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Much ado about ‘Bow and Go’, by Ola Awoniyi

 

The screening of ministerial nominees by the Senate has come and gone but the dust it raised may take some time to settle. The announcement of ministerial nominations is always greeted with public excitement. And the case was not different this time round too, for obvious reasons. The President needs ministers to help him in running the affairs of the country. When the ministers are in place, it is generally believed the full complement of the Executive is formed for the business of governance to begin in earnest. This is why the nation was eager about the composition of the next Federal Executive Council. President Muhammadu Buhari eventually forwarded the names of his nominees to the Senate for screening and approval last week. The public anxiety continued until last week Tuesday when the list was unveiled at the Senate plenary by Senate President Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan.

The following day, the Senate began the screening after earlier deciding to postpone its recess for the exercise. The prompt commencement of the legislative process by the Senate under the leadership of Senator Lawan is remarkable. It showed the senators were willing to defer their holiday for what they considered a national assignment. And the way they went about it was a clear departure from the past wherein nominees were made to go through some undefined pre-screening rituals before being invited to the Red Chamber for formal screening.

Rather than applaud the Senate for that, a well-known parliamentary practice of giving recognition to former lawmakers, who by virtue of being in parliament before without abusing their integrity had fulfilled the condition for their appointment ab initio, started generating controversy. Eight nominees, out of the 43 on the list, took their turns on Day One. Uchechukwu Ogah, a nominee from Abia State, was the first to be invited into the chamber for screening. For almost one hour, the senators feasted on him. Then former Benue State Governor George Akume, who previously was also Minority Leader of the Senate, took his turn. Standing on his feet looking at Akume in his white babariga as he mounted the podium, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, cleared his throat and said: “I rose for only one purpose to ensure that tradition, that convention be respected in perpetuity so that no question here, other than ‘take a bow and go’ propagated by a few of our colleagues, be maintained.” The privilege was accorded Akume as a former two-term senator.

Akume’s case is interesting. Between 2007 and 2015, he not only had his seat well marked, as others, in the Senate, he also took part in the screening of nominees of the President more than twice. “I rise to support that he should be asked to take a bow and go, given his length of service in this chamber,” said Distinguished Senator Omo-Agege. It was obvious the DSP spoke the minds of his other colleagues. The President of the Senate then came point-blank on the issue: “Let me also remind us that it is a tradition here to give this privilege, this concession to senators who served in this chamber or in the House of Representatives or indeed the State Houses of Assembly. This tradition must continue despite the fact that some people do not understand it and we need to educate them.” It is a tradition inherited from previous Senate, which evidently underscores the importance the lawmakers attach to the institution of the parliament such that if one has discharged himself or herself creditably there, he would do even better in other areas notably in the executive branch.

Not knowing the import of that parliamentary practice and one of prerequisites for ministerial nomination, which equates it with the condition for qualification for membership of the House of Representatives, some Nigerians, among them commentators and columnists, queried the essence of the screening if all that a nominee would do at the Senate is to bow and take his leave. I admit that asking these former lawmakers some questions may refresh the memories of their new colleagues and indeed Nigerians about the character and competence they had earlier demonstrated in parliament. It may also be a needless exercise because the former lawmakers had abinitio met the condition for their nominations.

Ita Enang, Special Adviser on Senate Matters to President Buhari, who was formerly in the House of Representatives and Senate and indeed in charge of Rules and Business, first in the House and later in the Senate for several years, put this issue succinctly. According to him, the practice of “take a bow and go” is not new and not peculiar to the Nigerian Senate. “It is a tradition that started in the United Kingdom and the United States parliament and has become a parliamentary tradition everywhere.” Enang knows his onions and knows well the rules guiding confirmation hearings. If that practice deserves a review as some honestly canvass, I think the Senate will not hesitate do so accordingly. The point, however, is some of those who criticised the practice and erroneously called the upper chamber and its leadership all kinds of names would wish to be at the receiving end of that privilege if previously in parliament and now appeared on the ministerial list.

But before we go for tinkering with that established practice, it is important to know the intention of the law in assigning the all-important confirmation of ministers and other key appointments of the president to the Senate. In carrying out that task, the Nigerian Constitution asks the Senate to ensure the president complies with certain provisions. For ministerial nomination, Chapter 6 Part 1 Section 147 is very apposite here.

Subsection (2) of this section states: “Any appointment to the office of Minister of the Government of the Federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the Senate, be made by the President. Subsection (3): Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of Section 14 (3) of the Constitution;- provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid the President shall appoint at least one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State. Subsection (5): No person shall be appointed as a Minister of the Government of the Federation unless he is qualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives.”

I consider the scrupulous application of these criteria as the real purpose of the confirmation screening. The same critics of the just-concluded process would have accused the Senate of over-reaching itself if it had done more than prescribed by the law. Proper screening would have been more helpful though if the President had provided the Senate the portfolios of the would-be ministers in which case the Senate would assess their competence and appropriateness against the portfolios assigned them. Again, ministerial nomination is the prerogative of the President and the Constitution does not mandate him to assign portfolio to nominees forwarded to the Senate. As such no one can blame President Buhari.

