10th Senate: Need for Executive to Objectively Evaluate Legislative Interventions

10th Senate: Need for Executive to Objectively Evaluate Legislative Interventions

Mon-Charles Egbo canvasses the need for the Executive Arm of government to support necessary legislative interventions by the Senate towards even development of the nation.

Until there is a government that is purposeful in evaluating legislative inputs, especially resolutions, there shall be a deficit of good governance in Nigeria.

For example, the latest banditry attack on the Abuja-Kaduna highway and the spate of kidnapping that has overwhelmed the entire Federal Capital Territory could have been averted.

The Senate, in its first quarter, had declared what seemed a state of emergency on the road infrastructure. It developed “a compendium of all the affected Federal roads and erosion sites across the country either awarded but abandoned by contractors or have not been awarded at all, to be forwarded to the Executive Arm for urgent intervention”.

Specifically, there was a provision for “increased security surveillance through deployment of more personnel and use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) such as drones, radars and scanners” on the Abuja-Kaduna expressway.

Also, it expressed some proactive opinions aimed at making the entire FCT relatively secure.

However because the executive dismisses legislative resolutions as strictly advisory, the opportunities for the above unfortunate incidents were nurtured.

Nevertheless, one attribute of the 10th Senate is its consistency in demonstrating that the legislature is all about the good of the people. It is always deliberate in its obligations. It is not given to drama or grandstanding. Also, it is not interested in the quantity but in the quality of legislation, as long as the overall fulfilment of the citizens is attained.

All these features indeed reflect the legislative agenda upon which Godswill Akpabio was elected the president of the senate.

Having started with the road infrastructure given its crucial nature to national development, the Senate, in the second quarter, deepened its interventions in this regard.

Among others, it took the Bitumen Development Commission of Nigeria (Establishment) bill through a second reading and then initiated another to amend the Federal Highways Act as well as those for establishing the National Roads Fund and Erosion Control Commission respectively. The Senate again effected quick confirmation of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency’s Managing Director and board members.

Also while adopting it “as part of Enugu State’s submission to the Committee on the Collapse of Road infrastructure in Nigeria”, the Senate urged “the federal government through FERMA to embark on the immediate reconstruction of the collapsed bridge at the Enugu end of the Enugu-Port-Harcourt Expressway”.

Equally on the FCT, the Senate created additional standing committees for integrated and broad-based interventions towards improving governance.

They included the Committee on Federal Capital Territory Area Council and Auxiliary Matters whose jurisdiction entails a “review of all the laws establishing the structure and administration of the Area Councils in the FCT” and then, the Committee on Federal Capital Territory that focuses on “matters affecting the FCT, planning and development of the new FCT as well as “allocation of lands in the FCT”.

Furthermore, the Senate, while urging “the FCT Minister to revisit the award of contract for the installation of CCTV cameras worth $500 million in and around the FCT” passed the FCT statutory supplementary budget and also introduced a bill to establish the FCT School of Nursing and Midwifery.

Other newly created committees were those on Atomic and Nuclear Energy, Sports Development, Youth and Community Engagements, Solid Mineral Development, Steel Development, Tourism as well as Culture, Art and Creative Economy.

And for productivity, several bills were also proposed.

Then towards economic recovery and sustainable growth, the Senate commenced amendments to the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission Act, Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation Act, Federal Inland Revenue Service Act and the Price Control Act in addition to two other separate attempts on the Central Bank of Nigeria Act.

Particularly on the opportunities inherent in the emerging blue economy, the Senate expeditiously passed the bill for an Act to Establish the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State while the Nigerian Maritime Safety and Administration and the Merchant Shipping Acts amendments gained momentum.

And again, to “enhance sustainable socio-economic relationships across the country and also promote national integration, and ultimately boost the economy and give a sense of belonging to all, “the Senate activated the mechanism “to ensure that all the four Geopolitical Zones within the Eastern Rail Line Corridor (traversing Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri) benefit from the on-going Railways Standardization and Modernization Programme of the Federal Government”.

It also proposed bills for the establishment of the South-East Development Commission and the North-Central Development Commission.

Intensifying its avowed commitment to protecting the citizenry, the Senate accorded significant attention to the two hydra-headed issues undermining the fight against insecurity namely the absence of coordination among the security agencies and the perception that certain security operatives secretly aid terrorism and banditry.

