Nigeria’s Senate President, David Mark, as Head of the National Assembly last week, shut both chambers. He did so on account of what many Nigerians consider a siege on the Legislative House, by men of the Nigeria Police.
The House of Representatives had reconvened from its break to address a matter of urgent national concern. President Goodluck Jonathan had asked for extension of the state of emergency in three boiling points of North-East, Nigeria, for another six months and urged the legislative to authorise same.
It was to address the same presidential letter that the Upper Chamber decided to summon service chiefs to properly brief them on the propriety of the Commander-in-Chief’s request. But the lower chamber could not discuss the letter elaborately on account of the Police action.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal summed up the day’s sad incident in the words: ‘we are under siege’, and advised the Presidency to leverage on existing constitutional provisions to contain the security concerns in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno States, since no debates could go on.
What was the siege all about? Some members of the lower chamber were prevented by some officers and men of the Nigeria Police from gaining access to the Assembly premises. In the ensuing verbal exchanges, Police fired tear gas canisters on the law-makers and their aides.
In fact, some members of the House were pictured on television jumping the Assembly’s high gates to gain access into their hallowed chamber, while others ran for their dear lives. So dehumanising, was the spectacle displayed on television for the world to see.
Who authorised such Police action and why? What was the action intended to achieve? The power of the gun and uniform over laws and reason?
These questions deserve answers, and answers Nigerians must have if we are to check any other excess of its kind. This is because, if members of the National Assembly can suffer such humiliation in the hands of the Police, there is no telling what ordinary Nigerians have to face without a word of protest.
The Police’s Power-show-off, many thought, was limited to protesting students, striking workers or civil society groups on one form of campaign or another, but to visit such level of humiliation on members of an arm of government like those of the National Assembly is most unacceptable.
Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba has since denied ordering such action with a promise to fish-out the culprits. He has since ordered a probe into the matter.
But prior to the IGP’s denial, media reports, quoting police sources had claimed that the security operatives had prior knowledge of a potential threat to security and likely invasion of the National Assembly. That since it had categorised the area as a prime target for terrorists, it was determined to check any breach of peace in the precincts of the legislature. Another report even claimed that some members of the National Assembly, particularly, members of the lower chamber, were accompanied by thugs and other miscreants.
This cannot be an acceptable excuse. Policing in a democratic setting, sets very high ethical standards for operatives, who must be civil in handling matters of the kind. They are expected to use minimum force only when, necessary, but to visit such brute force on Honourable members is unbecoming of a Police under civil rule.
Unfortunately, the Police action has ignited other chain reactions which consequences are indeed grave and enormous.
With the National Assembly now shut, there is no telling how it will affect pending actions. For instance, the President’s request for extension of the state of emergency in the three states will remain on hold. This means, Nigerian troops engaging insurgents in the flash-point areas will be less empowered to go all out for the enemies. Although, the House Speaker, had advised the presidency to leverage on other existing constitutional provisions to do the work, there are indeed legal inhibitions.
Another is the expected review of the bench mark for Nigerian crude that sets the base for the 2015 budget. Ministry of Finance source are requesting a review from 77 dollars per barrel to 73 dollars in view of prevailing circumstances in the oil industry.
That too would put on hold meaning, actual work on the 2015 budget will suffer another long delay, before eventual passage.
In an election year when political differences often compete with national concerns, there is no telling how long the budget will remain in the works.
Perhaps, another issue urgently begging for action is the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) passage. But as it stands, work on that too could be delayed, for, none can tell how long for same reasons.
With political parties’ campaigns already on, and several lawmakers seeking re-election, there is little likelihood that much can be achieved between now and the forth coming parties’ primaries and preparation for eventual general elections.
These are only very few of the consequences of the Police action. The other, is the measure of bad blood it has injected into the relationship between the legislative and executive arms. Relations have not been warm since the defection of the Speaker from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the reported withdrawal of personal aides by security institutions.
The recent face-off between the Police and members of the House is like pouring petrol into a burning fire, that requires maturity, statesmanship and patriotism to address. The Police High Command must institute the high powered probe promised, and fish out not only those who carried out the action but indeed those who gave necessary orders.
For now, both the offices of the IGP and the National Security Adviser (NSA) have denied giving such orders, or even ordering the arrest of the Speaker, with a promise to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the Police action.
However, the reaction of some members of the House was a little less, honourable. Some of them reduced themselves to the level of protesting students chanting solidarity songs before national television. Some of them even questioned the necessity of the visit of the Senate President to House on television, and threatened to go physical on a colleague who advised caution.