This is where those who equate Senate screening to a job interview miss the point. For a job interview, the candidate knows what to prepare for and the interviewers the questions relevant to specific jobs. In this case, neither the nominees nor the Senators know the portfolios the president intends for the nominees. Unless they speculate based on the educational or professional experience of a nominee, all the senators can do with those they did not know or those that had not passed through their institution previously is ask general questions that may give little insight about them and how they may perform as ministers.

Awoniyi is the Special Adviser on Media to the President of the Senate.

Senate seeks return of January-Decenber budget cycle

 

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said on Tuesday that the desire of the ninth Senate and indeed the National Assembly is to have the budget cycle return to January to December.

Lawan spoke shortly before the Senate adjourned for a two-month recess which was initially delayed to allow for the confirmation of the 43 nominees of the President for ministerial appointments.

The screening exercise which started last Wednesday was concluded on Tuesday with the confirmation of all the 43 nominees.

“The budget 2020 is going to be part of what we want to do differently from the previous sessions of the Senate,” Lawan said.

Lawan said the expectation of the lawmakers is that the 2020 appropriation bill will be presented to the National Assembly on their return from the recess in September.

“It is our prayer and hope. It is desirable that that is done,” Lawan said.

“Once that is done, it is our intention in the Senate and in the entire National Assembly that we devote a month of, possibly, October for budget defence only.

“In a situation that we are able to achieve that, no more budget defence after October.

“Any ministry or agent of government that fails to appear to defend it’s budget, the National Assembly will take an appropriate action so that we are able to have November and a week or two in December to process and pass the budget and send it to Mr President to sign in December before Christmas.

“We believe that if we are able to do that, our budget will go back to that regular cycle, that desirable cycle of January to December and that will enhance the budget performance of this country.”

Lawan commended his colleagues for their sense of patriotism and commitment to duty in the prompt confirmation of the ministerial nominees.

He said the Senate is prepared to work with the executive for optimum performance but warned that the ninth Senate will be stiff when it comes to discharging it’s oversight functions.

“We are going to take our oversight very seriously because we will devote our time here to do the right thing and we expect that ministers and heads of government agencies will also do the right thing.

“Nigerians are desirous of going to the next level and we can only go to that next level when we are able to work together to make Nigerians and Nigeria better in terms of service delivery,” Lawan said.

The Senate President advised ministers to always respond to any invitation by the National Assembly adding that “while we are not going to be frivolous, we are going to be firm and serious with our oversight.”

Signed:

Media Office of the
President of the Senate

30 July, 2019

Edo assembly crisis: I won’t issue a fresh proclamation, Obaseki dares senate

Godwin Obaseki, governor of Edo state, says the senate has gone beyond its constitutional powers in giving him an ultimatum over the state assembly crisis.

On Tuesday, the senate gave the governor a week ultimatum to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the state house of assembly.

A misunderstanding between Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Obaseki had led to the factionalisation of the state assembly.

Nine lawmakers loyal to Obaseki were secretly inaugurated on June 17, leaving their colleagues in the camp of Oshiomhole stranded.

In a statement Osarodion Ogie, secretary to the state government (SSG), issued on his behalf, the governor said he would not issue a fresh proclamation.

He described the action of the senate as an illegality that cannot stand.

“The Edo state government watched with alarm today as the distinguished senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in a step that was not totally unexpected, purported to pass a resolution in the following terms: – Directing the Governor of Edo State to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Edo state house of assembly, and ordering a fresh inauguration of the Edo state house of assembly within one (1) week from the date of the said resolution,” he said.

“As earlier mentioned, this move was not unexpected in the light of the enormous political pressure which had been brought to bear on the officers and members of the distinguished senate by the highly-placed and powerful persons who are intent on foisting their will and choices on the good people of Edo state.

“This is borne out by the recorded statements made by one Seid Oshiomhole (a member-elect and younger brother of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress Comrade Adams Oshiomhole) wherein he boasted that both the senate president, Senator Ahmed Lawan and the speaker of the house of representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila have been instructed on what to do in this matter.

“The government of Edo state wishes to observe that the chairman and members of ad-hoc committee of the senate which visited Edo state were made aware of the existence of at least three (3) suits pending before various courts wherein the factual and legal dispute regarding the Edo State House of Assembly inauguration have been submitted to the courts by both contending parties for resolution.

“It is unfortunate that the distinguished senate would act in flagrant breach of these various court crders and purport to come to factual and legal conclusions concerning a matter in which the parties are already before the courts and therefore sub judice.

“The Edo state government maintains that there is nowhere in the constitution particularly Section 11(4) which enables the national assembly to take over any house of assembly or in this respect, the Edo state house of assembly.”

