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From the Senate Prism, a Year after Inauguration

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By Eze Okechukwu, Abuja

The 10th National Assembly precisely turned one two days ago. Its first anniversary was almost coincident with the National Democracy Day, which Nigerians, regardless of our faith, ideology or nationality, celebrated on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. This, again, reminds us all of the significance of 25-year unbroken democratic rule, the supreme sacrifice we offered to secure it over three decades ago, our collective resolve to consciously nurture it and the centrality of the Parliament to the growth of representative democracy.

In the last 366 days, the 10th Senate has been strategically collaborating with key public institutions, especially the Executive Arm, to defend our core interest as a federation; ensure macroeconomic stability; promote internal cohesion as well as foster unity among ethnic nationalities that constitute our dear Nation.

Like never before, we have been utterly committed to this national assignment to position our Nation not just for more notable regional and sub-regional roles, but also for global leadership.

Driven by this ambitious national aspiration convincingly scribbled in our revised legislative agenda, the Senate has adopted a strategic partnership approach aimed at building resilient synergy with other arms of government and nurturing a competitive, functional and viable federation that works for all. Evident in all our parliamentary engagements, this has been our preoccupation since the inauguration of the 10th Senate as the foremost institution of representative democracy.

For instance, as of June 11, 2024, our records revealed that at least 477 bills were initiated since the 10th Senate kicked off its activities precisely on June 13, 2023. Of this figure, only 25 bills were fully passed into law while others are currently at different stages before the Senate. Comparatively, this figure only accounts for 5.24% of the entire bills introduced within the timeframe.

Many people may measure our performance based on the number of bills that were fully passed into law. Different reasons that account for the low number of fully enacted legislations. This can be ascribed mainly to other issues of highly fundamental national priority that occupied the attention of the Senate. Put differently, it is purely due to the imperatives of attending to other obligations as required by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

Aside the 25 fully enacted legislations, no fewer than 275 bills (57.65%) were read first time within the timeframe, about 135 (28.32%) awaiting first reading; 45 (9.43%) awaiting the second reading; 43 (9.02%) currently at the committee stage and three bills (0.63%) were refused on different grounds. While only 13 (2.73%) of the total bills originated from the executive arm, 464 (97.27%) are private member bills.

Apart from the bills, the Senate arrived at 115 resolutions, which are far-reaching in consequence; profound in their significance to our economic development and strategic to the cohesion, growth and stability of our Nation. Each of these resolutions arose from motions of national importance, which different Distinguished Senators sponsored after due diligence was conducted.

Also, within the timeframe, the Senate received and treated petitions from members of the public on diverse matters of grave concern. Despite time constraints, 50 of the public petitions were successfully and satisfactorily resolved. The Senate equally screened and confirmed 215 nominees for different political offices at the request of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and in accordance with Section 147 (2-6) of the 1999 Constitution and other Acts of the National Assembly.

Among others, the confirmations include key appointments into the Federal Executive Council, Board of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the leadership of the Nigeria Armed Forces, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission.

The confirmation is key to our national development. It no doubt sped up the process of forming or constituting the national government at a very critical time when our domestic economy was struggling to stay afloat; national security under threats and internal cohesion was seriously gasping for fresh breath. Already, the first year has passed by.And we have decisively addressed issues of strategic national interest with utmost priority.

From our observation so far, we are confident Nigeria is now more stable and the future of our Nation looks more promising than anytime in our recent history. As people of collective purpose, however, we are under obligations to support our governments, whether at the national or sub-national level, to build a resilient economy and an equitable federation that supports the aspiration of all its constituents.

As we embark upon the journey into a brighter, greater and more glorious future, we will devote much of our time to developing legal frameworks that will further stabilise our fiscal and monetary spaces; that will prioritise security of lives and strategic assets; that will deescalate consumer price index, especially food inflation and that will engender a more functional governance structure.

Aside from the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution, the Senate has initiated diverse processes with a clear and well-defined mandate. And the processes are designed to create, develop and evolve a more efficient, responsive and viable governance structure, whether with respect to the economy or security, politics or security, science or technology, agriculture or education.

JUDICIARY

LG Autonomy: Supreme Court Judgment Meets Constitutional Order- Edeoga

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 Former Governorship Candidate of the Labour Party(LP) for the 2023 elections in Enugu State, Hon Chijioke Edeoga has hailed the Thursday ruling of the Supreme Court, which granted financial autonomy to the nation’s 774 LGAs.

Edeoga, in reaction to the judgment said in a  statement in Abuja that the judgment was in line with the existing constitutional order.

“While it is suspected that the judgment may not meet the approval of advocates of political restructuring in Nigeria, there is no doubt that it accords with the demands of the existing constitutional order.

“The violation of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by governors of Nigerian states has been going on with flagrant impunity for many years and under different administrations since 1999.

“Local Government Areas, recognized in the Nigerian Constitution as the third tier of government and the one closest to the people, have been deprived of the funds needed for grassroots development, thus existing at the mercy of state governors,” he  remarked.

He regretted that over the years, state governors have made local government funds their cash cows, receiving and dispensing as they deemed fit, and without regard to the development imperatives of the councils, their employees, and their respective peculiar development challenges.

“This abuse has given rise to situations where local councils are forced to queue on a strange breadline, where governors favour some local governments while sidelining others.

“The offices of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other anti-corruption agencies are stacked with files bursting with evidence of abuse of local council funds by state governors, whose prosecution has been hindered by red tape and other inexplicable reasons” he noted.

The former Governorship candidate recalled that during  his campaign for the Governorship of Enugu State, he highlighted the deplorable management of local council funds in Enugu State and vowed that council funds would be sacrosanct if he won the election.

