As the 469-member eighth National Assembly begins the last lap of its legislative race on January 16, Deji Elumoye and Shola Oyedipo, examine the roles played by 20 of the lawmakers in shaping the direction of the federal legislative in the last three and a half years
The 1999 constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria created the National Assembly to make necessary laws for the country. The membership of the National Assembly include 109 Senators at the equal rate of three per each of the 36 states of the federation and one for the Federal Capital Territory while the House of Representatives consists of 360 members based on the federal constituencies in each state.
Since the inauguration of the eighth National Assembly on June 9, 2015, the lawmakers led by a former two-time governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki as Chairman of the National Assembly had performed their legislative duties to the best of their ability in line with the provisions of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
Thus, in recognition of the contributions of some of the lawmakers to the growth of the legislature under review, 20 members have been identified in both the Red and Green chambers as individuals, who stood out in their respective ways to parliamentary growth and development.
Saraki is a ranking Senator from Kwara Central Senatorial District since 2011 after serving two terms of eight years as governor of Kwara State, from 2003 to 2011. As a first term Senator in 2011, he was made the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology during which he pushed for a motion in the Senate to end the fuel subsidy regime in Nigeria, which has been an excessive waste of the country’s national resources.
Upon his re-election to the Senate, Saraki, who on June 9, 2015 emerged Senate President by an across-the-party alliance, comprising Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) Senators, had faced stiff opposition from Senator Ahmad Lawan, who was sold as the preferred candidate of the establishment by a group of senators-elect and some APC leaders.
The Senate President eventually defected from the All Progressives Congress on July 31, 2018 – some days after 14 senators had defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He blamed his defection on the intolerance of influential persons in APC.
Under Saraki’s leadership in the last three and a half years, the Senate had passed 222 bills and cleared 151 public petitions. One of such bills was the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill passed to promote transparency and accountability in the oil industry after 12 years and which President Muhammadu Buhari refused to assent to saying the provisions of the bill tends to reduce the President’s powers.
Saraki remains the most outstanding President of the Senate, an assertion justified by his commitment and focus despite the travails that lasted the period of his reign. He is brilliant, smart, intelligent, compassionate and futuristic. The Senate under him remains the best in Nigeria’s political history.
Ekweremadu, a ranking four-term Senator was first elected to represent Enugu West Senatorial District on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2003 and has been the alternate Senate President for close to 12 years since June, 2007. Despite his busy schedule as Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu also sponsored several bills, including the State Police Creation bill currently at the second reading stage at the Senate and is one of the bills to be given priority once the Senate resumes plenary next week.
Lawan, a ranking Senator since 2007 and current Senate Leader, represents Yobe North Senatorial District. In the wake of the election of the principal officers of the 8th National Assembly on June 9, 2015, Lawan was favoured by some APC Senators and leaders, who claimed he was the preferred choice of President Muhammadu Buhari as Senate President.
But other PDP Senators had their joker and elected Saraki as Senate President. As Senate Leader, he introduces bills and motions before the upper chamber of the National Assembly for debate by Senators. He is also always willing to defend President Buhari’s administration at every point in time at plenary and is the arrow head of all Executive bills before the Senate.
Ndume, a ranking two-term Senator became Senate Leader of the 8th National Assembly but was removed on January 10, 2017. He was suspended in March, 2017 for six months by the Senate committee on ethics and privileges headed by Senator Samuel Anyanwu, for calling for a probe into the allegations of imported bullet proof range rover with fake documents allegedly involving Senate President Bukola Saraki and seized by the Nigerian Customs.
This also included alleged perjury involving Senator Dino Melaye. But after exonerating Saraki and Melaye, the Committee recommended a one year suspension of Ndume, claiming the former Senate Leader failed to conduct proper investigation before making the said allegations. Ndume is an ardent supporter of President Buhari and was ever willing to promote and support any Executive bills on the floor of the Senate
Former two-term governor of Akwa-Ibom State and a first time Senator, Akpabio emerged the Minority Leader of the Senate notwithstanding the fact that he’s not a ranking Senator.
Akpabio was nominated as the Senate Minority Leader by the South-south caucus of the PDP ratified by the caucus in the Senate and announced by the Senate President at plenary on July 28, 2015.
He resigned as the Senate Minority Leader, after his defection to the APC in August, 2018. Akpabio is passionate about resource control and Niger Delta related bills and motions and is ever ready to articulate his views on them. He had since become another foot soldier of President Buhari in the senate.
Olujimi, a first term Senator is former deputy governor of Ekiti State, who represents Ekiti South Senatorial District in the Senate and replaced Akpabio as Senate Minority Leader in August, 2018. She is passionate about women empowerment and in the past had cause to sponsor bills and motions aimed at uplifting the women and youth in the society.
A former House of Representatives member, Melaye is a first term Kogi West Senator and ardent supporter of Senate President Saraki. He had at various times been involved in controversies both on the floor of the Senate and outside. A process to recall Melaye, allegedly sponsored by Governor Yahaya Bello and which commenced in June 2017, however failed to see the light of the day as his constituents voted against his recall.
