Third quarter review of Akpabio’s 10th Senate

Two examples of what Nigeria gains when the executive begins to recognize legislative resolutions were demonstrated during the third quarter activities of the 10th Senate. 

Sequel to its probe of the state of affairs of the Nigerian Postal Service, NIPOST, the senate discovered that “the sum of N10 billion released by the Ministry of Finance for the proposed NIPOST restructuring and recapitalisation” was “injudiciously utilised”.

There was also a revelation that two subsidiary firms namely the NIPOST Properties and Development Company and NIPOST Transport and Logistics Services Limited were used to perpetrate the fraud.

Acting on the recommendations, the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, revoked the certificates of incorporation of those companies, thus dissolving them.

Again, the senate, through a motion, had lamented that despite being “a nation blessed with abundant natural ore resources”, Nigeria “currently expends about $3.3bn annually on importation of steel” simply because the country is “plagued by moribund Ajaokuta and Delta Steel that have become conduit pipes for diversion of public funds at the expense of Nigerian tax payers”. Consequently, it launched an investigation into “the affairs of Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and the National Iron Ore Mining Company”. Also, guided by the discovery that the fortunes of the steel company declined to a state of inoperativeness the moment the foreign firm called Tyamzhpromexport (TPE) left it in 1994, the senate, among other far-reaching recommendations, called for the federal government’s deliberate actions by way of “adopting a strategic implementation Plan on Steel Development in Nigeria, bearing in mind the importance of steel to Nigeria’s quests for industrialization and economic self-reliance”.

It did not take long before the federal government announced that it had engaged the same Tyamzhpromexport, TPE, to resuscitate the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited.

Who says that Nigeria will not witness a quantum leap in socio-economic developments in the face of a purposeful collaboration that is driven by mutual respect among the arms of a government, particularly the legislature and the executive? 

But irrespective of the disposition of the executive towards legislative outputs, an objective review shows that the 10th Senate is indeed unwavering in its commitment to discharging the statutory roles of legislation, representation and oversight.

The Red Chamber commenced the 3rd quarter with the continuation of its intervention on insecurity.

Lamenting yet again that “despite the public outcry and previous Resolutions of the National Assembly as regards the criminal activities (particularly) of those terrorists parading as herdsmen, there seems to be no visible action on the part of the government”, the senate resolved to address the challenge of insecurity robustly and comprehensively.

In what seemed a replica of its first quarter’s one-off approach to the road infrastructure collapse, this senate revisited and reviewed the reports of the 8th and 9th senates on internal security followed by a strategic meeting with the presidency for extensive deliberations on the recommendations “with a view to finding solution to the spate of insecurity plaguing the nation”.

To make the efforts broad-based, it hosted an expanded stakeholders’ engagement that involved the security chiefs, the national security adviser, heads of security and intelligence community as well as the ministers of finance, defence and police affairs including the respective ministers of state.

On another hand, the Senate invited for security briefings, the minister of the federal capital territory, the commissioner of police and other heads of security agencies on how to ensure the safety of the FCT residents.

Furthermore, the senate variously urged “the federal government to recruit more police personnel to bolster security force’s capacity to combat kidnappings and other criminal activities effectively, to provide adequate mobility resources for the police to enhance their ability to respond swiftly to security threats and conduct patrols effectively” and then for “the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, to urgently ensure the functionality of dedicated emergency numbers for ambulance, and fire service emergencies to enhance swift response to security and public safety incidents”.

These followed the consideration of motions bordering on the “loss of lives, including those of security personnel and wanton destruction” in Okokolo, Abuge and Ochotonya communities in Agatu LGA, and also “the brutal killings of eleven residents of Mbanyange community of Logo LGA, all of Benue State, “several cases of kidnapping all over the country where huge ransoms have been paid and most victims still get killed” such as the FCT, “killing of two traditional rulers in Ekiti State and the abduction of primary school pupils”, bomb explosion at Bodija, Ibadan in Oyo State where not less than five lives were lost and several residential houses, schools, hotels, religious/worship centres were destroyed” in addition to “the killings of several residents of Mangu, Bokkos and Barkin Ladi communities in Plateau State”. 

Others included the “need to urgently enhance security measures in FCT” and then “the persistent killings in Katsina South senatorial district” as well as the “continued killings by suspected terrorists parading as herdsmen and increasing insecurity in Kwande, Ukum, Logo and Katsina-Ala local government areas of Benue-North-East senatorial district”. 