Senate screens 10 ministerial nominees

The Senate on Wednesday screened 10 ministerial nominees out of the 43 sent by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.

Among the 10 were three former senators and a serving member of the House of Representatives.

Those screened included Sen. George Akume (Benue), Sen. Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Sen. Olurunimbe Mamora (Lagos), and Rep. Emeka Nwajuiba (Imo).

Also screened were Uchechukwu Ogah (Abia), Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor (Anambra), Adamu Adamu (Bauchi), Dr Ogbonaya Onu (Ebonyi), Olamilekan Adegbite (Ogun), and Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers).

President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, who presided over the exercise, described the performance of all the nominees who appeared before the Senate as “impressive”.

He also announced that the exercise would continue on Thursday and listed those to be screened to include Sen. Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo), Mustapha Shehuri (Borno), Retired Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (Kano), Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti) and Timipre Slyva (Bayelsa).

Also to be screened on Thursday are Mrs. Ramatu Tijjani (Kogi), Mohammed Abdullahi (Nasarawa), and Sunday Dare (Oyo). (NAN)

BREAKING: Amaechi, Aregbesola, Saraki, others make Buhari’s ministerial list

 

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Festus Keyamo, Sen Godswill Apkabio and the immidiate past minister of information, Lai Mohammed have made it to the 42 ministerial list sent to the Senate for confirmation by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In adherence to section167 (2), President Buhari while he attached CV to the 42 ministerial nominees, as the Senate to confirm them.
Others who make the list are: Dr Ikechukwu Oga, Muhammadu Musa Bello, Godswill Apkabio, Dr Chris Ngige, Sharon Okezu, Adamu Adamu, Mariam Katagum, Timipre Sylva, Sen George Akume, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, Goddy JD Agba and Festus Keyamo.
Others are Ogbonaya Onu, Osagie Osane, Clement Abba, Otumba Richard Adebayo, Geoffrey Onyema, Ali Isa Pantami, Emaka Uhumba, Suleim Adamu, Zainab Ahmed Shamsuna, Dr Muhammad Mahmud, Sabi Nanono, Bashir Seleh, Hadi Serika, Abubakar Malami, Ramatu Tijjani and Lai Mohammed.

Others who made it to the list are: Gbemisola Saraki, Raji Fashola, Adeleke Mamora, Mohammed Abdullahi, Zubauru Dada, Olamikekan Adedeji, Tayo Alasadura, Rauf Aregbesola, Sunday Dare, Paulen Tallen, Rotimi Amaechi, Muhammadu Dingyadi, Sale Maman, Abubakar Aliyu and Sadiya Umar Faruk.

Ministerial list: Senate gives Buhari five days to submit names

The Senate has given President Muhammadu Buhari till Friday to submit the list of ministerial nominees for screening, failure of which the red chamber will proceed on its two-month annual recess.

In line with its annual calendar, the National Assembly is meant to go on its annual recess on July 26 and resume on September 26.

Buhari, who won election in February and was sworn in on May 29, has continued to delay the submission of the ministerial list, arguing that he will need to take his time to appoint the people he knows.

According to Sunday Punch, the Chairman, Senate ad hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs Affairs, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, said on Saturday night, said the red chamber would proceed on its annual two-month recess this week if the Senate did not get the ministerial list by Friday.

He said, “If the list does not come before Friday, the Senate will proceed on its annual recess. We are not giving the president any ultimatum. The schedule of the Senate will go ahead if the Senate does not receive the list. The list is the only thing that can hold us back.”

Adeyeye said the President was at liberty to send the list whenever he pleased and that the Senate also had a duty to consider it in the overriding national interest.

He added, “However, any time they submit the list, we will consider it. It is not our responsibility to put pressure on the President. We can be recalled whenever the list is submitted even if we are already on recess, in the overriding national interest.’’

Corroborating this position, the Minority Leader of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, said that the Senate would go on its annual recess on schedule.

He had been asked him if the Senate would still postpone its annual recess despite the fact that the President had not submitted the ministerial nominees’ list.

Abaribe said, “The Senate will keep to its schedule.”

Findings revealed that the upper legislative chamber would require at least two weeks to screen the 36 ministerial nominees being expected from the President.

Meanwhile, investigations showed that members of the red chamber were divided over the proposal by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, that members might have to postpone their recess to treat Buhari’s lists.

Some senators, who spoke with one of our correspondents off the record, said the idea of postponing the recess was not yet a resolution of the House.

Lawan had two Wednesdays ago said that the President could most likely submit the ministerial list for consideration and approval of the red chamber before the end of that week.

He had said that the executive arm of government was working hard to ensure that the list was ready early enough before the senators proceed on their annual two -month recess.

Senate confirms Tanko as CJN

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed the appointment of Justice Tanko Muhammad as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.

The red chamber had, on arrival of Muhammad into the chamber, gone into a closed session to set the template for the screening.

Muhammad, who arrived at the Senate at around 10:10am, was ushered into the chamber around 11:13am. He was accompanied to the red chamber by top judiciary officers in the country.