Happily, Senate President Mark said he held no grudge against anyone over the actions of that day, even as he described Police action as barbaric and unacceptable. That is the truth.
The Police must come clean on this matter by fishing out the culprits, and their commanding officers, especially, those who orders the foot soldiers carried out. It is only when the Police High Command does that, that the general public will believe its claim of innocence, and possible neutrality in future.
For now, there is apprehension in the land over what Police role will be in the coming elections. And unless the Police High Command boosts public confidence in its operations, a lot can go wrong under the excuse of lack of trust.
In all these, neutrality should be the key word. Civility, the order and professionalism, a vow. Without these, a roundly partisan Police cannot be depended upon to do right.
My Agony is that the probe, if it indeed takes off, will last long enough for Nigerians to forget and face more important concerns – like stomach infrastructure, elections and hunger. Too busy to ask further questions, it will then be business as usual.
That siege on the NASS should not end that way, in the interest of our democracy.
Soye Wilson Jamabo
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
Wike, Pride Of Nigeria’s Democracy, NUJ Affirms
The NUJ also noted that Wike has redefined governance through demonstration of democracy in action with his service to Rivers people.
The National leadership, the 36 State Executives, and the FCT, including members of the NUJ across the country made the assertion in Port Harcourt during the inspection tour led by the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim of both completed and ongoing projects being undertaken by the governor in the state.
The National President of the NUJ, Chief Chris Isiguzo, said the 1999 Constitution bestows on the media the responsibility to hold governments accountable to the people.
Isiguzo posited that having placed the projects side-by-side with the expectations of the populace, it was obvious that the governor’s investment in critical infrastructure would remain lifelong empowerment tools for the people.
”We were at the Mother and Child Hospital. We took time to look at the facilities there. That can easily be said to be first of its kind in the country.
”At the much-talked about Real Madrid Football Academy, where they are going to train the young ones, we saw that they have good facilities. At the moment, they have also offered admission to 140 pupils.
”That’s also to catch-them-young, and I want to believe that by the time this kind of resources is continuously invested in sports development in Nigeria, it’s just a matter of time, it will gain its pride of place in sporting world.”
On her part, the National President of Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs Ladi Bala said that the projects she had seen were entirely unique, unprecedented and very uncommon in the country.
According to Bala, the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges’ Quarters stand out as first of its kind in Nigeria, with its serene ambiance that would translate into enhancing the productivity of judges of Rivers origin.
”I believe that democracy is at work in Rivers State, and, for Rivers people, I want to congratulate them, and to say, this is the true reflection of what democracy should be across board.
”I want to call on other governors across the country to borrow a leaf from what the governor of Rivers State is doing. Wike is working, and we are very proud of what we have seen here”, she added.
In his reaction, the National Internal Auditor of NUJ, Muhammad Tukur, stated that Wike was a committed leader with the vision of uplifting the standard of life of his people.
Tukur, who expressed gratitude to Wike for his support to the NUJ National Conference in Port Harcourt, said that his show of love for journalists confirms his commitment to the welfare of the people.
On his part, Chairman of Oyo State Council of the NUJ, Comrade Ismail Ademola Babalola, asserted that the Mother and Child Hospital, and the Real Madrid Football Academy were part of projects Governor Wike was using to secure a productive future for the youths of the state because they meet global standard.
Also speaking, the Vice President of NUJ North Central Zone, Chief Wilson Bako, commended the quality of the various roads and flyover bridges constructed in the Port Harcourt metropolis to make the city tourists’ destination of choice.
In the same vein, the Vice Chairman of NUJ in Jigawa State, Comrade Larai Musa, said she has confirmed all that the news media had carried about Wike and his projects’ mantra, and asserted that it was leaders like him that were needed at the national level.
Also, Comrade Ikechukwu Ordu of Enugu State Council of the NUJ noted the need for other political leaders to emulate Wike in providing dividends of democracy to Rivers people and changing the fortunes of his state.
Also from the Enugu State Council of the NUJ, Comrade Ugochukwu Chukwudieke, said she was completely overwhelmed by what Wike has done in constructing the Okoro-Nu-Odo Flyover Bridge, Rumuogba Flyover Bridge, and Rebisi Flyover Bridge delivered within one year.
Chukwudieke also praised the quality of work on the Rumuola Flyover Bridge, Ogbun-nu-Abali Flyover Bridge, GRA Junction Flyover Bridge, and the Orochiri-Wurukwo flyover project at Waterlines Junction by Aba Road.
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