UNDERSTANDING UBA SANI’S LEGISLATIVE ACTIVISM

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Uba Sani

The is an urgent need to groom a new generation of well-trained teachers in northern Nigeria, writes Muhammed Abubakar

These are trying times for northern Nigeria. Buffeted by insecurity – ranging from terrorism, banditry, ethno-religious crisis to cattle rustling, the region appears to be gasping. Worse still, the seemingly intractable security challenges, according to several indicators, are devastating the region’s legendary edge in agriculture, even as the number of out-of-school children in the region is rising. However, for Uba Sani, the Senator representing Kaduna Central in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, help is on the way for the region even when he insists that leaders in the north must now think out of the box to surmount present challenges. The senator is advocating concerted and intellectually-driven efforts by the leaders of the region that must be designed and driven in such a way to return the north to its prime spot as Nigeria’s beautiful bride, especially at a time when the nation now depends more on agriculture and solid minerals to grow its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The senator is preaching quiet intellectual activism as a panacea for peace, safety and sustainable development in the North. In particular, Uba Sani is leading a fierce effort to use first class and people-centric legislations in the National Assembly to strategically begin solving the litany of security and developmental problems of northern Nigeria. To this end, in less than two years in the Senate, Senator Uba Sani has furiously pursued and achieved the passage or near-passage of series of carefully intentioned bills into law. Indeed, Uba Sani is currently ranked among the three senators with the most progressive bills in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly.

Senator Uba Sani makes no pretentions at all about the targets or intendments of the bills he has so far sponsored in the Senate. They are largely bills that would aid the growth of education, financial inclusiveness, healthcare, enhance security, improve child right/care and constitutional amendment, with a view to achieving power devolution, especially regarding the control and deployment of internal security forces in the country. In particular, the senator wants state governments to be empowered to establish and control their own Police. A brief analysis of a number of bills sponsored by Senator Uba Sani in the Senate so far, gives an incline into his current crusade.

In July 2020, the Federal College of Education, Giwa Kaduna State (Est, Etc) Bill 2019 (SB. 121) sponsored by Senator Sani was, after a rigorous legislative journey, read for the third time and passed into law on the floor of the Senate. Uba Sani believes the north must begin retracing its steps and that the quickest pathway can only be through enhanced education for all in the region especially in his home state of Kaduna. To this end, the Federal College of Education, Giwa Kaduna State (Est, Etc) Bill 2019 was sponsored as a direct response to the quest to speedily train a new generation of teachers that would lead an educational renaissance of sorts in northern Nigeria. “People appear to be forgetting that one of the biggest legacies the great Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello bequeathed to northern Nigeria was qualitative education.

He achieved this by first facilitating the grooming of very sound teachers. We lost this edge at some point. It is not time for finger pointing. We momentarily lost our way. The crusade is to get us back on cause. I initiated and sponsored this bill given the urgency of grooming a new generation of well-trained teachers in not just Kaduna State but the entire northern Nigeria,” Uba Sani said of the bill which was read for the first time in the House of Representatives on 3rd December 2020. The bill now awaits the concurrence of the House of Representatives before it will be transmitted to the President for assent.

Still on education, Senator Uba Sani’s bill for the establishment of the Federal College of Forestry, Technology and Research, Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State (Est, Etc) Bill 2019 (SB201), is moving steadily in the Senate. The bill was sponsored to tap into the potential of forestry-related education in Nigeria. When established, the institution will increase federal presence in remote but vast areas of Kaduna State, thereby providing jobs, curbing insecurity and by extension alleviating poverty. It will also make significant contributions to economic diversification through expanding the frontier of agro-forestry especially now that cashew, shea butter, mango, guava, among others, are becoming prominent in the nation’s export list and also in high demand in local processing industries. The bill has since passed first and second readings in the Senate.

Senator Uba Sani’s University of Technology Kaduna (Est, Etc) Bill 2019 seeks to convert Kaduna State Polytechnic to a university. Again, the senator insist that the inspiration for this bill is the overarching need to completely rework and reposition the institution to contribute effectively and maximally in the production of skilled manpower that is needed for industrialization not just in northern Nigeria but the country at large. The bill has also passed the first reading stage in the Senate.

The senator from Kaduna State is also pursuing the bill seeking to establish the Institute of Information and Communication Technology Kaduna South (Est., Etc.) Bill 2020 (SB.407). The bill has passed the First Reading stage on the floor of the Senate.

