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Of Legislators And Oversight Functions

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In 1787, the United States gave the world a unique gift. Through the famous Philadelphia Convention, Congressional Oversight came into existence as a means of reviewing, monitoring and supervising government agencies, programmes and activities. Aside the American Congress which continues to exercise this legislative power through the Congressional Committee System, other democracies including Nigeria are today partakers of this great tradition.

Perhaps initiators of the

concept of legislative oversight acknowledged the fact that human beings when entrusted with responsibility and commonwealth are likely to abuse the privilege, hence the need for checks and close watching. There is no where that the tendency to abuse office and commonwealth is more glaring than the Third World countries such as Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries.

For us in the House of Representatives, our equivalent of the American Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 which concretised the Philadelphia Convention is Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Order xviii, Rule 184 of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives. Here, oversight is embedded in the powers of the legislature.  We at he Federal House of Representatives admit that there are some truth in the allegation that in a few isolated cases, this power of legislative oversight has been abused for selfish purposes by those who do not understand the purpose and import of the role.  This isolated few do not appreciate that oversight is a sacred duty being carried on behalf of the Nigerian masses who entrusted the legislators with such solemn responsibility.

A few days ago our  thought also drifted to the state of Nigeria’s public institutions, not necessarily in the oil and gas sector. But reflections stemmed from a recent oversight tour of both public and private businesses in the petroleum downstream sector in the South-West geo-political zone of Nigeria. For a while, we saluted the courage and vision of men like James Madison and other founding fathers of America who thought it wise to empower Congress with the power of oversight.  We really do not think we should overemphasise the privileges and opportunities American citizens and public organisations have enjoyed over the years on account of this legislative instrument.   Nigeria’s National Assembly does not have the long history or the good fortune of America’s Congress that has over two centuries of uninterrupted process.  This partially accounts for the few isolated cases of abuse of power of oversight.  However, this country still believe the legislature need not attain that stature of America’s Congress to effectively add value to the democratic process and there is no better time than now to monitor government business and its commonwealth. As our public organizations stand today, there is really need to worry. And except we urgently address our decrepit infrastructure and manpower needs with everything at our disposal, our public institutions may one day grind to a halt.

As representatives of the people, we therefore have everything to gain by routinely monitoring the executive arm for probity, fidelity and above all, efficiency without necessarily being adversarial. This is a sacred duty the legislators owe to the ordinary Nigerian people who have vested in  their trust.

But for this recent oversight tour involving members of the House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) one would not have been able to fully appreciate the enormity of the deterioration of public infrastructure in the petroleum downstream sector.

In just four days, the committee visited about eleven private oil and gas facilities and over four oil and gas infrastructure belonging to and managed by government. However, the most disturbing but revealing aspect of the tour is the shared view that government is a bad businessman. The committee came to a conclusion that the more businesses are removed from the purview of government, the better for that business, the government itself and even our people.

The Committee also took note of the multifarious problems facing these public institutions. For the law makers, the most critical is power. Almost everywhere the committee visited  power remained recurrent because it plays a vital role in almost every business venture. Issues of obsolete equipment, poor management, inadequate staffing, funding, pipeline vandalism, transparency and environmental challenges also came up.

Again, one baffling contradiction is the unresolved issues around HHK or DPK (kerosene). We had to repeatedly ask questions bordering on the never-ending scarcity of HHK or DPK and the question of transparency and greed which in our considered opinion, is at the centre of the crisis. Like most Nigerians, we know that this product which services the mass of our people never reaches the final consumer at government approved rate. Sadly, the answers were unsatisfactory. Beyond the availability of HHK or DPK, I know that Nigeria has the capacity to swiftly transit from DPK to LPG (gas) as source of domestic fuel, which is now widely used in countries like Ghana, Cameroun and other smaller countries within our sub-region. The fact that we have not taken deliberate steps to re-orientate our people and develop gas infrastructure to support the use of gas as domestic fuel in homes is an indictment on our leadership.   Therefore If we must live by the dictum which confers responsibility on democracy as a government of the people, then everybody in the public space working for Nigeria including legislators, must have the interest of the larger percentage of Nigerians at heart. If ordinary people in these less endowed countries can access gas, then our people have every right not only to LPG, but a better life. And we think that is what government is all about.