The CJN answered questions on corruption, administration of criminal justice and the poor funding of the judiciary

Muhammad has been acting CJN since January 25 when the then CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was suspended from office over alleged corrupt practices.

President Muhammadu Buhari had, last Thursday, forwarded to the Senate a letter requesting the confirmation of Muhammad as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.

The President, in the letter of request, said the nomination was sequel to recommendation made to that effect by the National Judicial Council.

The letter, titled, ‘Appointment of Chief Justice of Nigeria,’ reads: “In accordance with Section 231 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), which gives the President the power to appoint a Chief Justice of Nigeria on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council and subject to the confirmation of the appointment by the Senate, I have the honour to forward the nomination of Honorable Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed for confirmation as Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“It is my hope that this request will receive the usual expeditious consideration of the distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

In making the confirmation expeditiously, the Senate listed it on its order paper on Tuesday, upon which it resolved to carry out the screening at the committee of the whole on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 (today) .

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said all the relevant credentials of the acting CJN have been distributed to all the senators for required perusal.

He said, “Distinguished colleagues, please study the documents already distributed in preparation for screening and possible confirmation of Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad as Chief Justice of Nigeria,” he said.

Senate asks foreign airlines to provide records of Nigerians in their employment

As one of the measures to surmount this challenge, the lawmakers directed foreign airlines to provide statistics of Nigerians in their employment.

The subject was brought to the Senate through a motion by Ifeanyi Uba (Anambra-YPP).

Mr Uba informed his colleagues that foreign airlines are now designated to multiple routes within Nigeria noting that this development threatens the survival of local airlines.

“For example, Ethiopia Airlines operates in five cities namely; Enugu, Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, and Lagos; Turkish Airlines operates in four cities: Abuja, Kano, Lagos, and Port Harcourt and Emirates Airlines operates two frequencies daily into Lagos and one to Abuja.”

He noted that besides multiple designations, foreign airlines are now being encouraged to do multiple frequencies into the country and within the country, a practice which he said is not allowed in other countries.

“For instance, Turkish Airlines has just started Istanbul to Abuja, Abuja to Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt to Abuja, then Abuja to Istanbul. Lufthansa and Air France are also doing same, thereby running indigenous airlines out of business.

“Concerned that while Emirates has two frequencies into Lagos and one to Abuja, it has announced plans to introduce a third flight in and out of Lagos to start very soon, making it three flights daily to Lagos.”

Mr Uba stated that Nigerian airlines such as Arik, Virgin Nigeria, Medview and others, had in the past run out of international routes through this’ trend of unfair advantages allowed foreign airlines in Nigeria.’

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He said that indigenous airlines have the capacity to cover all the domestic routes being operated now by these foreign airlines. He added that the practice in international aviation is for foreign airlines to partner with local airlines to help them distribute their passengers within the domestic routes.

He said further, “The Senate notes that the unrestrained grant of designations and multiple frequencies to foreign airlines is not only hurting the growth of our indigenous carriers but also a monumental disservice to the economy of Nigeria in several ways. Besides threatening the continuous existence of our indigenous carriers, the capital flight out of Nigeria engendered by this unwholesome practice is monumental and harmful to our economy;

“The Senate notes equally that Nigerian jobs are seriously at risk as a result of this dire situation since it is the indigenous airlines that provide massive job opportunities for our people; the number of jobs created by all the foreign airlines put together is not up to what Air Peace alone created in its first one year of existence. That airline alone has over 3,000 employees and has also created over 8000 ancillary jobs.”

Mr Uba said the practice is a threat to the survival and growth of Nigeria’s aviation industry and if unchecked, would ultimately lead to the collapse of Nigeria’s indigenous airlines.

Contributing, Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf (Taraba-APC) urged the federal government to look into the regulation of the industry as the existing ‘environment does not support fair competition.’

Kabiru Gaya (Kano-APC) and Aishatu Ahmed (Adamawa-APC) urged better collaboration between Nigeria and foreign airlines.

Senate demands investigation into death of CIIN boss, other Nigerians killed in South Africa

 

The Senate, on Wednesday, called on the South African government to investigate the death of Elizabeth Ndibuisi-Chukwu and other Nigerian citizens who have died in suspicious circumstances in South Africa.

The Senate also urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue travel alerts to Nigerians travelling to South Africa.

The call was made after the lawmakers deliberated on a point of order by the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, on the need to investigate the death of Mrs Ndibuisi-Chukwu.

Mrs Ndibuisi-Chukwu was the Deputy Director-General of the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN). She was allegedly murdered at Emperor’s Palace Hotel and Convention Centre, South Africa on June 13 where she lodged.

She was attending the conference of the African Insurance Organisation (AIO). Initially, it was suspected that she died of cardiac arrest.

In his lead, Mr Abaribe said the insinuation that she died of cardiac arrest was proved wrong following the autopsy report released on June 20 by the South African Department of Home Affairs which indicated in a death certificate that the death was unnatural and suspected to be murder.

