Third quarter review of Akpabio’s 10th Senate (part 2)

As such and in its sustained display of empathy with the Nigerian masses over the prevailing economic hardship, the senate passed yet another resolution against the planned withdrawal of electricity subsidy and subsequent increase in electricity tariffs. Also unwilling to see a repeat of the petroleum subsidy unpleasant experience as well as in furtherance of its multi-faceted interventions in the power sector, the senate is investigating the claim of the minister of power that the government owed the generating companies (GenCos) and the gas companies N1.3trillion and $1.3 billion respectively as part of the justification for the intended action. 

Yet the electricity tariffs have since been increased amid public outcry which again underscores the executive’s domination of the legislature resulting in the disregard for legislative resolutions.

This major threat to democratic governance, it is hoped, would be addressed among other issues for which the senate in this quarter inaugurated a 44-member Constitution Review Committee in response to the relentless yearnings of well-meaning Nigerians.

Also in this regard, there were five separate bills in addition to the ones from the previous quarters on the alteration of the 1999 Constitution that have been referred to this committee that has since commenced its special assignment.

In solidarity again with Nigerians, the senate held a special session on the state of the economy culminating in a joint committee that later met with the executive branch, through the national economic management team, towards rescuing the country principally from inflation and food shortage. There were of course far-reaching recommendations with inherent capacities to turn around the economic woes of Nigeria if only there would be sufficient political will and the zeal to implement them.

Though the national assembly leadership had followed it up with an interface with President Bola Tinubu, the senate on its part commenced the probe of the various incidents that forced the federal government into the humongous deficits for which the country is today bleeding. 

It constituted an ad-hoc committee “with the mandate to investigate the N30tn Ways and Means obligation and the various Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, interventions made under the Ways and Means expenditure which include the Anchor Borrower Programme, budget supports to states, support to the power and manufacturing sectors, airlines, etc., with a view to uncovering what the monies were used for, the conditions of the disbursements and possible recoveries to shore up the fortunes of the CBN”.

While the Anchor Borrower Programme was for farmers, the Ways and Means was an advance to the federal government for sundry purposes such as listed above.

The president of the senate, Godswill Akpabio was very clear on what the goals and objectives were. Inaugurating the committee, he stated that “the constitution of this committee is a testament to the Senate’s unwavering commitment to transparency, accountability, and good governance. It reflects our dedication to addressing the concerns of the Nigerian people and upholding the principles of democracy.

Lest it be misconstrued, he added: “to the members of this esteemed committee, I implore you to approach your responsibilities with the utmost sense of patriotism, professionalism and integrity. Your investigation demands impartiality and fairness, always keeping the public interest and the welfare of our nation at the forefront. We must leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of the truth.

Therefore, conduct thorough inquiries and dig out information that will assist the Senate in making laws for the betterment of our country. Let us set aside personal and partisan interests, focusing solely on the task at hand. By working harmoniously, we can ensure that the Ways and Means in Nigeria are managed prudently, efficiently, and in accordance with the law”.

Still on the food insecurity, the senate referred the executive to countries “where food-stamp, which is a government-issued coupon that is given to low-income and non-income persons and is redeemable for food………as a measure to cushion the resultant hardships and sufferings on the poor/less priviledged as well as low income earners”.

As such, it recommended the introduction of “the Nigerian version of the food stamps programme as an interventionist measure to cushion the effects of food insecurity/shortage in the country”. Equally, it expressed concern about the sudden increase in the costs of building materials, particularly cement whose raw materials are sourced locally.

On the Need for Increased Awareness and Improvement of Kidney Treatment Facilities in Nigeria, the senate has commenced the “lobby for an expansion of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to provide comprehensive coverage for chronic kidney disease patients and ensure that financial constraints do not hinder access to essential treatments and called for the implementation of “infection prevention training and supervision protocols to safeguard Chronic Kidney Disease patients, including those with HIV and Hepatitis, who rely on dialysis treatment in Nigerian facilities” and also for the Executive “to increase the number of functional dialysis centres in tertiary health facilities, ensure access to dialysis treatment, even in remote areas, and address the shortage of dialysis nurses and specialised technicians”.

Furthermore, on the “Discrimination against the Medical Graduates from Ukraine by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria”, the senate urged the Council to allow all the graduates in 2023 from Ukraine and other countries affected by war to sit for MDCN regulatory examinations coming up in July 2024, provided that they have their certificates. It also called for the decentralization of the examination across the geo-political zones for convenience and easy access, similar to the Nigerian Law School.

Again, it urged the Nigerian universities to admit those who were yet to complete their studies but had to flee the countries due to the war, to enable them to finish up.

During the period, new bills were introduced in addition the earlier mentioned ones on the constitution review.

