In his eight years at the Senate, Senator Gbenga Bariu Ashafa, Lagos East, wrote his name in legible prints, writes Shola Oyeyipo
By every standard of evaluation, it would not be wrong to say Senator Gbenga Ashafa’s sojourn in the red chamber of the National Assembly was epic. Through the dint of hard work, commitment to serving his people of Lagos East and Nigeria at large, the immediate past Lagos national lawmaker imprinted his name on the sand of time as an exemplary politician.
As a member of 7th and 8th sessions of the Senate, apart from his legislative achievements, there are records that he directly facilitated the empowerment of no fewer than 25,000 people in his constituent, Lagos East, during his stay in the National Assembly. He did this through various verifiable and existing intervention projects spread across the senatorial district.
Just as in the proverbial statement that ‘the best time to quit the stage is when the ovation is loudest,’ Ashafa threw in the towel, but this time around it was not, because he was defeated, he opted to jettison his ticket for a third term because the party demanded of it.
A member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC and Vice Chairman, South-west, of the Southern Senators Forum, Ashafa voluntarily bowed out of the Nigerian Senate meritoriously in October 2018, when the intrigues around his election became tardy and ungodly.
But he had this to say: “Upon due consultation with party leaders and relevant stakeholders, I believe that the time has come for me to sacrifice my ambition for the unity and continuity of our party at the senatorial level and across all elective offices. Hence, I hereby release my unopposed ticket to the leadership of the party in Lagos State.”
Though not returning to the National Assembly for the 9th session, his records of achievements within the period he served are indelible. In the 7th session, he was the vice chairman, Senate Committee on Lands, Housing and Urban Development as well as the Treasurer of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), now APC Senate Caucus. He was also a member of the Senate Committees on Environment and Ecology; Federal Character; Gas; and Senate Services.
When canvassing for votes during the 2011 election, Ashafa vowed to put his public service and the private sector experiences spanning about 30 years to play to advance legislative service delivery in the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly.
And in an attempt to actualise his legislative agenda of Effective Representation, Youth Empowerment, Educational Enhancement and Sustainable Agricultural Development, aptly phrased as E.Y.E.S, he sponsored important bills, moved motions on the floor of the senate and extended kindheartedness to a lot of people, beyond his constituency.
Some of his bills are Income Tax Holiday Bill for Corporate Companies (2011); a bill on the creation of an agency which would cater to the promotion and preservation of our local languages (2011); a bill on Treaty-Making Process (Amendment Bill) (2012); a bill on Criminal Code (Amendment Bill) (2012); the National Directorate of Employment Act (Amendment) Bill (2013); the Harmful Waste (Special Criminal Provisions, etc) (Amendment) Bill 2013; the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill 2013; the Minerals and Mining Act (Amendment) Bill 2013; and the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act (Amendment) Bill (2014). Others to his credit are Bank and other Financial Institutions Act (Amendment) Bill (2014); Advertising Practitioners (Registration, etc) (Amendment) Bill, Declaration of Assets (Amendment) Bill, Motion on the Deteriorating Services of GSM operators in Nigeria; Motion on the Imminent Collapse of the Third Mainland Bridge and he co-sponsored others such as Prohibition of Same Sex Marriage Bill, which has now become law in Nigeria; Motion on the Lagos Flood; Motion on the Creation of Unemployment Data and Creation of Job Centers in the Country; and Motion on the Solutions to Terrorism in Nigeria.
Under his concept of youth empowerment which aimed to empower beneficiaries with the capacity to generate wealth through acquisition and application of practical skills and knowledge, 558 youths of Lagos East senatorial district were trained.
So far, 36 desktop computers and printers had been donated to the best graduating students in the programme. His Youth Energy Career Program (YECP) was also a major milestone, because young graduates were trained pro bono on Power/Energy systems at the Siemens Power Academy in conjunction with the Lagos State Electricity Board.
On completion of the six-month training cum internship, participants were engaged one way or the other with various national and international organisations, such as Lagos State Electricity Board (LSEB), Oando Gas, EcoSolar, Marine Power and ALM Consulting.
He definitely had too numerous achievements that touched lives in his first term to list in this one-page piece. These covered aspects of scholarships to pupils at various levels, provision of supports to the people, various donations to school, unions, healthcare centres, building of garri processing unit, women empowerment, grading and rehabilitation of about 21 roads in the Lagos East Senatorial District and other contributions towards community self-helps.