He said the suspicion that she could have been murdered was further confirmed in a separate document issued by the South Africa, Department of Health on June 27 where it corroborated the autopsy report and revealed that she was strangled.

“In a curious twist, the hotel allegedly was reluctant to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies to unravel the circumstances surrounding her death. This is not the first time Nigerians have died in suspicious circumstances in South Africa,” he said.

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Lawmakers who took turns to condemn the incident stressed the need for prompt investigation. Some senators also suggested that the South African Ambassador and the Nigerian Consulate be summoned for an explanation.

Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP, Anambra) urged the Senate to invite representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explain how much investigation has been done. He also asked the Senate to send a “strongly-worded” letter to the South African government seeking details of Nigerians that have been killed in the country.

On his part, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, recalled that a similar issue was debated in the eight Senate and an ad-hoc committee sent to visit South Africa with a message that Nigeria as a country was tired of the killings.

“We believe that the relationship between the two countries must be better. There must be respect for each other.

“South African businesses flourish more than most Nigerian businesses. South Africans are safe and are protected in Nigeria. There is no need for any South African to take the life of a Nigerian or any citizen. Nigeria is a frontline state. We deserve respect and understanding.

“Our next set of contingents in the Pan-African Parliament must ensure that this issue is brought to the fore. We don’t take the law into our hands in the word of retaliation but we should not be taken for granted. We have taken these killings for too long and we are not going to take it anymore,” he said.

The Senate commended the federal government for its prompt action in seeking South Africa’s explanation of the death of Mrs Ndubuisi and urged the government not to relent in its efforts to unravel the circumstances of her unfortunate demise.

Lawan announces principal officers for ninth Senate

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Tuesday, announced the list of principal officers sent to him by the leaderships of the All Progressives Party and the Peoples Democratic Party.

Lawan, at the resumption of plenary, named Senator Abdullahi Yahaya as Senate Leader and Ajayi Boroffice as his deputy.

Similarly, the Senate President announced Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe as the Minority Leader and Phillip Aduda as Minority Whip.

He listed Senator Emmanuel Bwacha as the Deputy Leader and Senator Shabi Yau as the Deputy Whip.

The lawmakers would form the Body of Principal Officers also known as Selection Committee.

They are expected to assign senators to committees based on interest earlier shown by them.

In their separate acceptance speeches, Yahaya and Abaribe promised to discharge their duties effectively.

Court of Appeal sacks Ned Nwoko as PDP senator-elect

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, has nullified the emergence of Ned Nwoko as the senator representing Delta North Senatorial District.

The court in a decision on Thursday said the case instituted at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court which resulted in the recognition of Mr Nwoko as the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission was wrongly filed.

The appellate court ruled that the matter ought to have been brought at the lower court before the expiration of 14 days from the time of the incidence that birthed the suit.

It further ruled that the failure of the applicant at the lower court to file the case before the expiration of 14 days meant that the case had become statute barred and the lower court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter in the first place.

“As at the time the matter was instituted at the Federal High Court, the case was statute barred. We set aside the decision of the Federal High Court and strike out the case,” the court ruled.

INEC had withdrawn the certificate of return it issued to Mr Nwoko’s contender Peter Nwaoboshi, following the FHC decision.

With the appeal court decision, Mr Nwaoboshi will now be recognised as the senator-elect for the district.

Messrs Nwoko and Nwaoboshi are both of the PDP and had contested for the ticket of the party in the primaries. The PDP later won the senatorial election in the district with Mr Nwaoboshi as its candidate.

After the initial high court ruling, INEC withdrew the certificate issued to Mr Nwaoboshi and presented same to Mr Nwoko; a decision that would now be reversed based on the appeal court ruling.

Senate, House pass bill re-introducing ‘park and pay’ in Abuja

The Senate at plenary on Thursday, concurred to a House of Representatives Bill seeking to establish the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) traffic management service.

The adoption followed the presentation of the bill entitled: “Directorate of Road Traffic Administration Service Bill, 2019” by the Leader of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan.

The bill sought to establish a directorate charged with the responsibility of enforcing parking laws as well as regulating road traffic management and motor vehicle administration within the FCT.

It further empowers the FCT Administration in collaboration with the FCT Internal Revenue Service, to embark on total enforcement of parking rules.

The directorate would also be responsible for producing and administering vehicles’ and drivers’ licences in collaboration with relevant federal agencies.

It would also regulate, register, revoke, license and renew motor vehicle documents including issuance of vehicle identification number plates within the FCT.

It would also conduct road worthiness test and issue such certificates to all categories of vehicles for the purposes of ridding the FCT of non-road worthy vehicles.

The directorate would also be responsible for the training and testing of drivers to ensure competence for issuance of drivers licence

It would also regulate and enforce the use of bus stops and bus terminals, accredit driving schools while enforcing ban on the use of motorcycles as a means of public transport in the FCT among others.