He said as a former local government Chairman, he knew the importance of those funds and the leverage they provide for rural development, employment generation, and economic empowerment. 

 “My belief is that rather than treat council funds as a source of free money as most state governors see them, I would ensure easy and direct access to it by council chairmen as a means of ensuring that local government councils become complementary to the state government’s development efforts,” he stressed. 

He said his intention upon assumption of office was to empower Local councils and noted that the judgment will minimize the tendency of some governors and state officials to favour their local governments of origin while sidelining others.

“I am particularly relieved that the administration of President Bola Tinubu has taken this rare positive step towards restoring the glories of local administration in Nigeria. “Those of us in the Enugu State chapter of the Labour Party see this as a step in the right democratic direction and must single out President Tinubu and the Attorney General of the Federation, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, for pursuing this judgement with a single-minded determination and patriotic purposefulness. 

“While we commend the current administration for the rare courage and vision deployed in pursuit of this case, we must also advise against allowing the judgement to form another layer of entry in our Case Laws. Nigerians are excited by the judgement and are looking forward to the restoration it would bring to bear on rural development across the country, and would be displeased if deliberate political, judicial, and institutional efforts are not made to ensure that implementation.”

“This judgement, it must be emphasised, is a PUBLIC INTEREST MATTER and has reignited hope of a possible grassroots development renaissance among the progressive-minded people that are interested in the development of Nigeria and the wellbeing of everyone” he stated.

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POLITICS

Give us Opportunities to Prove Ourselves – Physically-Challenged Politician Urges

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A physically-challenged politician and mother of two, Mrs Emiola Bajomo, has launched a foundation to encourage the physically challenged.

At the launch of the foundation on Wednesday in Surulere, Lagos, Bajomo said that physically-challenged people had potential that should be developed with adequate support.

The name of the foundation is Emilola Faith Heart Foundation.

Bajomo said that the foundation would be organising sensitisation programmes quarterly to encourage the physically challenged to develop their potential.

“They should come out from their hidden places to showcase their potential.

Bajomo appealed to governments and well-meaning individuals and groups to invest in physically-challenged people and make them more productive.

She regretted that many talented physically-challenged people had turned to beggers due to lack of support.

In her keynote address, Dr Oluwaseye Oluwabunmi, a physotherapist at the General Hospital Randle, Surulere, said that statistics showed that about 16 million persons in Nigeria were physically challenged.

She listed factors that could cause physical challenge to include accident and sickness.

“What is more important is that it is not a reason for not being productive,” she said.

She implored the physically challenged to interact more and build relationships.

She also called on them to develop their talents and add values to be well remunerated.

Dr Babatunde Adeolu also a physotherapist at the same hospital, advised the physically challenged not to see themselves as disabled.

He said that in spite of their challenges, they could still do many significant things on their own.

He appealed to governments and well-meaning Nigerians to encourage them to discover their abilities and talents.

He urged provision of special walk ways, toilets and necessary gadgets for the physically challenged to enable them to do better and have a sense of belonging.

Mr Mukaila Yusuf, a politician in Surulere, urged the physically challenged to shun begging and engage in meaningful activities to preserve their dignity.

He equally told them to be part of governance in all the tiers of government by making their votes to count and their views known.

A physically challenged person on wheelchair, Mrs Feyisetan Bakare, said this at the event that she had learnt hair dressing and needed a shop.

Mr Simeon Promise, also physically challenged, said that he was playing basketball well but needed more attention by governments and well-meaning Nigerians.

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POLITICS

Reps Panel Berates TETFund Boss, others for Avoiding probe

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By Ubong Ukpong, Abuja

The House of Representatives Committee on Federal Character on Tuesday berated the Executive Secretary of theTertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Sonny T. Echono, for failing to appear at an investigative hearing to defend the activities of the agency.

Chairman of the committee, Hon Idris Wase, was upset at Echono’s failure to turn up even after several invitations.

Wase also knocked the Industrial Training Fund, the Transmission Company of Nigeria, the National Sugar Development council for also failing to honour the Committee’s invitation.

He said they were taking the committee for granted over their persistent refusal to honour invitations and that henceforth it would not be tolerated.

The representative of the Executive Secretary of TETFund at the meeting, Babatunde Oladeji, who is the Director of monitoring and evaluation in the fund, told the committee that the Executive Secretary was away on official leave.

Wase, stressed that all agencies of government must be accountable and transparent to the Nigerian people.

He said henceforth they would be sanctioned in accordance to the law if they continue to avoid the parliament.

He said you must be accountable to the House. This is the last time. Next time the committee would invoke its powers provided for in the constitution

“You are appearing before the House of Representatives Committee and we are not going to take this nonsense any longer.

“This is a House that you should be giving account to. And I don’t know the instrument that gave you the power to operate. The same parliament that gave you the powers, what makes you think that they are useless here. We are here on behalf of all Nigerians. We keep writing and you keep neglecting us. Where do you draw your powers from? You are spiting the entire country.

“We cannot let any agency or ministries take us for granted because without us, they don’t exist. It is unacceptable for them to keep disrespecting this committee.”

He said because of the way heads of agencies were treating the parliament with levity, the committee had to advertise in three national dailies apart from the letters.

He said they could not attend to their representatives as they were not accountable for the various agencies.

“I am disappointed with the Executive Secretary of Tetfund. He was a former federal perm sec. I expect him to be more compliant than any other person as he should know the rudiments of civil service better. He chose to neglect it. We would not take it.

The Committee has not been doing it’s job properly in the past that is why people think they can do anything and carry on with it. It would not be business as usual.

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