His achievements in the Senate during the second term were equally legendary. At the commencement of the 8th session, before the Standing committees were inaugurated Ashafa was appointed to serve in Senate ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the Finance of the Senate and Senate ad-hoc Committee on Import Duty Waivers.
But when committee Chairmen were announced on November 4, 2015 by Senate President Bukola Saraki, he was named the Chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport, a position he held till the end of the 8th National Assembly.
He was active participant of the Senate Committees on Constitution Review, Water Resources, Establishment, Pension and Public Services, Foreign Affairs, National Security and Intelligence and Legislative Compliance.
As an advocate of restructuring in Nigeria and being a member of the Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution, Ashafa played important roles in ensuring that critical amendments to the 1999 constitution scaled through.
Though the fourth alteration bill, which sought to alter the Second Schedule, Part I and II that would have moved certain items to the concurrent legislative list to give more legislative powers to states did not see the light of the day, the Lagos lawmaker is an unrepentant stickler to his conviction that the exclusive legislative list must be reduced so as to give more powers to the states.
He played key roles in the activities of the Senate Committee on Water Resources; he canvassed for higher allocations to the Ogun – Osun River Basin Development Authority, which services Lagos State and other states of the South-west. He openly opposed the passage of the Water Resources Control Bill due to the fact that some sections it would affect his constituency, Lagos East and Lagos State generally.
He contended that Lagos State was in court against the Federal Government (NIWA) on the control of water ways/resources and that as such, the legislature must not be used as a tool to circumvent the judgment of the Supreme Court.
He supervised the activities of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) in Lagos on several occasions in order to ensure that as many pensioners as possible were captured in the Federal Government’s data base and condemned the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa through the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.
As a member of the Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence, he, with other members of the committee met regularly with security and intelligence chiefs to proffer workable solutions to security challenges facing Nigeria and his participation contributed immensely to federal government intervention by providing security to address some issues of insecurity in parts of Lagos.
Ashafa is passionate about the rail sector development and he exemplified that by his defence for the appropriations sought for by the executive for capital intensive rail infrastructure projects across the country like the Lagos to Kano (Standard Gauge) Nigerian Railway Modernisation Project and the Calabar to Lagos Standard Gauge Coastal Rail Project.
In the 8th assembly, the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Amendment Bill 2016, the Chartered institute of Logistics and Transport Bill 2016, the City University of Technology Bill 2016, the Sporting Tax Holiday Bill 2016, the Nigerian Postal Bill 2017, the Nigerian French Language Village Establishment Bill 2017, the South West Development Commission Bill (2018), the Federal Polytechnic Iwerekun, Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos State(EST) BILL 2018, were all to his credit.
He also sponsored nine motions and they are Fuel Tanker Tragedies on Nigeria’s Highways, Nigerians Involvement in Illicit Global Drugs Trade and Increase in Domestic Drug Abuse by Nigerian Youth, the Rising Incidence of Jungle Justice Among Nigerians, urgent need for the Nigerian police force and other security agencies to intervene in the increased rate of kidnapping in the Lagos east senatorial district and securing the waterways, the outbreak of Meningitis, urgent need to curb the spread and stop further deaths and on the inadequate Releases In The 2017 Budget And The Need To Expedite Releases in Order to Stimulate the Economy.
Further still, he moved a motion on the Preventable Economic Loss and National Embarrassment Accruing from the failure of the Federal Government to Complete the National Library after 11 Years, Motion on the need to minimise the possibility of air mishaps and near fatalities in Nigeria and Motion on the need to enforce stricter driving regulations against petrol tankers, trailers and other articulated vehicles across Nigeria.
He also moved motion condemning illicit and excessive charges by Nigerian Banks on customers’ accounts with particular focus on Automated Teller Machine (ATM) Maintenance and withdrawal charges and motion on the sad demise of two illustrious Nigerians in the recent Ethiopian Airlines crash. He co-sponsored four other motions within the period under review.
Ashafa received commendations and awards locally and internationally for his meritorious service by making hays while the sun shone and that seemed to make it easy for the Lagos lawmaker to bow out with his head high. It would not be surprising to find him being called up to higher service any time soon.