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8th Senate: An Appraisal

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As the 109 senators of the 8th senate bowed out on June 6 after four years of legislative activities, political analysts have commended their performance in spite of the tumultuous beginning of the session in 2015.
They observed that although the session was characterised  by some challenges, most bills passed by the lawmakers had direct impact on the economy.
According to the 8th senate bill progression chart, over 200 bills were passed.
Some of the bills passed by the 8th senate are:
Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill 2015, North East Development Commission (NEDC) (Est, etc) Bill 2015, Counterfeit and Fake Drugs and Unwholesome Processed Foods (Miscellaneous Provision) Amendment Bill 2015, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill 2016, Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institution Bill 2016, Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill, among others.
The Senate also adopted bills passed by the House of Representatives. Some of them are: Federal Capital Territory Hospitals Management Board (Establishment, etc.) Bill, 2016, Senior Citizen Centre Bill, 2016, and Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshots, Bill 2016.
The Executive Director, Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA-AFRICA), Mr Samson Itodo, commended the senate for passing the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill, which has been signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Itodo, a co-convener of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Movement, said though the 8th Assembly had challenges, they performed creditably.
On his part, Chief Mike Ozhekhome (SAN), said the 8th National Assembly was the best in the legislative history of the country.
He said it performed creditably in terms of productivity and insistence on being independent.
He said: “In the entire legislative history of Nigeria, the 8th Aational Assembly passed the largest number of pro-masses motions, resolutions and bills than any legislature before it.
“Future National Assembly should and must take a cue from the 8th National Assembly, that the assembly is an independent arm of government, specifically created by Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution.
“They should make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Nigeria.
“Though expected to cooperate with the executive, it must not do so at the expense of its own independence as an arm of government that participates in the inbuilt constitutional checks and balances.
“It is not a rubber stamp to executive desires. Any National Assembly worthy of its name, must rise up and use its oversight powers under Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution, to check the excesses of the judicial and executive arms of government,” he said..
In the same vein, Executive Director, Foundation for Persons Living with Disabilities, Mrs Pat John-Oseh, hailed the legislators for passing the Disability Bill.
Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi,  the  Chairperson, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), said the 8th Senate passed vital bills that contributed to the country’s development.
“Examples of those bills are the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Bill and the Disability Bill, which have been signed into law.
“Those two bills came out very clearly as bills that have contributed to Nigeria’s growth and development. Also, the Minimum Wage Bill signed into law is another one.”
Akiyode-Afolabi, however, rated the Senate low in terms of other legislative activities, noting that though the Senate passed a number of bills that were beneficial, it failed in other areas.
She said the lawmakers did not fully address issues bothering on the petroleum sector, the electoral system, among others.
“The Senate did not do much to push for passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill which has to do with women.
“In the last election, women suffered a lot of violence, they suffered a lot of discrimination and you can see that the seven per cent of women in the National Assembly is reducing to five per cent in terms of the number of women representation.
“A critical law of that nature is what the National Assembly should have taken cognisance of,” she said.
The TMG chairperson noted that delay in budget passage also characterised the 8th National Assembly.
“Year in, year out, they refused to pass budget at the time when it will be right to address the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian people.
“So there were lots of politicking that they actually left those things they were supposed to do as members of the national assembly
“So in terms of that, I will rate them very low because they had all the opportunity to help better the lives of Nigerian people, but they did not, “she said.
On their part, some lawmakers, who appraised their performance within the period, lamented declined assent to some bills that would have impacted positively on the country.
Sen. Foster Ogola (PDP-Bayelsa), said the 8th Senate performed creditably in all its ramifications.
“This 8th Senate has performed beyond expectation. We have passed more bills than all the previous senates put together.
“Even in terms of public discourse, we have done more because the Ethics and Privileges Committee has the highest record of public complaints they have handled,” he said.