Meanwhile, six other bills were equally adopted by the Senate.

They are – University Veterinary Teaching Hospitals and Veterinary Specialist Hospital Abuja (Constitution 0f Boards) Bill, 2019, National Biosafety Management Agency Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, National Biosafety Management Agency Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Defence Intelligence Agency Civilian Pension Board (est,etc) Bill 2019.

Also adopted are the University of Maiduguri Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Obafemi Awolowo University (Transitional Provisions) Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019

and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Bauchi Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

(NAN)

Senate passes bill to recognise June 12 as Democracy Day

The Senate has passed a bill seeking to make June 12 Democracy Day.

The bill seeking to amend the holiday act was passed at the upper legislative chamber after Ahmad Lawan, senate leader, presented a report to his colleagues on Thursday .

The bill, which has only three clauses, was passed after it was put to a voice vote by Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president.

Although, the house of representatives passed the bill in December, the legislation was only scheduled for concurrence on Thursday.

The clause which provides for May 29 as democracy day was amended to June 12.

In June, President Muhammadu Buhari declared that the Democracy Day will hold on June 12 of every year.

Buhari made the declaration after the federal government honoured the late Moshood Abiola, presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election.

Abiola was conferred with Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) at a grand event at the Aso Rock posthumously.

Buhari also conferred on Babagana Kingibe, Abiola’s running mate, Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON) – the second highest honour of the country.

Senate panel endorses Emefiele for second term, dismisses ‘stolen’ N500bn allegation

The senate committee on banking, insurance and other financial institutions has approved of a second term for Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

While screening Emefiele on Wednesday, members of the committee dismissed the allegations of stolen N500 billion at the apex bank.

Rafiu Ibrahim, its chairman, said the allegations were targeted at “bringing you (Emefiele) down because  you are  a good person”.

Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari nominated Emefiele for a second term.

During the screening, the committee expressed satisfaction over Emefiele’s first tenure at the CBN.

According to Ibrahim, “I do not have any question for the Governor. I am overwhelmed. I wish you well and pray for you. May God continue to guide you.

“Now, we know the reason why there are some videos on social media because in Nigeria, once you are a good person, some people will always try to bring you down. We will expeditiously take a report to the chamber for consideration. You can take a bow.”

Kurfi Umaru representing Katsina central also commended the CBN governor for “a job well done.”

“Let me start by congratulating the governor for his second term and also congratulate you for your article presentation. I commend you for a job well done,” he said.

Philip Aduda from FCT said: “Mine is to wish you well and to pray to God almighty to grant you wisdom so that you can put the economy of this county on a pedestal of hope and prosperity. Congratulations.”

In his remarks, the Emefiele said the apex bank will continue to do its best, admitting, however, that “the road ahead is still very tough.”

He said Nigeria has workable policies but “implementation has been neglected because we see sabotaged activities.

“CBN will ensure that those who seek to undermine the policies of Nigeria will be brought to book. Pray for us because the road ahead is tough,” he said.

“On Agriculture, the credit should go to the President. It was what he said ‘eat what we produce’, that birthed the anchor borrowers programme.

“We have started looking at palm oil. The price of a barrel of palm oil is more than a barrel of crude oil. We will grow that market again. After palm oil, we will focus on cocoa in the south-west.”

Senate threatens to order shutdown of Bet9ja over refusal to honour invitation

The Senate Committee on Youth and Sports, on Tuesday, threatened to order the shutdown of Bet9ja office if the company failed to honour its invitation for a second time.

Bet9ja is the biggest online sports betting company in Nigeria with revenues running into.the tens of billions.

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Obinna Ogba, made the remark at the National Assembly, Abuja during the verification of loto companies with licence to operate in Nigeria.

Ogba (PDP Ebonyi Central) said it was unfortunate that Bet9ja refused to honour the committee’s invitation.

“Clerk, write to Bet9ja again. If they did not honour our invitation, we will ask the National Lottery Commission to seal their offices,” he said.

According to him, the Senate is making efforts aimed at assisting the Lottery Commission to generate money for the Federal Government.

”We want to see bet9ja. They can’t run away,” he said.

The chairman explained that the verification followed series of complaints against the betting companies, adding that ”some don’t even have offices while others have not been making remittances to the government.”

”Some got the licences but they are not operating. The new regulation only give them one year to start operations,” he noted.

Meanwhile, about 20 other betting companies appeared before the committee for the verification.

IGP appears before senate over insecurity

Mohammed Adamu, acting inspector-general of police (IGP), has appeared before the senate to brief lawmakers on insecurity in the country.

The upper legislative chamber of the national assembly summoned him last week.

At plenary on Tuesday, Ahmad Lawan, senate leader, moved a motion for the senators to usher the police chief into the chamber.

Mohammed Adamu arriving at the Senate Chamber

Thereafter, Senate President Bukola Saraki announced that the meeting would hold “behind close-door because of the sensitivity of the issue”.