This Seventh Assembly just turned one but one could still look back with some sense of pride. In the Lower Chamber for instance, we have had challenges but we have also taken very hard and unpopular decisions in the interest of the Nigerian people. Under the leadership of the Rt. Honourable Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Emeka Ihedioha, we have kept faith with the people of Nigeria.  But we are also aware that the room for improvement is the biggest room. Those who are impatient with the National Assembly have every right to feel so but they should also be reminded that this institution is the youngest arm of government. The National Assembly certainly may not have met the expectations of majority of our people but everybody admits we are on course. Rays of hope are evident!

This may not be the best of seasons for Nigeria but we should also remember that greatness is a process, not an event, even though we disagree with those who opine that the current challenges are necessary for our growth and development. It is therefore important to congratulate the Seventh Assembly as it turns one. But we would also want to remind the law makers of the need not to falter in their constitutional duties. Majority of our people are living below poverty line, infrastructure is virtually non-existent and economic growth is stunted. Therefore, we must be guided by this reality which is very discouraging and unacceptable.

The events following the recent tragedy that befell Nigeria’s aviation industry are all pointers to the readiness of the legislature to serve the interest of Nigerians. Aside the visit to the crash site by members of both the upper and lower Chambers, the legislature has also vowed to independently carry out its own investigation regarding the crash.  At other times, we also saw a parliament that was alive to its duties and willing to initiate interventions for the common good.

We must therefore support our law makers. The law makers on the other hand must also at all times invoke every legitimate legislative instrument necessary for its work.  We must learn to live by the strength of our example typified by high moral standing. Oversight for instance, remains a veritable weapon. But for this weapon to be effective, information must be at the disposal of the legislature. There must also be information about the activities of where they are over sighting so that they can feed back into better law-making.  That,   is the path to travel.

(Hon.) Dakuku Peterside, member, House of Representatives is also Chairman House Committee on Petroleum (Downstream)

 

Dakuku Peterside

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End Poverty, Okowa Urges Political Appointees

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Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has urged political appointees to be repository of ideas that will end poverty and social vices in the country.
The governor stated this yesterday, while inaugurating eight newly appointed Special Advisers at Government House, Asaba.
He noted that the times were difficult for Nigerians and that this was not the time for them to be lazy in their duties.
Okowa urged political appointees to commit themselves to more work to revive the economy and create opportunities for the younger generation.
He decried the high rate of youth unemployment which, he said, had driven many into self-help, leading to the current social vices in the country.
The governor said that his administration had created jobs through various empowerment programmes, which had greatly impacted many, with its great multiplier effect.
“Available records indicate that we have so far trained and resourced over 100,000 persons to become successful entrepreneurs.
“Yet, our cities and communities continue to brim with many youths who have yet to find succor, while some, regrettably, have chosen the path of infamy by embracing underhand methods to personal success that now pose danger to the rest of us.
“The signs are ominous and we cannot afford to play the ostrich or even be deluded into thinking that all is well. All is not well,’’ he said.
Okowa urged leaders to work with the consciousness that leadership was service.
“Service to the people for whom we hold our positions in trust. Thus, it is incumbent on appointees to devise means and methods of discharging their callings and responsibilities.
“Leaders and political appointees, at whatever level, should be repository of ideas that will proffer solutions to the problems of unemployment, poverty, anti-social vices, suspicion and distrust that breed inter-ethnic feuds in our communities,’’ he said.
 The governor stressed the urgent need for mindset reorientation among the people.
While congratulating the appointees, Okowa urged them to consider it their duties to connect with their communities and engage in regular advocacy that would remold the youth and set them on the right path.
“Where there is a will, there must be a way.
“This administration is of the belief that the stability, peaceful coexistence and prosperity of the state depend on ability to run an all-inclusive government, powered by men and women of competence, capacity and character.
“Hence the new Special Advisers are additional key resources in our governance team, painstakingly assembled to be architects and builders of a stronger Delta.
Responding on behalf of his colleagues, Mr Johnson Erijo, thanked God for the opportunity given them to serve the state.
He expressed appreciation to the governor for finding them worthy of the appointment, while pledging to work and sustain the Okowa-led administration’s agenda of service of the people.
The Tide  reports that the new Special Advisers are: Messrs Ignatius Ziakegha, Matthew Tsekiri, Chukwudi  Dafe,  Martins Okonta,  Dan Yingi, Ernest Ogwuezzy,  Johnson Erijo and Edward Ekpoko.
The Tide also reports that the appointment brings the number of special advisers in government to 16, following the devolution of the State Executive Council on May 18.
Meanwhile, the Delta House of Assembly has screened and confirmed additional 11 nominees as Commissioners in the state.
Those confirmed are Prof. Patrick Muoboghare, former Commissioner for Higher Education; Mr Chika Ossai, former Commissioner for Trade and Investment and Mr Basil Ganagana, former Commissioner for Energy.
Also confirmed is Mr Emmanuel Amgbaduba, former Commissioner for Oil and Gas. The others are Dr Mordi Ononye, former Commissioner for Health; Mr Ovie Oghoore; Mrs Bridget Anyafulu; Mr Solomon Golley; Mr Isaiah Bozimo; Mr Henry Dakota; and Mrs Jennifer Anderson.
The motion for the confirmation of the nominees was unanimously adopted yesterday, by the Assembly when the Speaker, Chief Sheriff Oborevwori put it to a voice vote and seconded by the Minority Leader, Mr Innocent Anidi.
The Tide reports that Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa on July 1, sworn in 18 confirmed nominees as commissioners.
The governor dissolved the state Executive Council on May 18.