Ogola pointed out that “ just recently, the bill I sponsored for the Federal College of Education Agoro, Bayelsa, went through third reading.
“Also, five tertiary institutions bill received third reading, including mine,’’ he said.
The lawmaker commended the Senate for passing the redrafted Petroleum Industry Governance (PIG) Bill, which President Buhari earlier declined assent to.
He said in spite of the fact that it was one of the critical bills that were transmitted but not assented to, the Senate deemed it necessary to pass it through third reading, a second time, with the hope that it would be assented to.
“Most importantly, we finalised the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, though we could not pass the other tranches,” he said.
Senate Solomon Adeola(APC-Lagos), said there was no doubt that the 8th Senate started on a rancorous note.
According to him, the seeming frosty relationship between the leadership of the Senate and the executive affected the performance of the senate in some aspects.
He said: “The instability of the Senate lingered for about a year and a half, slowing down legislative activities within the period.
“Within the period, there was also change of leader of the Senate, causing another round of distraction.
“However, we were able to contribute our quota as lawmakers because we believe that Nigeria is bigger than anyone.
“With that in mind, we were able to bury our differences to focus on the project Nigeria.
“Over 200 bills were passed by the Senate and that is commendable, and it shows we were committed to contributing our quota to nation building,” he said.
Adeola said his expectation for the 9th Senate was to see a Senate that would be acceptable to all Nigerians and a leader that would carry everybody along.
He noted that for the policies of government to be properly implemented, there was a need for collaboration between the legislature and executive.
“We will be coming to the 9th Senate to pursue the agenda of the APC for national development,” he said.
Sen. Matthew Urghoghide (PDP-Edo), said all senators of the 8th Senate worked hard to ensure what was expected of them statutorily was achieved.
According to him, the 8th Senate has set a standard that subsequent sessions will work hard to achieve.
Urghoghide noted that “in a bid to ensure that the workload is cleared, we revisited even bills that were declined assent to and passed them through third reading a second time.
“We expect that the 9th Senate would do better.”
He advised the 9th Senate leadership to ensure checks and balances for a robust and sustainable democratic rule.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, in his farewell speech to mark the end of the 8th Senate, thanked his colleagues for demonstrating patriotism by protecting the sanctity of the legislature.
He said although some of them had to pay dearly for daring to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it was worth it.
He said he was bowing out a fulfilled man, knowing that in spite of the hiccups experienced in the life of the Senate, the achievements recorded could not be matched.
“Distinguished colleagues, as we come to the final plenary and the last few days of the 8th Senate, it is a victory in itself that we are seeing the journey to its momentous end.
“That I am here today, that you are here today, is a victory for democracy. It is a testament to what people can do when they come together for the greater good.
“This is also one of those occasions when the Supreme Creator reminds us, once again, that power does not reside in any one person.
“Let me thank each and every one of you for your contributions toward making this the historic Senate that it is.
“When I think of the many trials and tribulations we have faced as an institution, and my own personal travails particularly at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, I am humbled.
“This is because none of our achievements would have been possible without the support and cooperation of the entire members of this chamber.
“The invasion of the National Assembly by armed security operatives in August 2018 will live in infamy.
He noted that the legislations passed in areas affecting the daily lives of citizens, the economy, education, security, anti-corruption, health and many more, would remain a benchmark.
According to him, working together, they achieved many “firsts” in the 8th Assembly saying, “we should rightly be proud of these, especially as they are imperishable legacies we are leaving for the people.
“Our many firsts include the National Assembly Joint Public Hearing on the Budget, which we started with the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
“The engagement of the private sector and other stakeholders in crafting the economic legislative agenda was a watershed.
“For the first time, there were meetings and interactions with members of the public which were not previously the norm.
“One such interaction was the Public Senate, which gave the youth the opportunity to spend a day with me as President of the Senate.
“I have pleasant memories of my reading to an audience of small children inside my office, where, in the true spirit of Children’s Day, the kids themselves were the dignitaries.
With the curtain drawn on the 8th National Assembly, the Senate particularly will be remembered among many intriguing moments, for the drama that characterised emergence of its principal officers in 2015, where a deputy senate president emerged from a minority party, without any accord.
. Ijuo and Agbaje write for NAN.