Adamu was summoned Adamu following the killing of Faye Mooney, an official of Mercy Corps Nigeria, and Matthew Oguche, her partner, at the Kajuru Castle in Kaduna state.

They both died after they were caught in a cross fire between police officers guarding the castle and suspected bandits.

Senate President Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president, chatting with Mohammed Adamu, acting IGP.

Recently, kidnappers and bandits have wreaked havoc across the country, particularly in Zamfara and Kaduna.

During a sitting last week, Saraki had said “structural approach” was needed to address security challenge.

He had also urged the security agencies to bring the perpetrators to book.

Ibrahim Idris, Adamu’s predecessor, had shunned summons of the senate repeatedly after falling out with the lawmakers.

Senate queries appointment of new NYSC boss

The Senate on Tuesday asked its Committee on Sports and Youth Development to investigate if the recent appointment of a new Director-General for the National Youth Service Corps by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, was in order.

Buratai had recently appointed Sani Ibrahim to replace Sule Kazaure as the NYSC boss.

The committee investigating the matter was asked to submit its report on Wednesday next week.

The committee members were saddled with the responsibility of finding out if any law was violated in the appointment of the new NYSC boss.

The decision to investigate the matter was based on a point of order raised by Senator Dino Melaye.

The senator had claimed that the appointment violated the Act that established the body.

He said, “The NYSC Act, Section 5, says there shall be a service to be headed by a person called the Director-General, to be appointed by the President.

“Surprisingly, the Chief of Army Staff removed the Director-General through a signal and, through another signal, appointed another one.

“The law doesn’t confer the power of appointing NYSC DG  on anybody, but the President. The last DG and all other past DGs were appointed by sitting Presidents.

“If we allow this, the announcement of the Senate President can come from the Federal Road Safety and replacement may come from the same institution.”

Senate issues ultimatum demanding solutions to Apapa gridlock

Towards finding lasting solution to gridlock in Apapa, Lagos State, the Senate Committee on Works on Friday advocated co-operation of various government agencies to make port operations easier.

The committee, during an emergency meeting with stakeholders in Lagos as part of its oversight functions, condemned extortion of truck drivers and asked law enforcement and traffic regulatory agencies to investigate and punish erring officers.

It called for a multi -sector approach between the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigeria Customs Service, and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency to give waivers to encourage use of other Eastern ports to de-congest Apapa.

The committee appealed to truck driver unions to come together and increase areas where they could park their trucks while calling on NPA to speed up processes aimed at restoring order.

The committee summoned the Managing Director of the APM Terminal to appear before the National Assembly on Wednesday to resolve various concerns raised by stakeholders against the firm perceived to be part of the problem.

The committee directed that the Apapa Truck Park under construction be completed and handed over to NPA for use latest May 2 or May 3 which is Thursday or Friday next week.

Sen. Kabiru Gaya, Chairman, Senate Committee on Works, who led the delegation, said that in spite of various government interventions, “it is a shame to all of us in Nigeria that this gridlock should continue.”

The other lawmakers in the team which included Sen. Mao Ohuabunwa, Sen. Clifford Ordia and Sen. Barnabas Gemade, took turns to interact with various stakeholders on proffering final solutions to the Apapa gridlock.

After extensive deliberations, Gaya ruled that all forms of corruption causing the problems be nipped in the bud as the Buhari administration had zero tolerance for corrupt practices.

“We’ll set up a small committee within the next four days consisting of security agencies, customs, clearing agents and so on to give us a report within three days so that we can use that report and also implement that report.

“Because I know that the President, Vice President and everybody is concerned about how best we can get out of this national embarrassment,” he said.

He added that the Federal government was constructing and maintaining roads and addressing the problems of overstretched infrastructure and called for the support of the Lagos State Government in patching pot holes.

“The Federal Government is trying to get more temporary parking spaces for trailers (articulated vehicles), therefore, the Tincan trailer park is being completed and we have ordered them to commission that park within the next one week,” he said.

He stressed the need for LASTMA to join hands with other members of the taskforce to restore order in Apapa.

The committee chairman assured that within two weeks the committee was going to take action if its orders were not enforced to restore sanity in Apapa.

Earlier, Mr Funsho Adebiyi, Director, Highways, South West, lamented indiscriminate parking of trucks on the bridges in Lagos which he said were not designed for static loads.

Adebiyi said that the bridges were endangered while lamenting other forms of abuses of bridges which included building under them and other activities that had caused fire that damaged some bridges.

He said that there was need for attitudinal change among Nigerians toward protection of the nation’s road infrastructure.

Stakeholders at the event included the Lagos Sector Commander of the Federal Roads Safety Corps, Mr Hyginus Omeje, General Manager, LASTMA, Mr Wale Musa, the NPA General Manager, Security, Capt. Iheanacho Ebubeogu, truck drivers unions, truck owners unions, shipping companies and terminal operators.

Senate passes PIGB after addressing Buhari’s concerns

The senate has passed the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).