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2023: Group Insists On S’ South Presidency

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A non-partisan advocacy group, South-South Presidency 2023 (SSP2023), has given reasons for insisting on the return of power to the zone in 2023.
The group, which ended its three-day delegates conference in Calabar, said there was need for a President of the South-South extraction to complete the zone’s tenure of eight years since it was truncated by massive gang up and that a South-South Presidency would stabilise the Nigerian polity.
In a 10-point communique signed by the National Protem Chairman of the group, Chief Diekivie Ikiogha, the Cross River State coordinator, Hon Ekpenyong Eyamba and others, the group said the South – South was blessed with competent and qualified human resource to take the country to another height and so should be given a chance.
They observed with nostalgia the deplorable state of the Calabar-Itu road and requested that the Federal Government should urgently fix it.
The group also frowned at what they described as the continuous intimidation, blackmail and harassment of politicians of South – South extraction.
The three-day conference climaxed with a visit to the Chairman of the State Council of Chiefs, His Royal Majesty Etinyin Etim Okon Edet at the Council of Chiefs Chambers.
At the Chamber, Chief Ikiogha called on the traditional institution to support the agitation of South – South people to produce the next president that would do four more years to complete the zone’s turn.
“By this arithmetic, South will do 18 years and when it goes to the north they will do eight years to add up to their tenure of 10 years which will be completed by President
“The South – South has an already constitutional four years which its ex president, Goodluck Jonathan can readily fit in,” he stated.
In his response, HRM Etim Okon Edet , who doubles as Paramount Ruler of Bakassi Local Government Area, said there was nothing wrong with a South – South producing the next president, saying the former president Goodluck Jonathan would be best fit to complete his tenure but feared whether the Bayelsa-born leader would be willing to throw his hat into the ring.
The Monarch said, “Yes, he is best fit to go and complete the four years remaining for South South regardless of any party. I will take the message to His Excellency, Governor Ben Ayade for his opinion.”
Among delegates who attended the Conference were Dr Princewill .W. Igbagara (Bayelsa), Engr. Ini Charles Udonwa (Akwa Ibom), Dr Didi Opiuyo (Rivers), High Chief (Major) A.O.Oputa (Bayelsa), Hon. Barr. Oyemah-Iwe Jahswill (Delta), Dr. Uwamose Amadasun (Edo), and Comrade Francis Etang of Cross River state , among others.

By: Friday Nwagbara, Calabar

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INEC Commences Physical CVR In Rivers

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Rivers State has commenced the physical aspect of the Continuous Voter’s Registration (CVR) at the state office and in the local government offices.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Head of Department, Voter Education and Publicity, Mark Usulor and made available to The Tide last Monday, July 26, 2021.
The statement however, regretted that due to the blockade on a stretch of the East-West Road by some persons, reportedly protesting about the poor state of the road yesterday, movement had been impeded along the route.
{As a result, some of our personnel and materials have been unable to arrive some of the local government offices of INEC to commence the exercise”, he said.
He listed the affected local government areas as follows: Andoni; Bonny; Eleme; Gokana; Khana; Ogu/Bolo; Okrika; Opobo/Nkoro and Tai.
“INEC Rivers State wishes to assure potential registrants in such local government areas that the exercise will commence in their locations later in the day and as soon as the situation permits.
“It also hopes that registrants in the affected areas avail themselves the opportunity to key into the physical Continuous Voters’ Registration as soon as normalcy returns back to the area.
It is worthy to note that INEC in line with keeping to its promises to ensure no one of age is disenfranchised introduced the CVR for all as well as those who wishes to change their voters’ card due to their present location as such it is pertinent for those concerned to take full advantage of this window of opportunity”, he added.

By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana

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