From the Parliament, a Dedication to Enwerem

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The 10th anniversary of the passing of a former Senate President, Evans Enwerem, held in the week and was characterised by a gale of defections at both chambers of the National Assembly, report Deji Elumoye and Shola Oyeyipo

At the advent of the Fourth Republic in May, 1999, Senator Evan Enwerem with the backing of then President Olusegun Obasanjo, emerged the President of the Fourth Senate, when it was inaugurated on June 7, 1999, although it was not long before the new set of Senators removed Enwerem and replaced him with their choice, Senator Chuba Okadigbo.

Enwerem served out his four-year term as PDP Senator from Imo State in 2003. Five years after, the cold hands of death snatched him after a brief illness in 2008. Last week, the Enwerem family in Abuja organised a book launch to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of their patriarch.

The leadership of the eighth Senate was not left out of the day-long event. Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, Dr. Bukola Saraki, used the forum to comment about salient national issues especially, those bordering on the legislature and national development while also pouring encomium on the late Senate President.

In his speech as Chairman of the occasion, Saraki identified peace in the National Assembly as a panacea for the growth of the legislature, as well as beneficial relationship with other arms of government and national progress.

He lauded Enwerem for laying a solid foundation for the National Assembly in 1999, saying the 8th Senate has benefitted immensely from his legacy of peaceful and friendly disposition as President of the Senate.

“It is a lesson to all of us, who are in the saddle of leadership today, that we could all use a dose of the Enwerem example, when in the hot seat. He worked with those who had worked against his emergence as President of the Senate; he won their respect, and was able to turn many of them into dedicated friends.

“The result of that cooperation and partnership is part of what we are benefitting from today in the 8th Senate, and which we strive to the best of our ability to emulate. Looking back, I think the late Senator Enwerem would be proud of how far the legislature has come in the Fourth Republic and its contribution to the growth of democracy in Nigeria.

The Eighth Senate, he said, is proud of Enwerem’s contribution in laying the right foundation for the legislature “as we are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, and the late Senator Evan Enwerem is notable among them.”

He stated that the book that was launched in honour of Enwerem bears testimony to what he achieved, working across the political divide in 1999.

“We are told that he made it clear through his words and actions that he would strive for an inclusive Senate, and he worked for peace. He collaborated with his senatorial colleagues across board, irrespective of party or political antecedents, putting the country’s interest first,” he said.

Saraki expressed hope that through the Leadership Foundation and the Lecture, Senator Enwerem’s legacy would live on and his ideas would continue to be propagated respectively to serve as a launch pad for the generation of new ideas that would enrich society.

Interestingly, the reflections on the years of Enwerem didn’t stop the legislature from forging ahead with other business. Thus, last week, the National Assembly witnessed the defection of one Senator and four House of Representatives members from one party to the other.

Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan had at plenary announced the defection of Senator Joshua Lidani (Gombe South) from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) while four members of the House told the Green Chamber in a letter to Speaker Yakubu Dogara of their defection to other parties.

The affected legislators are Salisu Koko (Kebbi), who moved from APC to Social Democratic Party (SDP); Mohammed Ajanah (Kogi) from APC to PDP; Rabiu Kaugama from PDP to SDP and Adekunle Akinlade moved from APC to Allied People’s Movement.

Although no official reasons were given for the lawmakers’ defection, it was however learnt that their change of parties may not be unconnected with the failure of most if not all the defectors to clinch the tickets of their parties to return to the National Assembly and governorship ticket.

A case in point is Akinlade, the favoured gubernatorial candidate of the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, who lost out in the APC gubernatorial primary in the state. He had been rumoured to have defected before making it official, although a different party was being alluded to at the time.

In the coming weeks, defection of more Senators and House members are likely to be witnessed but as it stands today, the APC is believed to still control the majority in both chambers of the National Assembly.

However, many issues were before the lawmakers in the green chamber of the National Assembly last week, but the key ones included the probe of the usage of insurgency war funds and the call on the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, to withdraw his men from the Anambra State House of Assembly.

When the news was confirmed that some Nigerian soldiers were killed by Boko Haram insurgents, the House of Representatives ordered for a probe of the utilisation of funds appropriated for fighting insurgency in the country. The lawmakers were unanimous in their quest to dig deep into what might have transpired, because there was a near-collective belief that something was wrong somewhere.

Thus, when the Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Chukwuka Onyema, moved a motion under matters of urgent national importance, he urged the House to debate the matter for the whole day.

But in their motions for amendment to Onyema’s motion, the trio of Hon. Mohammed Abdu, Isaac Gyang and Hassan Saleh, urged the House to rather investigate the funding of military fight against insurgency.

Dogara, on his part, expressed concern over the killings of the soldiers, saying something must have gone wrong in Nigeria’s war against insurgency, particularly, because smaller countries like Chad, Cameroon are able to effectively secure their borders.