 

Cecilia Ijuo, Taiye Agbaje

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Of Governance And Clamour For Unicameral NASS

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Although the heavy cost of maintaining Nigeria’s 469 federal lawmakers has always been a source of concern, “sitting politicians’’ have joined in the campaign for the reduction of the number of federal legislators.
In fact, one of the converts even suggested the scrapping of the Senate, as according to him, it is the House of Representatives that represents.
The converts: Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti; Sen. Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo and Chief Osita Chidoka, former Minister of Aviation, made their suggestions at different fora.
Chidoka who advocates for a unicameral legislature, made the suggestion after President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2020 budget.
“In Nigeria, we need a unicameral legislature with six members each from the 36 states and two members from FCT.
“The legislature with 218 members will be less than 50 per cent of current members and term limit of three terms.
“The 2020 budget for the National Assembly (NASS) is N125bn, higher than the combined budget of Education N48 billion (excluding UBEC and TETFUND), Health N46 billion and Social Investment N30 billion.
“Reducing National Assembly members by half will provide over N60 billion annually for the social sector, that will be 600 billion over 10 years.”
Chidoka said the new National Assembly would be both efficient and economical.
He described the budget of N125 billion for the National Assembly as “hugely extravagant,” in an economy adjudged to have over 100 million poor people with gross infrastructure deficit.
The former Minister of Aviation said that funds saved from the contraction would be available for investment on policies and projects that would serve the common interest of the greater number of the population.
On his part, Fayemi advocated for the scrapping of the Senate in order to save cost and reduce financial burden on the government.
He also advocated for the adoption of Stephen Orosaye’s report which recommended the merging of federal government’s agencies that perform similar functions.
Fayemi said the type of legislative system that would be more productive for Nigeria in this current economic situation is a unicameral legislature.
“As it stands, the country’s legislative arm consisting of 109 Senate members and a 360-member House of Representatives, on yearly basis gulps millions of Naira.
“We do need to look at the size of government in Nigeria, and I am an advocate for a unicameral legislature.
“What we really need is the House of Representatives because that is what represents.
“You have three senators from little Ekiti and you have three senators from Lagos State, I guess the principle is not proportionality, but that if you are a state, you get it automatically.
“But I think that we can do away with that. There are several things that we can do away within the government,” he said.
Okorocha, the immediate past governor of Imo, now the Senator representing Imo West, on his part called for the reduction in the number of federal lawmakers representing a state.
He suggested that a Senator and three members of House of Representatives should represent each state.
“I want one senator and three House of Representatives members per state, which will cut expenses.
“A Senator and three House of Representatives members can do what many have been doing.’’
He said that the reduction in the number of representatives from the states would help cut cost and ensure effective representation.
While advocating for ways to cut cost and ensure effective representation, Okorocha said he would sponsor a bill that would seek for the reduction of the number of Senators and House of Representatives members for each state.
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), has endorsed the suggestions for the reduction of the number of federal lawmakers.
The CNPP via a statement from its Secretary-General, Willy Ezugwu, said Okorocha spoke the truth concerning the need to reduce cost of running the National Assembly.
“The former governor simply told Nigerians the truth when he said what three Senators from a state can do; one lawmaker is capable of handling the same.
“Like Sen. Okorocha asked, what is too sacrosanct that Senators and House of Representatives members are doing that only a Senator per state can not do?’’
Also, two professors of political science at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Jonah Onuoha and Aloysius Okolie, agreed with the advocates for unicameral legislature, which they reiterated would reduce the cost of governance.
Onuoha, who is the Head,  Department of Political Science, said bicameral legislative system is not cost effective, especially in a country like Nigeria, where federal lawmakers receive bogus salaries and allowances.
“It takes huge amount of money to maintain bicameral legislative system, especially in a country like Nigeria where federal lawmakers receive bogus salaries and allowances monthly.
“Bicameral legislative system is not only costly but delays legislative processes of passing bill into law, since the bill will pass through the two chambers.’’
Onuoha, who is also the Director of American Studies in UNN, urged the country to adopt unicameral legislative system as it is cost effective.
“If the country settles for unicameral, the extra money it could have spent in paying salaries, allowances and maintaining the two  chambers which runs into billions can be used to carry out capital projects,” he said.
He said if the country insisted on running bicameral legislative system, the number of lawmakers should be reduced.
Okolie in his contribution said that it was as result of bicameral legislative system that every year the budgetary allocation to the National Assembly had remained the highest.
“I subscribe to opinions in some quarters that the country should adopt unicameral legislative system as it will reduce the cost of running government as well as quicken legislative processes.
“The country is spending much to pay salaries, allowances and maintaining the two chambers — 109 Senators and 360-members of House of Representatives,’’ he said.
Okolie, former Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, UNN branch, also said that as part of measures to reduce cost of running the government, the country should return to the regional structure.
“If we have one federal parliament and one regional parliament in each of the six geo-political zones, it will go a long way in cutting down cost of running the government,” Okolie said.
However, a legal practitioner, Mr Dele Igbinedion, said that people should not clamour for unicameral legislature just for cutting cost, adding that the issue is not whether or not a bicameral legislature is good or bad.
“I believe the bicameral system should remain because it has been proven to be sustainable and necessary. The process of law making is a very serious business which cannot start and end within a short time.
“The problem with the unicameral system which we have at the state level is that a bill can be introduced and passed the same day and sent to the governor for assent.
“This is not the case in the National Assembly; the two chambers must meet and possibly form a joint committee to look at the bill before sending it for presidential assent.
“The rigorous process a piece of legislation has to pass through forms part of the beauty of democracy.
“I think Nigerians should stop looking at the legislature each time there is a slight challenge and asking if we really need that arm of government.
“The judiciary often doesn’t respond to executive excesses, except there is a case it initiates, but in the legislature, a member can raise it as a matter of urgent public importance, national importance or ethics and privileges, and the attention of the parliament can be brought to it.’’
Apparently, Igbinedion was surmising that many state assemblies have become rubber stamps because the governors could easily “conquer’’ them, because it is only a single chamber.
Stakeholders say that unicameral and bicameral legislature have their advantages, but the country should settle for an option that cuts costs and wastages.
Ukoh writes for News Agency of Nigeria(NAN).