Melaye, who is in a running battle with Bello, is also facing another battle with the Nigeria Police that have stormed his Maitama, Abuja residence seeking to arrest him. Melaye is one of the Senators that illuminate the Senate Chambers with his in depth analysis of issues whenever he is contributing at plenary, even though he is no less a jester.
Murray-Bruce, a first term Senator, who represents Bayelsa South Senatorial District in the Senate is one of the vocal Senators of the 8th National Assembly. He is popularly known as the ‘Common Sense Senator’, because of his call on Nigerians especially, political office holders to use common sense in their dealings with the people.
Murray-Bruce who is Chairman of Senate Committee on Establishments also belongs to other Committees and is the Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Media. He is however not coming back to the senate as he pulled out of the race for his ticket during the party primary held in his Bayelsa State.
Abaribe is a ranking third term Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District and Chairman of the South East Caucus in the Senate. He was at various times Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Inter-Parliamentary Affairs, member of the Committees on the Independent National Electoral Commission, Senate Services, and Works.
Abaribe had a brush with the security operatives when he was arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) at his Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja for his alleged links with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) being one of the sureties of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
He was subsequently taken to his Abuja residence for a search before being detained at the DSS office in Abuja but was released on bail on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. He is very passionate about issues concerning the South-east geo-political zone and was always ready to point out the exclusion of the zone in any appointment by President Buhari.
Gbenga Bareehu Ashafa is a second term senator representing Lagos East. A member of the All Progressives Congress, he had also served as a member of the National Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress as well as the Vice Chairman (South West) of the Southern Senators Forum.
In his first coming, Ashafa was Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Lands, Housing and Urban Development. He was also a member of the committees on Environment and Ecology Committee, Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Relations, Gas Committee, and Senate Services Committee.
However, in the eighth senate, apart from being the chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, he is also the chairman of the Senate Joint committees on Marine Transport and Aviation as well as Conference committee of the Senate on the Nigerian Railway Authority Bill.
His assignment as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport had compelled him to set the pace for the provision of legislative support for the executive in achieving the complete turnaround of the railway sector in the country.
A very sincere and mature family man, whose reasoning is not coloured by indiscrete political affiliation, Ashafa has stood himself out as a senator without blemish, even though he won’t be returning to the senate in the 9th assembly. However, one thing is certain: his name and work remain indelible on the marble of the federal legislature.
Tinubu is a two-term Senator representing Lagos Central Senatorial District and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment. She is very passionate about the issue of women and youth empowerment, which led to the setting up of Youth Empowerment and Skills Acquisition Scheme (YESAS) through which many youths had been empowered in her senatorial district.
Tinubu’s constituency development initiatives include: Post-Secondary School Scholarship Scheme (PSSS), Annual disbursement of N100, 000 to 26 beneficiaries for four years, and 624 students of tertiary institutions receive N10,000 as book bursaries, grants to help 650 beneficiaries within her constituency to re-capitalise their businesses and provision of maintenance grants to alleviate the plight of the elderly (Elderly Citizen Assistance Scheme).
Dogara represents Bogoro/Dass, Nigeria/Tafawa Balewa federal constituency since 2007. In the current dispensation, Dogara has sponsored bills which include the North-East Development Commission Establishment Bill 2015, (10) the Subsidiary Legislation Bill 2015, (11) the Federal Competition Bill 2015, the Data Protection Bill 2015, (12) the Public Interest Disclosure Bill 2015 (13) and the Hire Purchase Bill 2015 (14).
He is also sponsoring the Budget Process Bill in fulfillment of his promise to reform Nigeria’s budgeting process. The Bill when passed into law, according to him would outlaw non-implementation of budgets, which is the bane of Nigeria’s development since 1999.
He has equally sponsored many motions throughout the duration of his legislative career. He introduced a legislative agenda for the eighth House, which would serve as its guiding document for a period of four years.
Dogara will be remembered as a strong advocate for the reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery of the North-East region of Nigeria, an active supporter of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run campaign, who advocated extensively for local government autonomy in Nigeria and a crusader of budget reforms.
Gbajabiamila is one strong factor in the eighth House of Representatives. Representing Surulere I federal constituency, Gbajabiamila is a fourth term member of the House, who was penciled down for the speakership before Hon. Dogara clinched it. He is an advocate of qualitative representation, took an active part in debates on the floor and is known to always be on the side of ‘truth and justice’ even as his views were believed to truly reflect the wishes and aspirations of his constituents.
Members of the House in the ruling party would say “the fear of Gbajabiamila is the beginning of wisdom,” not necessarily because they fear him but out of the profound respect his colleagues accord him.
He also enjoys robust relationship with people of his constituency. He is the initiator of Lagos Job Fair, the first of its kind in South-west, Nigeria. The job fair brought employers of labor drawn from public/private sectors and job seekers under one roof and instant employments were given to meritorious candidates, who are currently excelling in NAFDAC, SMEDAN, MIKANO, Lagos Inland Revenue Service and many others.