The lawmakers therefore resolved that the probe, which is to be conducted by an ad hoc committee, would look into the operational lapses that might have brought about the killing of the soldiers. Part of their resolutions was also that the military high command should make public, the names of the fallen soldiers after consultations with their family members.

When THISDAY spoke to a cross section of lawmakers in the House of Representatives, it was clear that they have divergent opinions on the matter. While some really suspected foul play, some others were of the opinions that the military had not really been adequately funded.

The Police Inspector-General, Idris, also got his own fair share of legislative venom, when the House urged him to withdraw his men from the Anambra State House of Assembly and allow members access to their offices for legislative functions.

Although yet to come under full legislative scrutiny, Idris became a subject of discussions among lawmakers, who feel some of the activities of his men constituted a breach to the democratic ethos and this is likely to become an issue this new week.

On the Anambra debacle, a member, Hon. Tope Olayonu (Kwara, PDP), in a motion titled: ‘Illegal and Unconstitutional Takeover and sealing of Anambra State House of Assembly Complex by the Commissioner of Police, Anambra State on the Directive of His Excellency, Chief Dr. Willie Obiano, the Governor of Anambra State,’ had called for a reversal of the trend.

According to him, the action was perpetuated to frustrate the Icon of democracy, which is the Legislature from performing its constitutional functions. He noted that the act of the Police Commissioner and the Governor of Anambra State, violates the spirit and principles of the 1999 Constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017.

When Speaker Dogara called for a voice vote, the motion was passed without dissent.

Also, Fashola’s name came up more than once in the House last week. First, he was invited to come and shed more light on the failure of a contractor to reconstruct the Mararaba-Mubi-Michika-Madagali-Gwoza road and three bridges at Kudzum, Delchimi and Wurogyande destroyed by Boko Haram insurgent.

Hon. Adamu Kamale representing Michika/Madagali federal constituency in Borno State had in a motion implored the House to direct the Committee on Works to invite Fashola to come and explain why the three broken bridges have not been repaired.

Apart from the invitation extended to Fashola, the Federal Ministry of Works, Federal Roads Maintenance Agency and other institutions saddled with the responsibility have been asked to embark on immediate repair of the broken bridges so as to re-connect the Michika/Madagali federal constituency to the rest of Nigeria.

As if that was not enough, in what was said to be a bid to avoid breakdown of law and order, Fashola was again advised to pay compensation on the Right of Way (ROW) and relocate public utilities at the Bonny end of Bonny-Bodo Road Project in Rivers State.

The call followed a motion by the lawmaker representing Degema/Bonny federal constituency of Rivers State, Hon. Randolph Brown, calling for urgent need to pay compensation on the right of way and relocate public utilities in the affected area.

In his motion, Brown noted that “Despite the fact that a conclusion on the enumeration and assessment on the compensation for Right of Way (ROW) and relocation of Public Utilities by consultants to the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing had taken place, there is still the refusal to approve the payment and therefore work on the Bonny end of the project is still in coma.”

He added that “The project has given hope to the people of Bonny, who form half of my constituents, being the primary target of the project,” and that “there is finally a chance of an imminent end to the harrowing experiences they regularly suffer in the hands of sea pirates over the years.

“If this matter is not given urgent attention, there will be a breakdown of law and order, as tension and suspension has started to arise owing to the unexplainable silence and invariably refusal to pay the compensation on ROW and the relocation of Public Utilities,” the federal lawmaker noted.

After adopting the motion, the House mandated its committee on Works and Legislative Compliance to monitor the progress and report to the House in two weeks for further legislative actions.

Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed was equally not left out. She was urged by the House to release outstanding funds standing to the credit of the judiciary in compliance with Section 81 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) and the Year 2018 Appropriation Act and release to the National Judicial Council all the outstanding funds to the Judiciary.

The resolution of the House was sequel to a motion by the Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Aminu Shehu Shagari titled: “Refusal of the Minister of Finance to release funds outstanding to the credit of the Judiciary.”

He brought to the notice of the House that a total sum of 110 Billion was approved for judiciary in the year 2018 Appropriation Act as against the sum of 100 Billion which was proposed by the executive but that the money has not been credited to the judiciary as expected.

Shagari while presenting the motion noted that the Funding of judiciary is on a First Line Charge as stipulated in Section 81 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended).

He said it provides that “Any amount standing to the credit of the Judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation shall be paid and disbursed directly to the’ National Judiciary Council for disbursement to the heads of Courts established for the Federation and the States under section 6 of this Constitution.”

The lawmaker further said “the House Committee on Federal Judiciary in the exercise of its oversight Powers, visited Courts and Judicial Bodies on the 7th and 8th November 2018 in an attempt to ascertain the extent of implementation of the 2018 Budget.

According to the Report that was available to the Committee, the Minister of Finance, who is functionary of the executive arm of the government has been withholding Funds standing to the Credit of the Judiciary as at when due.

The House, therefore, mandated the Committees on Federal Judiciary, Federal Capital Territory Judiciary and Finance to ensure compliance and report back to the House within one week.