 

Obike Ukoh

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Dickson Dismisses APC Candidates As Militants, Terrorists

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The Bayelsa State Governor, Hon Seriake Dickson, has described the the All Progressives Congress (APC), joint ticket of Lyon/Degi for the November 16 Governorship election in the state, as a representation of militancy, terrorism, cultism and criminality.
He emphasized that the APC government after five years at the centre has done nothing in the state but to promote violence in different communities, adding that the consequences of losing election to the APC in the state will be dare to imagine.
Dickson made the revelation during the official inauguration of the gubernatorial campaign teams and secretariat on Tuesday, in Yenagoa.
He said, “Consider what would happen if things were to happen otherwise, none of you will spend a week in Bayelsa State. APC is presenting a ticket of militancy, terrorism, cultism and criminality, it’s going to be a government of criminals and cultist.”
Democracy in Bayelsa State can never turn to a government of militancy and criminals.
As we are formally inaugurating the campaigns, we will also launch “Operation wind APC in Bayelsa.”
“The consequence are too dare to imagine, people will be scared to visit the state , even indigenes will be scared to visit their communities.
“If we don’t take this elections seriously, by 17th the day after the election we should be ready to leave the state. This election is not about the candidate or even me but about the future of our state and our children.
“In 2015, when I was contesting, I saw more than the defection we are seeing today but let me assure us of victory. And don’t be perturbed but that doesn’t mean that we are happy as party leaders are decamping but victory will be ours at the end.”

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Okowa Inaugurates 42-Member State Advisory Council

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Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State yesterday inaugurated a 42-member State Advisory and Peace Building Council with a charge on the members to sustain and deepen the peaceful atmosphere in the state.
The council has  Prof. Sam Oyovbaire, former Minister of Information, as Chairman.
Okowa named former state Deputy Governors – Chief Benjamin Elue and Prof. Amos Utuama – and Prince Sam Obi, Chief Chris Agbobu, Alawei Brodrick Bozimo, Brig.-Gen. B. Demeyeibo (rtd), Chief Mike Adiotomre and Chief Ignatius Agidi as members.
Other members included Chief Patrick Egone, Mr John Nwagimeje, Sen. Stella Omu, Mr Paul Enebeli, Sen. Patrick Osakwe, Dr.(Mrs) F. Nwaeze, Prof. E.C. Nwanze, Dr Pius Sinebe, Chief Joseph Ejigba, Chief Eddie Sorhue and Chief (Mrs) Esther Uduehi.
Also, Chief E.D. Oborfukoro, Chief Robert Ejifoma, Pa. John Edah, Chief Roland Oritsejafor, Chief E. E. Ebimani, Chief Judith Enamuotor, Rev. Gideon Oyibo, Mr Joseph Ikhena, Chief Denis Etaluku, Prof. Sam. Ukala, Chief Jonathan Uyeri and Chief Samuel Okoro are members.
Other members are Mrs Felicia Ajagu, Mrs Theodora Giwa-Amu, Mrs Felicia Sani, Rev. Oke Akokotu, Elder Ayo Odonmeta, Chief Emmanuel Okumagba, Rear Adm. Mike Onah (rtd), Chief Magaret Unukegwo, Mrs. Grace Boyo and Rt. Rev. Justus Mogekwu.
According to the governor, the inauguration is part of the State Government’s effort to further strengthen the wheel of governance in the state.
“As a way of tapping from the wealth of experience of our people, it is necessary to reconstitute the Delta State Advisory and Peace Building Council through the appointment of these men and women of tested integrity and exemplary character.
“Let me reiterate that the appointment of the members of the council is not based on any political consideration whatsoever,” he said.
He charged the council to bring their experiences to bear on their function and create environment to deepen the peace between the state executive and other arms of government.
Okowa charged the council ensure harmony between Delta government and the Federal Government and other international bodies.
He called on the citizens to give the council the needed support and corporation to succeed while thanking the members for accepting to serve.
“I urge all of you to bring your wealth of experience to bear on this appointment,” Okowa said.
Responding on behalf of the council, Oyovbaire thanked the governor for the appointment and pledged their resolve to deliver on the assignment.
Also in an interview, Rev. Mogekwu said the appointment was a call to service, adding that the council would not betray the confidence reposed on it to sustain and deepen the peaceful atmosphere in the state.

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