The basic areas of focus were the incessant “kidnapping for ransom in the North-West geo-political zone”, the spate of “insurgency and terrorism in Niger State”, as well as “the abduction of students of the Federal University, Dutsima, Katsina State”.

Others were the attacks by armed robbers on banks and Oturkpo Police Command in Benue State and the Christmas Eve massacre of innocent citizens in Mangu and Barkin-Ladi areas of Plateau State which particularly reinforced the seeming culpability of the security operatives.

Extending its interventions to “the Displaced People of Gwer-West, Makurdi and Guma Local Governments” including the communal clashes between Ifon and Ilobu communities in Osun State as well as Ovonum and Ofatura in Cross River State, the Senate holistically investigated the reported “complexities of the security personnel and agencies that were supposed to protect and enforce security in the affected areas, but are harbouring and protecting the criminals”.

In the end, it recommended the development of “a National Policy document outlining the framework for an improved and streamlined synergy and coordination between the various security agencies” both military and paramilitary, and also “permanent presence of soldiers and other security agencies in Niger State to contain the upsurge of insecurity” in addition to challenging “the Nigeria Police and other relevant security agencies to unravel the mystery of lack of intelligence and alertness on the day of (Oturkpo) invasion”.

Furthermore, the Senate urged the federal government to “address the manpower deficit in the armed forces and the police, and equip them to discharge their functions effectively and efficiently” and also “to urgently address the twin problems of unemployment and poverty since these evils cause insecurity in Nigeria”.

Then specifically, it requested “the federal government to redeem the ten billion naira promise made to the people of Benue State to rebuild the destroyed communities by the immediate past Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in 2018”, in addition to ensuring “quick return of the displaced persons to their ancestral homes and as well provide a sustainable security corridor to all flash points within the affected communities”.

Additionally, it called for the federal government’s urgent intervention through the relevant agencies per their respective mandates, particularly by setting up internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the affected areas and providing necessary support to the communities affected”, such as deploying “security personnel……..and prevent any further escalation of the conflict”.

These positions ideally were complemented with the relevant legislation. While the National Security Adviser (Appointment of Staff, etc.) and the National Social Investments Programme Agency Act went through the second reading, amendments to the National Security Agencies Act and Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons Act as well as those for the Nuclear Safety Security and Safeguard, Documentation and Protection of Domestic Workers and Employers, Nigeria National Internship and Unemployment Benefit Scheme, Informal Sector Private Employment Agencies (Regulation) and the Federal Data Bank respectively were initiated.

In a related development, the Senate, within the period, dealt with three painful deaths, in different circumstances, of young Nigerians.

The first was one Ms Greatness Olorunfemi who lost her life on account of the alleged refusal of Maitama District Hospital, Abuja, to accept and treat her after being attacked and pushed out of a fast-moving vehicle by notorious ‘one chance’ operators.

The second was a toddler, David Etim Udo, who fell from a school high-rise building at Emerald International School in Aba, Abia State.

The third was Chalya Silas, a 24-year-old NYSC member serving in Kaduna State who “was attacked and fatally stabbed by hoodlums while engaging in her regular morning jog”.

Lamenting such avoidable incidents, the senate strongly advised “all the hospitals in the country to comply with the provisions of the law by treating patients with gunshots without police report”. It followed it up with initiated amendments to the Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshots Act.

Also while calling on the federal government “to work relentlessly towards safeguarding the lives of its citizens” the Senate recommended that schools across the country should “relocate their crèche and nursery classes to the ground floor or bungalow within the premises” and also that government should “enforce safety protocols in schools as enshrined in the National Policy on Safety, Security and violence-free schools”.

Similarly, the Senate, through a motion on the “unlawful killings and incarceration of over 250 Nigerians in Ethiopia”, called for urgent intervention from the federal government.

Another area that challenged the responsiveness of the Senate was the growing menace of floods in the country. Motions were raised on the perennial challenges arising from the “un-dredged River Benue in Adamawa State, the “Flood-induced Damages caused by the wilful release of water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroun”, as well as the disasters “in Ikosi-Isheri, Agboyi-Ketu and several other communities in Lagos and Ogun states”.