Another enigma in the House is the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Lasun Yusuf. As a member since 2011, he represents Irepodun/Olurunda/Osogbo/Orolu federal constituency of Osun State. Fondly called ‘The Homeboy’ due to his grassroots relationship with the people, Lasun is known for his undiluted loyalty, unquantifiable role played in the Alliance of Democracy AD and his doggedness in the political circle in his state.
He was elected the Deputy Speaker of the eighth House by 203 members of the House of Representatives out of the 357 that participated in the in-house election while Dogara was elected the Speaker. He has worked cordially with the Speaker despite the fact that they now represent different political parties.
Lasun has presided over the affairs of the House, when the Speaker was unavoidably absent or had to participate on the floor of the House. He led some members of the House to the 15th Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers Conference African Region, in Accra, Ghana, in November, 2015. He was the Deputy Chairperson of the conference.
He represented the Speaker at an investigative public hearing on the activities of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) conducted by the House Committee on Power at the National Assembly in 2015. He presided over the House during the second reading of a bill seeking to legalise the establishment of the North-east Development Commission, which was sponsored by Dogara. He may not be returning to the House, however.
Ossai Nicholas Ossai
With over 44 bills and more than 20 motions to his credit, Ossai is adjudged the second honourable member with the highest number of sponsored bills. Ossai is a champion for democracy, a strong voice for the people of Ndokwa/Ukwuani federal constituency, which he represents and an undeniable legislative maestro as he is often referred to. His contributions to issues of national importance and his modest personality make him worth emulation.
He carved a niche for himself with a distinct mark of excellence, brilliance and undeniable enduring legacy. The combined forces of grace, humility, character, service, humanity and leadership in bill process, oversight, representation and constituency related responsibilities, earned him the famous substantive nomenclature of ‘Legislative Maestro, Senior Advocates of the Masses, Man of God, Jewel of the 8th House of Representatives, Bill Process Machine, Empowerment Pathfinder, Empowerment Master and the bridge builder.
Eloquent, tactful and always approachable, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Media and Publicity, Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas is also a notable lawmaker. He joins the league of outstanding lawmakers because of the diligence with which he carries out his responsibility as the spokesman of the House.
He is passionate about feeding Nigerians with the most accurate information about the green chamber and where there is any misinformation – he is always prepared to go the extra mile to set record straight.
Pwajok is a lawyer with tremendous experience, who attained the enviable rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and one-time Attorney General/Commissioner of Justice in Plateau State. He came into the House of Representatives with special interests in reform of laws, establishment of new laws to deepen federalism and democracy, effective oversight over MDAs and to achieve international legislative best practices. That’s exactly what he has been doing.
He has been very bothered about killings in parts of Barkin Ladi local government areas of Plateau State. Due to his sound representation, he has set record as the lawmaker with the highest number of sponsored bill as a first timer and overall third best in the entire country.
He sponsored the bill to end the dichotomy between HND and BSc, which the federal government has begun to implement. The National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) led by Mrs. Gloria Shoda honoured him for his outstanding contributions to the cause of women, especially with his recent Nigeria Women Indigenship Bill, which seeks to amend the federal character act to allow women choose which indigenship they prefer, considering the discrimination some of them face when getting federal appointments.
He was Chairman, House Committee on Human Rights and now Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business. He is a strong member of the PDP but very apolitical on issues of national development and legislative duties.
Abonta representing Ukwa East/Ukwa West federal constituency of Abia State is a lawyer by training and having bagged a Master’s degree in law, his job as the Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions is simply putting a round peg in a round hole.
The committee job keeps him busy and apparently borrowing from his legal training – he is never prepared to compromise in treating petitions. He has shown more than a passing interest in achieving good governance in Nigeria through legislation.
The chairperson, House Committee on Electoral and Political Parties’ Matters, Dukku played a central role in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018, which President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to. She effectively made impact in the House with her unquenchable passion for girl child education, women, youth empowerment, poverty alleviation and skill acquisition.
Many readers will quickly remember the female member of the House of Representatives, who dared masked operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) at the gate of the National Assembly to shoot her, when there was an invasion of the National Assembly last year. She is Hon. Boma Goodhead. She is a female lawmaker representing Akuku -Toru/Asari-Toru federal constituency of Rivers State.
That her action against the masked DSS operatives at the National Assembly stood her out is not in doubt. Apart from that, she is outspoken and brave. Recall the incident, when the 37 members of the APC in the House defected to the PDP, it was Goodhead that took on Hon. Munir Baba Dan Agundi from Kano State over his fruitless effort to encourage some of the defectors to retrace their steps.
The Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and some of her colleagues had to pacify her to let the matter lay low. Her voice was one of those that interjected President Buhari, when he presented the 2019 budget before a joint session of the National Assembly in the green chamber. She has her job clearly carved out for her.