Mon-Charles Egbo writes about the legislative interventions of the 10th Senate under the leadership Of Senator Godswill Akpabio since its inauguration on June 13, 2023.
For a valid assessment of the legislature concerning good governance, the first step is to determine the level of commitment of the executive in complementing the legislature.
Hence in this attempt at highlighting the good governance contributions of the 10th Senate so far, it is acknowledged that legislative outputs are only impactful if they are respected by the executive. By the constitution, the legislature is lacking in power and influence, particularly in the aspect of eliciting external compliance. This is common knowledge!
Nonetheless, the legislature must discharge its obligations.
Inaugurated on the 13th of June 2023, the Senate statutorily sat for 15 days before embarking on the annual vacation between August 2nd and September 25th.
Within the period and towards facilitating effective take-off of governance, the Senate screened and confirmed the military service chiefs, the board membership of the North-East Development Commission, the Central Bank Governor and four deputies in addition to the 48 ministerial nominees though it rejected three.
By the same token, it amended and passed the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Bill “for the provisions of Palliatives and other Items to Nigerians to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal and Other Matters”. Again, it approved the presidential request for “Additional Financing of the National Social Safety Net Programme through a facility secured from the World Bank”.
It also processed petitions from constituents who were various victims of injustice at the hands of private and public entities.
Then, of course, motions were considered and bills introduced, which justifiably form the major bulk of this work.
To begin with, the Senate, overwhelmed by the horrible state of the roads, raised a motion on the “Collapse of Road Infrastructure In Nigeria”. The outcome was the setting up of “an Ad-hoc Committee to come up with a compendium of all the affected Federal roads and erosion sites across the country either awarded but abandoned by contractors or have not been awarded at all, to be forwarded to the Executive Arm for urgent intervention”.
But before this one-off approach, it had considered several motions variously demanding interventions on some specific roads. For example, on the “166 Kilometer Abuja-Kaduna Expressway whose contract also provided for increased “Security Surveillance through Deployment of more Personnel and Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) such as Drones, Radars and Scanners”, the Senate recommended a comprehensive analysis of “all funds released for this important project from the award date to the present with the aim of finding out the reason for the delay in completing the project”.
It also resolved “to accord similar attention on all other road networks suffering from same conditions”.
On the Umuahia-Umudike-Ikot-Ekpene, Aba-Ikot-Ekpene and Aba-Ossisioma to Port-Harcourt Roads (connecting three states and two geo-political zones), the Senate called for the urgent intervention of the federal government supported by an “investigation of the award of the contracts with a view to identifying the factors contributing to the unaccounted delays in the execution”.
Again, the Senate constituted an Ad-hoc Committee “to investigate the reasons for non-completion of the East-West road and the Eleme-Ogoni corridor in Rivers State” and variously called on the federal government to: urgently “commence repairs” and “provide adequate funding to complete the reconstruction” of the Benin-Auchi-Lokoja Road; “review the on-going contract for the rehabilitation of the Calabar-Oban-Ekong Road (in Cross River State) awarded to Setraco Nigeria Limited and fund for the project to enable the contractor to commence and complete the rehabilitation works” and also “commence repairs and reconstruction of the affected parts of the Onitsha-Owerri Federal Road and particularly, the sections between Upper Iweka Roundabout in Onitsha and Oba in Idemili South L.G.A of Anambra State which span about six kilometres in addition to urgently fixing “the erosion menace in Ovom, Ogbor-Hill, Aba (Abia State)”.
Quite instructively, the Senate recommended “regular surveillance of Federal highways to identify and nip erosion threats to Federal roads in the bud and also for “the SGF (Secretary to the Government of the Federation) Office to constitute a team of Engineers to tour around and have an overview of erosion sites, design a template for possible control of erosion sites”.
Then on “the Obodoukwu, Uruala, Akokwa, Umumaisiaku, Umuchima and Umueshi Gully Erosion Sites in Ideato South LGAs, Imo State”, the Senate urged “the Ecological Fund Office and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to jointly and urgently engage relevant experts, including geologists, hydrologists, and environmental engineers, to conduct the assessment and implement measures such as slope stabilization, gabion installations, terracing, re-vegetation, and construction of retaining walls to prevent further losses and minimize the risks to nearby infrastructure, communities, LGAs and states”.