Though already working on a “comprehensive long term solution to address the problem”, the Senate resolved to “facilitate the inclusion of dredging of River Benue, Niger and other rivers in the 2024 Appropriation Bill to address the perennial flooding and its multidimensional consequences” and also the “construction of receptor dams including Dasin Hausa Dam proposed to be in Fufore local government area to curtail potential risk of excessive flood from the Lagdo Dam in Republic of Cameroun”. Above all, it introduced the bill to establish the National Flood Management Commission “to serve as a central body responsible for coordinating flood management activities nationwide”.

Still, on internal security, the Senate considered the Report of the Adhoc Committee on Abuse of Firearms by Officials of the Nigeria Customs Service resulting in extensive recommendations. Some of them included a reduction in “the multiple checkpoints mounted along corridors of border communities (to)enable free flow of goods, especially farm produce, in, around and out of these communities to the main towns and around the markets in the border communities”, investigation and review of “ the operational activities of Border Drill, the CGC Special Strike Force and Federal Operations Unit across the country” and a declaration that “ the act of harassing, shooting at innocent citizens, raiding markets and chasing smugglers into towns leading to chaos and loss of lives is unacceptable and barbaric in a modern Customs System”. Additionally, it recommended “that functional scanner equipment should be installed at all major land borders for import examination purposes” and also “that auctioning of legally seized items (rice, etc.) should be done promptly or in time to avoid contamination, depreciation or outright waste”.

Also, whereas further consideration of a motion on the re-opening of the Nigeria-Niger Republic Border “for economic advantages of the two countries” was suspended for wider consultations, the Senate called on “the federal government to press for a Two State Solution as a final and permanent solution to the Isreali-Palistanian crises as earlier agreed by the United Nations” towards saving the “lives and properties of innocent women, children and indeed humanity in general”.

Also during the period, there were processed petitions from victims of wrongful dismissal from public service and several other fundamental rights abuses and interestingly, that of a community that felt short-changed in the execution of government contracts.

Empirically, if the executive reviews the inputs from the legislature with an open mind the quality of governance will improve tremendously.

Put differently, until there is a government that is deliberate in recognizing legislative resolutions, good governance will remain in short supply.

However, the Senate, during the period under review, was consistent in demonstrating that the ultimate role of the legislature is to guarantee good governance.

Among others, it courageously commenced “the process of revising the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria” which have largely become weak and obsolete. In this regard, 12 bills were introduced exclusively on the alteration of the 1999 Constitution.

Similarly, efforts at deepening democracy were accorded unusual attention. Apart from expeditiously confirming the nominations of 10 resident electoral commissioners and urging the federal government to withhold the statutory allocation to the local government councils not democratically elected, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill was slated for public hearing while the one for the establishment of the National Electoral Institute was initiated.

Also towards a viable judiciary, while extensive legislative works commenced in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Retirement Age of Magistrates bills, the nominations of 11 Supreme Court justices including as well Prof. Gaji F. Dantata and Saka Bolaji Suleiman as members of the Federal Judicial Service Commission, were confirmed.

Then by way of entrenching transparency in public service and governance, there were introduced, two separate amendment bills on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and also one each on the Code of Conduct Bureau, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the Public Complaints Commission Acts.

Others were on Whistle Blowers, Counterfeit, Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Food (Miscellaneous Provisions), Investment and Security, Internal Audit Agency, Audit Service as well as the Public Private Partnership Regulatory Commission bills. Meanwhile, the Dishonoured Cheques (Offences) Act and the Electronic Transaction bills were referred to the concerned committees for necessary actions.

Again during the period, the Senate confirmed the nominations of Mr. Musa Adamu Aliyu as Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Mr. Shaakaa K. Chira as Auditor-General for the Federation, Desmond Akawor as Member representing Rivers State in the RMFAC and then Mr Olanipekun Olukoyede and Mr Muhammad Hassan Hammajoda as Chairman and Secretary of EFCC, respectively.

Also, the Senate confirmed the nominations of the chairman and members of the Federal Civil Service Commission and investigated the reported “abuse of federal character principle, lop-sidedness and several infractions in the Federal Civil Service Commission and Related Agencies recruitments” aimed at guaranteeing equal opportunities for all towards national inclusion.

It equally intervened on “the travails of Pensioners, their Next-of-Kin and deceased relatives over unpaid pensions, gratuities and other entitlements”.

