Issues bordering on nation’s security, economy may top agenda from today at the red chamber As senators resume 2024 legislative activities. Sunday Aborisade reports.
President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio, had initially announced January 23, 2024 as the resumption date when the Senate adjourned plenary on December 30, 2023 but the date was shifted to January 30, 2024 while the senators were still savouring their holiday within and outside the country.
While the federal lawmakers were away from legislative functions, series of activities and events that had worsened the security situation of the country and the nation’s economy had happened.
For instance, the terrorists had intensified their evil activities in most parts of the North especially in Borno, Plateau, Kaduna, Niger, Zamfara and other parts where they are either protecting their sponsors’ illegal mining businesses or executing their inordinate selfish agenda.
Some security experts have identified the root causes of banditry and insecurity in Nigeria to include illiteracy, unemployment, poor leadership, porous borders, proliferation of arms, and non-compliance with the rule of law.
It is expected that senators from affected constituencies would move motion on the dangerous development to proffer solutions that might end the menace.
Chairman of Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Sani Musa, has however called for the establishment of State Police, as a panacea to the current insecurity in the country.
Musa, who is representing Niger East Senatorial District, also advocated massive recruitment into the armed forces.
He also made a case for the adoption of new tactics in intelligence gathering to address the state of insecurity caused by multiple crimes, banditry and spate of kidnappings across the country.
The Senator urged the Federal Government to re-engineer the nation’s security architecture against the backdrop that the present one was not working.
According to him, all the tiers of government and Nigerians must recognise the fact that
security remained essential for the survival and flourishing of any society.
He said it has become imperative that all hands must be on deck to ensure the protection of individuals, communities, and the entire nation against dangers and attacks.
Musa however, urged Nigerians to give President Bola Tinubu the needed support to do the needful in the nation’s quest for renewed hope.
Other parts of the country were not spared by the terrorists and some of their indigenous collaborators as the rate of kidnapping increased drastically with the military and security agencies appearing totally helpless.
The police had on a few occasions, paraded some suspects and claimed to have rescued some of their hostages but victims have countered such claims by insisting that their loved ones paid huge ransom to regain their freedom while insisting that the real kidnap lords were still walking freely on the streets of Nigeria.
The situation had also pitched the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike against the Senator representing the Federal Capital Territory, Ireti Kingibe, over the rising cases of kidnapping and other crimes in the nation’s capital.
Kingibe had condemned the situation and told journalists that the Senate would summon Wike upon resumption of plenary.
It is therefore expected that senators from crisis-ridden areas would most likely on resumption, either come up with motions or suggestions on to move the nation forward.
On the issue of the economy, the dangerous devaluation of the naira against major currencies experienced a major fall as a United States dollar was being exchanged in the black market for as high as N1,400 as at Monday afternoon.
The senators are also expected at plenary to come up with strategic and pragmatic ideas on how to further strenghten the Naira.
Also in the absence of the federal legislators, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced plans to move some critical departments to Lagos in order to decongest its offices in Abuja.
Specifically, CBN said it will relocate it’s department of Banking Supervision; Other Financial Institutions Supervision; Consumer Protection Department; Payment System Management Department, and Financial Policy Regulations Department.
Similarly, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) made public, its intention to relocate its headquarters back to Lagos.
The plans by CBN and FAAN elicited condemnation from different quarters especially from northern apex socio-cultural organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Northern Senators Forum.
No fewer than 58 senators from the 19 Northern states last week alleged that projections and provisions in the N28.7 trillion 2024 budget, were lopsided and skewed against their region.
They also kicked against the relocation of the FAAN headquarters and some departments of the CBN to Lagos.
They nevertheless asked their constituents to remain calm and assured them that they were already engaging in dialogue with the executive arm of government led by President Bola Tinubu on the matter.
The senators threatened to explore legal and other constitutional means in case the dialogue fails.
The senators made these known in a statement signed by their spokesperson, Senator Suleiman Kawu Summaila (NNPP Kano South), and made available to journalists in Abuja.