Still on erosion control, the Senate called for the collaboration of federal agencies, namely “the Federal Ministry of Environment, Ecological Fund Office and the Federal Ministry of Works towards tackling the menace of erosion devastation in Edo Senatorial District” and also specifically asked the federal government to “carry out emergency works on Ekpoma (Uhiele, Ujoelen, Ukpenu, Borehole Road & Emuhi), Irrua (Uwasan and Ikekato), Ewu (Egare and Uzogholo), Uromi (Efandion, Eguare & Uzegwa), Udo and Illushi; and then “set up NEMA stations in Edo Central to assist residents in the event of emergency that could lead to loss of lives and properties”.
Intervening in the Onitsha-33-Otuocha-Adani Roads (Anambra State) Boundary to Enugu State, the Senate called for the capturing of the road under the Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme for design and subsequent contract award “of this economically important road as part of measures to guarantee food security and enhance security of lives and properties”.
Egbo writes from Abuja Similarly on the issues of flooding in different parts of the country particularly in the Sagamu and Ijebu Areas of Ogun State, Edu and Patigi Areas of Kwara State, as well as the Ikire, Apomu and Gbonga Areas of Osun State”, the Senate called for immediate “release (of) funds as provided in 2023 Appropriation Act for dredging of blocked canals and water bodies among others” and also “to revisit the proposed construction of Dasin Hausa Dam and any other Dam as the case may be to take in the flood waters from Lagdo Dam in Cameroun”.
Additionally, it requested “the contractor handling the Ibadan-Ife road to, as a matter of urgency, proceed to the portion affected by the flood at Ikire to avert further damages and allow free flow of traffic” and also for the “the Ecology Fund Office and Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, to equally assist in channelization of other affected areas”.
On “the incessant sea incursion ravaging Ayetoro community in Ondo State, the Senate has launched “an investigation into the N6.5 Billion-shoreline protection contract awarded by the NDDC (Niger-Delta Development Commission) in 2006 to find an alternative solution where necessary, to stem the dangerous tide” while urging “the National and International Companies operating in the areas to live up to their corporate social responsibility”.
Then, following shocking discoveries about “the Controversial Make-up Gas (MUG) Reprocessing Deal involving the Federal Ministry of Finance, Niger-Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), Calabar Generation Company Limited and ACUGAS Ltd” in which Nigeria suffered humongous economic losses, the Senate instituted an investigation on “the circumstances under which the Gas Supply Agreement (GSA) and Make-up Gas (MUG) reprocessing arrangement was executed, the parties involved, payments so far made to entities to date, the status of implementation of the GSA, and for this purpose invite all stakeholders to the transaction including the immediate past Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Niger Delta Power Holding Company, NDPHC, Acugas Limited; and Calabar GENCO, the Transaction Adviser engaged under the MUG deal, etc.,”.
Apart from the motions, a cursory look at the bills further underscores the corporate disposition of the 10th Senate towards salvaging the country. In no particular order, the bills presented for the first reading included the Nigeria Maritime Zone Act (Repeal & Re-enactment) Bill, Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act (Amendment) Bill, Environmental Impact Assessment Bill, Development Planning and Project Continuity Bill, Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria Act (Repeal & Re-enactment) Bill, Bitumen Development Commission Bill, Constituency/Special Projects (Budget Provisions) Bill, Nigerian Railway Corporation Act (Amendment) Bill, Dishonoured Cheques (Repeal & Re-enactment) Bill, Nigerian Content in Programme, Contracts, Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation (Establishment) Bill, Insurance Bill Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute Bill, Factoring, Assignment and Receivables Financing Bill, South-West Development Commission (Establishment) Bill, Federal University Osogbo (Establishment) Bill, Explosives Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, Federal Polytechnic Onueke, Ebonyi State (Establishment) Bill, Corporate Bodies (Members Emolument) Act (Repeal) Bill, Elite Sheriffs Corps of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency Act (Amendment) Bill and the Nigerian Maritime University Okerenkoko (Establishment) Bill.
Though this is just a segment of the entire report, these interventions cumulatively are critical and strategic to national unity and development. They reflected the core legislative duties. However, their overall impacts depend on what the executive makes of them.
The Senate, nay the national assembly lacks the wherewithal to effectively enforce compliance sequel to the faulty nature of the constitution. And then typical of a leader guided by foresight and strategic thinking, the president of the senate, Godswill Akpabio is intentional in his leadership responsibilities. He demonstrates a full understanding of his mandate vis-à-vis the constitutional limitations of the powers and influence of the legislature. He is consistent in his preference for collaboration as against confrontation, in the overall interest of the citizenry.
Therefore, given these early signs within just 150 days, the 10th Senate deserves encouragement for optimal performance.
-Egbo writes from Abuja