Instructively, the oil and gas sector as the current major source of national income has continued to receive the deliberate attention of the Senate, amid the efforts at diversifying the economy.

During the period, it launched investigations into “all contracts awarded for the rehabilitation of all the State-owned refineries between 2010 and 2023” in addition to “the various Turn-Around Maintenance (TAM) Projects of Nigerian Refineries in order to uncover waste and forestall further waste of scarce public resources”.

The same intervention was deployed concerning the “Incessant and Nefarious Acts of Crude Oil Thefts in the Niger Delta” as well as the “implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) with regards to potential exits of international oil companies (IOCs) from Nigeria”.

Then again, the Senate requested the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, and Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas to offer urgent explanation on “the nation’s preparation for Green Energy Sources in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change”.

And towards consolidating these interventions, the Senate initiated amendments to the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act and the Niger-Delta Development Commission Act in addition to confirming the nominations of Bashari Alka Indabawa, Engr. Enorense Amadasu and Mr. Babajide Oluwole as NUPRC executive commissioners.

In the mining sector, amendments to the National Institute of Mining and Geosciences Act and the National Mining Act and also the bills to establish the Solid Mineral Producing Area Development Commission as well as the Mineral and National Mines Ranger Service received rapid attention.

Before that, the Senate, through a motion, had urged “the federal government to provide stringent measures to safeguard the country’s solid mineral resources from all illegal miners (local and foreign nationals)”.

Still on its interventions towards peace and good governance, the Senate worked on “the National Roadmap as highlighted in the Orange Nigeria Initiative” in tackling the growing menace of gender-based violence; called on the federal government “to immortalize the memory of Mr. Taiwo Akinkumi, OFR,” the designer of the Nigerian National Flag, by “establishing a fitting and enduring tribute in his honour”,

Meanwhile, the senate urged the federal government “to begin the process of upgrading the Muhammadu Buhari International Airport, Maiduguri, for international operations” and then played a major role leading to the suspension of the strike action declared by the organized labour following the “assault and police brutality on the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Joe Ajaero”.

Equally reassuring is the Senate’s expressed convictions that qualitative education driven by qualified teachers is a panacea for lasting economic empowerment, poverty reduction and national development. Hence and towards enhancing access to robust teacher education, the following establishment bills were considered in favour of the Federal University of Information and Communication Technology Ikare-Akoko, Ondo State; Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Wushishi, Niger State; Federal University of Education (Technical) Potiskum; Federal College of Education (Special) Karaye; Federal University of Education, Gumel, Jigawa State; Federal College of Education, Igbekebo, Ondo State; Federal University of Education,Illa-Oragun, Osun State; Alvan Ikoku Federal University of Education, Owerri; Federal University of Education, Nsugbe; Federal University of Education, Hong; Federal University of Education, Bichi; Federal University of Education, Ja’amare; Federal University of Education, Numan, Adamawa State; Federal College of Education, Illo; Federal University of Education, Isiokolo, Delta State and the Federal University of Education (Technical),Gombe.

Others for specialized bodies of knowledge and skill include the Federal University of History and Archelogy, National Research Institute for Chemical Technology, Nigerian Aviation and Aerospace University, Federal College of Aviation Technology, Federal College of Geological and Cement Studies Iselu, Yelwa-North, Ogun State, Federal College of Forestry, Wawa Zange, Dukku, Gombe State, Federal University of Transportation, Daura, Katsina State, Chartered Institute of Training and Development of Nigeria and Chartered Institute of Auctioneers.

Also, bills to establish the Federal University Birnin-Kebbi and the Federal Polytechnic Kabo as well as those to amend the National War College, Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria Acts in addition to two on the Compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act were presented.

Meanwhile, the Senate had intervened on “the travails of one Miss Chinyere Ekwe and 290 other students who were admitted to study medicine and surgery at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, but had their admission truncated on the order of the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) for no plausible reasons, after they had completed the admission processes and resumed lectures”. Consequently, amendments to the JAMB Act have since commenced.

And by way of accelerating actions against the prevailing threats to food security, the Senate, in its second quarter, vigorously pursued the compelling goal of elevating agriculture as a valid option for oil and gas in national income earning. As boosts, several bills were introduced in favour of the National Food Reserve Agency, National Food Safety and Management Council and Nigeria Tea Development Authority, Donkey Slaughter Regulation and Export Certification, National Agricultural Land Development Authority Act and Cassava Flour (Mandatory Inclusion into Flour Production) in addition to nine separate bills on Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria Act.

