2019 polls by approving that the Virement should be from 2018 Appropriation of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs. Citing Order 53(6) of the Senate Standing Rules, the Senate rescinded and reconsidered its October 16 approval of the N242.245bn request for the 2019 polls and emphasized that the fund will now be sourced from 2018 Appropriation of MDAs and Service Wide Vote (Special Intervention Programme, SIP).

The Senate did not sit for long on Thursday as it immediately adjourned to Tuesday to enable the Senators attend the African Parliamentary Union conference at ECOWAS secretariat at Asokoro, Abuja. The Senators therefore could not consider the motions and bills already outlined for consideration on the Order Paper. Among the Bills listed for consideration were A Bill for an Act to repeal the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act No 19 of 1995; A Bill for an Act to repeal the National Commission for Colleges of Education Act (No.3) of 1989 and to establish the National Commission for Teacher Education and other related matters, 2018 (SB.561) and A Bill for an Act to repeal the Advertising Practitioner’s ( Registration, etc) Act and enact the Advertising Practitioner’s (Registration, Licensing, etc) 2018 to provide for the establishment of a Council for Advertising Practitioners and for other matters connected therewith, 2018. Four committee reports that were billed for presentation and consideration by the Senate were also deferred on Thursday. They include report of the committee on establishment and Public Service on the Counselling Practitioners Council of Nigeria (Est,etc) Bill, 2018; Report of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions in respect of seven petitions; Reports of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on Firearms Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and Nigerian Law Reform Commission Act ( Amendment) Bill, 2018.

In the House of Representatives, despite the fact that the leadership of both chambers in person of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara are both in the opposition, there is still calm among the camps.While the true numerical strength of the ruling party is still not ascertained, four of it’s members in the House of Representatives, who did not win renomination to contest in 2019, opted to defect from the party. Speaker Yakubu Dogara announced the defections on the floor of the House in Abuja on Tuesday when the House resumed plenary.

In what was obviously going to further deplete the numerical strength of the ruling party as the eighth assembly gradually winds up, the lawmakers thanked APC for providing them the platform to serve noting that they had to move on to further their political careers in other political parties.The defectors: Hon. Dada Awoleye, representing Ibadan North federal constituency, joined Accord Party; Hon. Segun William representing Abeokuta South federal constituency left for Labour Party (LP): lawmaker representing Anka/Mafara federal constituency of Zamfara State, Hassan Lawali, defected to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) while Hon. Adedapo Lam-Adesina, representing Ibadan North-East/South- East federal constituency defected to the African Democratic Congress (ADC).

Interestingly, rather than create serious acrimony among the opposing political camp, the announcement of the defections by the Speaker created celebration among lawmakers in the other parties in the green chamber of the National Assembly.

While the gale of defections from the APC continues, there are sustained feelers that there are still more disgruntled members of the party who are only buying time pending when they would also announce their defection.

Recall that the spokesperson for a group of House of Representatives members under the aegis of Parliamentary Democrats Group, (PDG) , Hon Timothy Golu, did not only boast that the APC should not expend energy on attempt to remove Dogara when they return from their recent long holiday, he also advised the APC to be ready to see more defections.

He has consistently reaffirmed that they will defend the authority, right and mandate of the Speaker against any threat from any quarters because the position of the Speaker does not belong to any political party as he was elected by members from all the political parties as provided for in the 1999 constitution.

While it is not clear whether or not any opposition party member may be contemplating defecting to the APC, watchers of the trend can only wait to evaluate what impact it will have on the outcome of the 2019 election that is months away

Away from the defection episode, the purported assassination attempt on the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, got the attention of the lower chamber as well. Considered as an alleged plan to silence some of its key leaders by a desperate ruling party, a lot of the lawmakers were distressed about the news.

Ekweremadu, at the Senate plenary last Tuesday, narrated how armed men broke into his house in what he alleged to be a failed assassination attempt. Following the incident, Dogara charged security agencies in Nigeria to secure citizens against politically motivated intimidation, coercion assassinations as the 2019 elections draw closer. To him, what took place at Ekweremadu’s Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja resident, is an indication that nowhere and nobody is safe in the country.

“There is no room for excuses anymore. The security agencies must be alive to their responsibility of securing the lives and properties of Nigerians. This is unacceptable. The Police must ensure that the gunman and all those involved are not only apprehended but brought to justice.

“As the 2019 elections draws closer, it is of utmost importance that the Police and other security agencies deploy its intelligence to forestall wanton killings and other violent acts that are programmed to cause fear and panic among Nigerians. These kinds of incidents must be nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand,” the Speaker stated.

The House thereafter set up an ad hoc committee to look into the alleged attempt assassination of Ekweremadu and members of his family. The committee, charged with the responsibility of investigating the circumstances regarding the late response of the Nigeria police, came about as a result of a motion by Hon.Toby Okechukwu (PDP-Enugu). Okechukwu, who represents Aninri/Agwu/Oji-River federal constituency of Enugu State, was worried that if such attack could take place at Ekweremadu’s residence with the calibre of security setup it had, then it calls for concern.

Other important issues before the House included motion moved by Hon. Oghuma Johnson on the earth tremor witnessed in Abuja and which was adopted. He called on relevant agencies to carry out a holistic study of the terrain to forestall further occurrences. Also, not a few Nigerian are interested in what becomes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the periodic revision of the laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004, which passed second reading last week.

Leading the debate, Hon. Idris Ahmed stated that the laws are meant to be reviewed every decade so that they continue to meet the practical needs of society. While the seconder, Hon. Edward Pwajok stated that the Nigeria Law Reform Act already takes into consideration the matter and that the Senate should have Amended that law and not bring a stand alone law for concurrence.

But concerned that the law may repeal the existing law, or may bring about duplication, the Bill was stepped down by leave of the House. So, debate on it was adjourned to enable the committee on Rules and Business examine it vis-à-vis the provision of the Nigeria Law Reform Commission.

Applicants in Nigeria will also follow up on a Bill seeking for an Act to eradicate the age discrimination against job seekers in federal government agencies, which also passed second reading.

Hon. Sergius Ose Ogun, urged his colleagues to ensure that the bill becomes an act so that no Nigerian job seeker is disqualified on grounds of age.

According to him, this would be a key responsibility of Parliamentarians as representatives of the people, canvassing that by so doing, the human rights of the job seekers will not be trampled upon and that it would significantly reduce the amount of unemployed individuals in the society.

If eventually passed into law, Bill is mainly targeted at federal government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with the hope that the private sector, which is another major employer of labor would follow suit afterwards.

From all indications however, decisions and actions of a significant number of APC lawmakers in the lower chamber will continue to be influenced by their disapproval over the conduct of the recent party primary.

Quite a number of the APC members who lost their tickets under various circumstances registered their grievances during Thursday plenary after a motion of urgent national importance by Hon. Abubakar Chika Adamu, berated the lack on internal democracy that characterised the conduct of party primaries ahead of the 2019 elections.