In the same regard, Senator Uba Sani believes that the north is heavily challenged in the critical area of healthcare. He reckons that his bill seeking to set up the Federal Medical Centre Rigassa, Kaduna State (Est., Etc.) Bill 2019 (SB.169), would go a long way in mitigating this huge gap. While conversing for the passage of the bill into law, on the floor of the Senate, the senator cited the rather touchy example of persons in densely populated areas of Kaduna Central, especially women and children, who die daily due to lack of well-equipped healthcare centres. “The institution (Federal Medical Centre Rigassa, Kaduna State) will provide services in specialized areas like Neuro-surgery, Cardiology, Urology, Orthopaedics, Paediatrics, Internal Medicine, Radiotherapy, Ear, Nose and Throat Treatment (ENT), Gynaecology, Psychiatry, Nuclear Medicine and other fields of medicine that may be required by not just persons in Kaduna State but by other Nigerians,” Uba Sani averred. On the 18th of February 2019, constituents and key stakeholders from Rigasa joined Senator Uba Sani at the public hearing on the bill, which was organized by the Senate Committee on Health. The bill passed through the crucial third reading phase on the floor of the Senate on 3rd December 2020 and now awaits the concurrence of the House of Representatives before it will be transmitted to the President for assent.

Uba Sani, who also heads the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, has repeatedly held that obsolete and opaque laws in the nation’s financial sector have for years robbed the not-so privileged persons in the society of the benefits of financial inclusion. To redress this fiscal anomaly, Senator Sani pursued and sponsored the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 2004 (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill 2019 (SB.178). The bill was assented to by President Buhari and as such became a law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 13th November 2020. The new act updates the existing act and brings it in line with global best practices. It will enhance the efficiency in the process of obtaining/granting banking licences.

It incorporates the laws for enacting, licensing and regulation of Microfinance Banks in the country. It clarifies and delineates the regulatory functions of the Central Bank of Nigeria in the financial services industry. It regulates the activities of Financial Technology Companies (FINTECHs), and imposes stiffer penalties for regulatory breaches in the financial services sector. As President Buhari noted in his remarks while assenting to the bill, the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 2020 is a historic and significant achievement that will enhance the soundness and resilience of Nigeria’s financial system.

It is a notorious fact that one of the biggest problems that currently beset northern Nigeria is the plight of the girl-child. It is a crisis some persons say is insurmountable given that it is rather too entrenched and tend to be interpreted to be rooted in the culture of the people. But Senator Uba Sani disagrees. The senator is even of the view that the north must educate and empower every girl-child in order to achieve the development the region craves. With his bill: Care and Protection of Child Parents Bill 2019 (SB198), Senator Uba Sani intends to tackle this hydra-headed monster of the plight of the northern girl-child frontally.

“If passed into law, the bill, which would become an act, would create a legal basis to provide succour to child parents and create a platform that would enable their reintegration into society after child birth and still fulfil their dreams,” the senator said. The bill has passed the first reading phase in the Senate.

Like most states in northern Nigeria, Senator Sani’s home state of Kaduna is currently contending with uncommon security challenges. The senator believes that state governments, especially the Kaduna State Government under Mallam Nasir El- Rufai, are doing so much to stem the ugly tide but are heavily hamstrung by legal and constitutional limitations. To challenge this unhelpful status quo, Sani is sponsoring series of bills targeted at helping state governments curb banditry, terrorism and general internal insecurity. These bills include:

The Fire Arms Act Cap F28 LFN (Amendment) Bill 2020 (SB. 549). This bill seeks to amend the Firearms Act, Cap. F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to amongst other provisions, increase the imposition of fines for offences, provide for the destruction of firearms illegally imported into the country or in possession of individuals without valid license in a bid to build public confidence in the overall efforts targeted at preventing and curtailing the circulation of illegal firearms in the country. The bill has passed the first reading stage in the Senate.

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Alteration) Bill 2020 (SB. 550). This bill seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 to amongst other provisions establish State Police Force in the 36 states of the Federation, change the name of the Police Service Commission to the Federal Police Service Commission, establish the State Police Service Commission and amend the Second and Third Schedules of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The bill has passed the first reading phase in the Senate.

NDLEA Act CAP NO.3 LFN 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2020 (SB. 582). This bill was sponsored with a view to strengthening the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in tackling the growing rate of drug abuse in Nigeria especially in the North and eliminate the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting and trafficking of hard drugs. The bill has passed the first reading in the Senate.

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (Alteration) Bill 2020 (SB. 410). This bill is being sponsored by Senator Sani to provide for the appointment of judges by state governors on the recommendation of the State Judicial Service Commission, in order to aid the speedy dispensation of justice. The bill has passed first reading phase on the floor of the Senate.

With the likes of Uba Sani in the Senate, Kaduna State and indeed northern Nigeria truly have hope of a better and brighter future.

Abubakar, a lawyer, wrote from Kaduna