Others included the Federal University of Agriculture, Dambatta, Federal College of Crop Science and Food Technology, Lere, Kaduna State, Federal College of Agriculture and Tropical Studies, Efon Alaye, Ekiti State, Federal University of Agriculture and Entrepreneur, Bama and Federal University of Horticulture, Dadin-Kowa, Gombe State.

And again, through a motion on “the Outbreak of a Deadly Disease Affecting Ginger Production in Southern Kaduna, Kaduna State”, the Senate collaborated with the National Agricultural Quarantine Services, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the National Emergency Management Agency for urgent solutions.

Then conscious of the place of health in national development, the Senate commenced 13 separate amendments to the Federal Medical Centre Act, two to the Federal Orthopaedic Hospitals Act and one to the Nigerian Medical Research Council Act.

Also, it initiated bills for the establishment of the Tertiary Hospital Trust Fund, Federal College of Health Technology, Song, Adamawa State, Waste Management and Malaria Eradication Agency, National Eye Centre, Doma, Federal University of Health Sciences and Technology, Kankia, Health Infrastructure Development Agency, Terminal Illness Trust Fund, Federal University of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Kaduna, Federal Paediatric Centre, Maiduguri, Federal University Lafia Teaching Hospital, David Umahi University of Health Sciences, Federal University of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Egbe, Kogi State and Medical Physics Regulatory Council of Nigeria.

Again and conscious that a productive youth populace is the heartbeat of any nation, the Senate, through a motion on “the Menace of Drug Abuse in Nigeria, proffered “solutions to drug abuse and associated problems” with a call on “the federal government to declare a national emergency on drugs and narcotic and substance abuse in Nigeria”.

Cumulatively, bills to amend the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Act and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Act as well as those for establishing the National Youth Development Agency and the National Youth Service Corps Trust Fund were presented.

Further to its commitment to facilitating governance, the Senate during the second quarter screened and confirmed other presidential nominees added to those mentioned earlier. They included Dr Jamila Bio Ibrahim (Kwara), Balarabe Abbas Lawal (Kaduna) and Mr Ayodele Olawande (Ondo) as ministers-designate, Chairman and Members of the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Dr Aminu Maidu as Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Mr. Zacch Adedeji as Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, 20 Commissioners for the National Population Commission, Mrs. Delu Bulus Yakubu as National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of the National Social Investment Programme Agency. She was later replaced by Mrs. Halima Shehu upon another round of screening and confirmation.

The Senate approved the 2024-2026 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) culminating in the timely passage of the 2024 budget (after increasing it from N27.5 to N28.7 trillion) and yet another 2023 supplementary budget before extending the lives of the 2023 statutory and supplementary budgets to March 31, 2024. Also, it approved the presidential request for the securitization of outstanding N7.3 trillion ways and means debt balance on the Consolidated Revenue Fund and then passed the budget of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund. Other legislation passed during the period included the Federal University of Technology and Environmental Sciences, Iyin-Ekiti (Establishment), the Cybercrime (Prohibition and Prevention) Amendment Act, as well as the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria Act (repeal and re-enactment) and two separate Electricity Act amendments which were for concurrence having been passed by the House of Representatives.

Those at the committee stages respectively are the Constituency and Other Special Projects (Establishment), Environmental Impact Assessment Act (Repeal and Enactment), Federal College of Aviation Technology, Ilara-Remo, Ogun State (Establishment), Federal University of Health Sciences and Technology, Tsafe, Zamfara, (Establishment) and the Federal College of Geological and Cement Studies, Iselu, Yewa-North, Ogun State (Establishment).

Then added to the variously highlighted bills, others considered during the period included the National Biomedical and Hazardous Waste Management Agency, (Establishment), Environmental Restoration Agency (Establishment), National Broadcasting Commission Act (Repeal and Amendment), National Population Commission Act, Federal Housing Authority Act, Federal Lands Registry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act and the Nigerian Real Estate Industry (Regulation and Development).

From the foregoing, it bears repeating that if only the executive could objectively evaluate legislative interventions, integrated and sustainable developments would be guaranteed in Nigeria.

-Egbo, a parliamentary affairs analyst, writes from Abuja

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