Whereas there were three and four proposed amendments respectively to the Electoral Act and the Federal Medical Centres Act, there was one each in respect of the Federal Airports Authority, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Federal Orthopaedic Hospitals Management Board, Foreign Exchange Control and Monitoring, National Environmental Standards and Regulation Agency, Corrupt Practices and Other Offences, Oaths, Firearms, National Agency for Sciences and Engineering Infrastructure Acts. Others were the National Hajj Commission, Labour, Nigerian Defence Academy, National Inland Waterways Authority, Child Rights, Banks and other Financial Institutions, Pension Reform, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, National Population Commission and Proceeds of Crime, Violence Against Persons (Prohibition)Acts.

Similarly, there were establishment bills for the National Environmental Health and Sanitation Agency, Gender and Equitable Opportunities,

Nationwide Toll, Cottage Industries, Petroleum Tankers Safety, Police Pension Board, National Insurance Reform, Inflation Reduction Programme (Special Provisions), National Energy, Social Assistance, Nigerian Economic Diversification, Nigerian National Subsidy Fund, National Road Transport Council, Nigeria Agricultural Preservation Council, Agricultural Processing Zones, Media Practitioners Registration Council of Nigeria as well as the Integrated Rural Development Agency.

Still on the establishment legislation, those for educational institutions and specialized bodies of knowledge included the Federal University of Technology, Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, Federal College of Agriculture, Ocheja, Kogi State, Federal University, Okigwe, Imo State, Federal College of Horticulture Okigwe, Federal College of Education (Technical) Saminaka, Kaduna State, Federal College of Medical Science and Laboratory Technology, Federal College of Health Technology Ikwuano, Abia State, Federal College of Agriculture of and Animal Husbandry, Federal University of Education, Technical, Hong, Adamawa State, Federal University of Science and Technology Lau, Federal Institute for Technology and Innovation and the Federal College of Education Gwoza. The rest were the National Institute for Educational Planning and Administration, Institute of Information and Communication Technology Umuahia, Abia State, Chartered Institute of Agri-business Management of Nigeria, Chartered Institute of Digital Forensics of Nigeria, Chartered Institute of Economics, National Centre for Cancer Research and Treatment and the National Institute for Border Studies Imeko Ogun State.

Again, the bills that were slated for public hearings ahead of eventual passages were the amendments to the Central Bank of Nigeria Act “to strengthen the Bank”, the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation “to make the Corporation more effective, ensure its independence and autonomy and to bring it in line with current realities”, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Act (repeal and re-enactment) for improved operational efficiency and effectiveness, the Extradition Act to expand the scope of application, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Act, to strengthen the operations of the Agency, empower the Agency to establish laboratories, update the list of dangerous drugs, review the penalty provisions, enhance the power of the agency to prosecute drug related offences and issue subsidiary legislations ”; the Terrorism Act to enable Nigeria implement targeted financial sanctions relating to terrorism and terrorism financing without delay and then the Money Laundering to include the NFIU and the NDLEA in the surveillance and prevention of money laundering in Nigeria. 

Others were the North-West Development Commission, Agricultural Research Council Act, Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Legal Matters Act as well as bills to establish the National Assembly Budget and Research Office, David Umahi University of Health Sciences, Federal University of Technology Ilaro, Ogun State and the Federal University Birnin-Kebbi, Kebbi State.

Then to facilitate governance, the senate screened and confirmed presidential nominees in addition to the law-making functions. It approved the nominations of Dr Kelechi Ohiri as Director-General of the National Health Insurance Authority, Ms Hafsat Abubakar Bakari as Director, of Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, Paul Adamu Galumje, JSC (rtd.) as the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Hon. Kayode Oladele as member of the Federal Character Commission and Dr. Oluwole Adama as Executive Director of Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Infrastructure Fund.

Other confirmations included Gbenga Alade as the Managing Director with Adeshola Lamidi, Lucky Adaghe and Dr. Aminu Mukhtar Dan’amu as executive directors of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, Jalal Arabi as the Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria with Aliu Abdul-Razak, Commissioner (Policy, Personnel & Finance), Prince Anofiu Elegushi, Commissioner (Operations and Prof. Abubakar A. Yagawal, Commissioner (Planning & Research), Mr Robert Agbede, Mr Ado Yakubu Wanka, Prof. Murtala Sabo Sogagi, Ruby C. Onwudiwe, Ph.D, and Mrs. Muslimat Olanike Aliyu as members of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Nigeria in addition to the12-member Monetary Policy Committee and the

19 Commissioners for the National Population Commission. 

Also, it approved the removal of Babatunde Irukera as the Chief Executive/Executive Vice Chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

From the foregoing as well as the previous quarters’ performance review, the 10th senate is indeed committed to expressing the true minds and wishes of the people, though more is still expected. And once again, the executive arm should do more to recognize legislative resolutions as essential ingredients for good governance.

Egbo is a parliamentary affairs analyst