The upper legislative chamber also passed the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism bill 2019, National Research and Innovation Council bill 2019, Stamp Duties act (amendment) bill 2019 and National Agricultural Seed Council bill 2019.

Others are Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (amendment) bill 2019 and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) act 2010 (amendment) bill 2019.

The bills were passed after Ahmad Lawan, senate leader, moved a motion and referred for the committee of the whole for consideration.

Buhari had initially rejected the bills after which the senate set up a technical committee to review the bills.

After the technical committee effected corrections, the senators considered the clauses of each of the bills and passed them on Wednesday.

The president had cited legal, constitutional and drafting issues as reasons for rejecting the bills.

In the case of the PIGB, the president raised “legal and constitutional reasons” as reasons he had withheld assent.

“That the provision of the Bill permitting the Petroleum Regulatory commission to retain as much as 10 percent of the revenue generated unduly increases the funds accruing to the Petroleum Regulatory commission to the detriment of the revenue available to the Federal, States, Federal capital Territory and Local governments in the country,” Ita Enang, Buhari’s legislative aide, had said.

“Expanding the scope of petroleum equalisation fund and some provisions in divergence from this administration’s policy and indeed conflicting provisions on independent petroleum equalisation fund.

“Some legislative drafting concerns which, if assented to in the form presented will create ambiguity and conflict in interpretation.”

The PIGB seeks to establish the Nigerian petroleum regulatory commission as a one-stop regulator that will be responsible for licensing, monitoring, supervising petroleum operations, as well as enforcing industry laws, regulations and standards.

The bills will have to also be passed by the house of representatives before they are sent to Buhari for assent.

Insecurity: Senate slams FG, insists only state police can stop banditry

The Senate on Wednesday berated the Federal Government over its inability to tackle the alarming rate of insecurity in the country, particularly banditry in the North-West geopolitical zone. It  stressed that introduction of  state police remained the only solution to the menace.

The Senate took the position following separate motions moved by senators Emmanuel Bwacha from Taraba State and his colleague from Zamfara State, Kabir Marafa.

While Bwacha drew the attention of the red chamber to the inability of the security agencies to tackle the rising cases of kidnapping in Taraba, Marafa lamented the unabated killings of his people by bandits.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said apart from the establishment of community or state police, the funding of the Nigeria Police Force was essential to tackle the menace.

He said, “From the contributions we have had, I think it is key that we begin to look at the problem and look for long-term solutions. I think that what we did yesterday (Tuesday) in trying to strengthen the funding of the police through the Police Reform Bill is right.

“The sooner that we can pass that bill will also help us in addressing the insecurity challenges.

“But more importantly is that we must go back to what a lot of us had been advocating here that there is the need for us to have state or community police. It is the way forward. Otherwise, we will continue to run into these problems.

“On the area of oversight, there is a lot also that we need to do to ensure that we hold the security agencies accountable. And we need to move very fast in this area.”

The Senate in its resolution commended Nigerians irrespective of cultural, religious and ethnic differences for coming out in large numbers to show solidarity to the plight of their brothers and sisters in Zamfara.

The red chamber urged the National Assembly to make provision for N10bn in the 2019 appropriation bill as intervention fund to cater for the Internally Displaced Persons and other persons affected by the activities of bandits in Zamfara State.

The Senate also urged the Federal Government to set up an ad hoc committee to be known as presidential initiative on Zamfara with a 10-year lifespan to manage the said funds and subsequent allocations and donations.

Marafa, who rose through orders 42 and 52 of the Senate standing rules to move his motion, said the problem of insecurity in Zamfara State was deteriorating daily, adding that this called for urgent legislative intervention.

Marafa said, “Since 2011, as a result of the unabating activities of the criminals in the state, roughly estimated 11,000 males have been killed leaving behind an average of 22,000 widows and by extension, 44,000 orphans.

“These figures are just by conservative estimates because the figures are higher. Bandits and heavily armed kidnappers operate with little or no resistance in Gusau, the state capital, making less than 75 per cent of the people in Zamfara not to be sleeping in their houses.

“The situation has nothing to do with politics because my own blood sister was brutally murdered in her matrimonial home in February this year and even two of my cousins were killed outside the state capital few weeks back.”

Bwacha, on his own part, alerted the chamber on the series of kidnappings in his state and suggested that there should be legislative backing for individuals who wanted to carry arms for self- defence.

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, commended Marafa for always bringing the deteriorating security situation in Zamfara to the front burner of discourse in the Senate .

He said, “For government to tackle the security problem headlong, the abnormality of Nigeria being the only federation with centralised police, must be addressed.”

The Senate Chief Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, said the problem of the country was the constitution itself, which he noted, provided for an “over- centralised federation or better put, unitary system as against a federal system of government.”

According to him, as long as the problematic constitution is not amended by way of removing policing from the exclusive list to the concurrent list to pave the way for state police, criminality at local levels will continue unabated.