Then on the reported “stealing, abduction and trafficking in children in Gwagwalada, Kwali and Kuje area councils of the FCT” where 40 children were confirmed missing with three recovered so far, the senate asked the security agencies to “put modalities in place for the recovery of the missing children and to ensure that justice is not only seen to be done but must be done speedily to serve as deterrent and as well assuage the feelings of the victims”. It further called on “the Federal Capital Territory Social Development Department to ensure proper registration of motherless babies homes in the FCT”.

On the killing of Nigerian Army personnel in Okuama community, Delta State, the senate called for “a fair and transparent process” in dealing with those responsible, and also for the federal government to hasten the recruitment and training of more police personnel to take up policing responsibilities while the Nigerian Army play their primary role in the affairs of the country”

Meanwhile, the senate called on “the Police Service Commission and the Nigeria Police Force to Adhere to the Federal Character Principle in the Recruitment of Constables into the Nigeria Police Force” by recruiting “a minimum of 10 candidates from each of the 774 local government councils in Nigeria” rather than going about it on state basis which will “lead to disproportional and lopsided” exercise.

On the challenge of out-of-school children in Nigeria, the senate has activated an internal mechanism to work with the Ministry of Education and related agencies as well as governments at all levels and stakeholders including non-governmental organisations to “implement targeted intervention programmes that will address all the factors militating against free access to quality and basic education particularly, multidimensional poverty and insecurity”.

Again, while the senate investigated “the various issues that are hindering the benefits of the host communities and the entire Delta-North senatorial district of Delta State from receiving the full advantages of electricity supply from the Okpai Independent Power Plant”, it called for urgent reconstruction and rehabilitation as well as provision of relief materials to enable the families and businesses affected by the “devastating fire outbreak in Misau Central Market” in Bauchi State to rebuild their lives.

However, on a sad note, the senate, mourning the passing away of some former lawmakers, called for their immortalization by naming senate committee rooms respectively after the late senators Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Abubakar Sodangi Danso and the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Dr. Mohood Lekan Balogun while the Navy School in Ikot Ntuen, Ekparakwa in Akwa-Ibom State be renamed to the Senator Bob Ittak Ekarika Naval School.

Also on the unfortunate death of Chief Herbert Wigwe in a helicopter crash that also took the lives of his wife, son and friend in the United States of America, the Senate called on “the United States of America through its embassy and its relevant agencies in conjunction with our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Nigeria Safety Investigation Bureau under the Ministry of Aviation, to meet with its USA counterpart to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the immediate and remote cause(s) of this unfortunate tragedy and publicly disclose their findings”.

Then of course, petitions were received from Nigerians who were variously victims of injustice in the hands of individuals and organizations. During the period, the report on a “Petition from Igwe Chukwuemeka Cyprain against the University of Abuja for alleged wrongful accusation, detention and rustication” was considered.

The senate recommended that the University should reinstate the petitioner “as a bona-fide student of the University, restore his access to the University student’s portal and recommend him for mobilization into the 2023 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme in fulfilment with the assurance given to the committee by the University, having received a written apology letter from Mr. Igwe”.

Towards repositioning the economy, the senate extended the implementation years of the 2023 Appropriation and also the 2023 Supplementary Appropriation Acts from 31st March 2024 to 30th June 2024 and from 1st January 2024 to 30th June 2024 respectively. Also, it passed the 2024 statutory budget of the Federal Capital Territory Administration in addition to the 2024 budgets of the Federal Inland Service and the Customs Service.

Similarly, it passed the Bill for an Act to Establish a National Centre for the Coordination and Control of the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in Nigeria, the National Assembly Library Trust Fund Act amendment to change the name to National Assembly Library Resource Centre, provide for additional sources of fund and to provide for the application of the funds to set up the National Assembly Museum among others, the Student Loans (Access To Higher Education) (Repeal and Re-enactment) to establish the National Educational Loan Fund as a body corporate to receive, manage and invest funds to provide loans to Nigerians for Higher Education, Vocational training and skills acquisition, the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, Trust Fund to provide a sustainable source of funds for the NYSC skill acquisition, training and empowerment of corps members, training and retraining of the personnel of the NYSC, development of camps and NYSC formations and facilities, Harmonized Retirement Age for Staff of National Assembly Service as well as the Federal University of Education Numan, Adamawa State and the South-East Development Commission establishment bills.

It bears repeating that if only the executive could institutionalize respect for legislative outputs, the 10th senate is consistent in its resolve to work for the people.

Egbo is a parliamentary affairs analyst