The Senate Chief Whip, Senator Ali Ndume, also gave a boost to his colleagues demands by advising President Tinubu that there will be political consequences if he insists on moving some departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) headquarters to Lagos.
He alleged that the President was being misled by a cartel he termed “Lagos Boys”.
Ndume argued that the so-called members of the cartel do not know how Nigeria works and will not be able to help the president when the repercussions come.
He also observed that if the offices were being moved due to congestion, the best place would be Nasarawa, Kaduna or Kogi and other states surrounding Abuja, for the sake of proximity, instead of far away Lagos.
His words, “Some of them think that they know better than everybody. But they don’t know anything. When you don’t know Nigeria, you only know Lagos, then you start doing things as if Nigeria is Lagos. Lagos is in Nigeria. That’s a wrong decision.
“We will not accept it. Besides, you know, they are not doing any favour to Mr. President, because this will have political consequence. Yes. I’m telling you this.
“And these guys who are just sitting down there, trying to hang on to Mr. President will not be there to amend the political mistakes or even to correct it because they don’t know anybody. They only know their offices. And they only know that they have brains”.
He emphasised that it was not the votes from Lagos that brought Tinubu to office, advising him to jettison any plans to implement the relocation decision.
Ndume said there was a consensus in the North against the move by the President because there’s only one federal capital, which is Abuja.
He said, “All these Lagos boys that are thinking that Lagos is Nigeria are just misinforming or advising the President wrongly.
“The regulators or the financial institutions are supposed to be in Abuja. Now, you want them to move because you say Lagos is the commercial capital. This is one of the mistakes.
“And I’m sure the President will reverse it, because it doesn’t work. You can’t have two capitals or is the CBN governor going to be operating from Lagos and headquarters of the CBN is in Lagos?
“Do you say that because majority of our oil is extracted from South-south, you take the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) to the South-south or because Nigeria’s agricultural produce are more in the north, you take the Ministry of Agriculture to anywhere in the north.
“It doesn’t work that way. And that is one of the problems that is cropping up, but I’m very sure, I’m very confident that Mr. President will look at this because he’s a nationalist, not just a Lagos man,” the federal lawmaker said.
The ranking Senator insisted that Lagos does not represent the whole of Nigeria, explaining that there will not only be increase in cost of operations but risk to the lives of workers who will constantly be flying by air or on the road, if it eventually happens.
“This is a decision that is not well thought out. And I think the president will reverse it. I’m confident of that. And if that does not happen, of course, this is democracy and we know what to do”.
He urged the president to rescind the decision, stressing that he (Ndume) is neither Hausa nor Fulani, but a northerner and a Nigerian.
“CBN has offices that they can rent or build on their own to increase efficiency, but moving some departments to Lagos is not the best of ideas at all or moving any agency at all,” he added.
While expressing optimism that the decision will be reversed, Ndume advised the President to ignore the so-called cartel.
Amidst all the social and economic crises in the country, the political situation in Rivers State had taken a terrible dimension while the senators were still on holiday.
Attempts by President Tinubu and major stakeholders within and outside the state had failed to achieve any reasonable solution as the gladiators in the crisis, Messrs Nyesom Wike, the Minister in charge of the Federal Capital Territory and Siminalayi Fubara, his godson who is the Governor of the state, stuck to their guns.
Just last week the Rivers State House of Assembly whose majority members are loyal to Wike, voted to override Governor Fubara and pass four new bills into law.
This happened after the Speaker of the House, Hon Martin Amaewhule, read four letters addressed to him by the Governor wherein he declined his assent to the four new bills which had been sent to him for assent.
The House relying on Section 100, Subsection 5, said the assent of the Governor was not required for the passage of the said bills into law.
There is therefore, the likelihood that the Red Chamber might want to step into the matter to avoid constitutional crisis.
Also President Tinubu is expected to send some official communication to the red chamber for legislative action especially concerning some appointments he made during the holiday and he is expected to forward to the red chambers, his nominees for the screening and confirmation of the Senate.