The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has given an assurance that the National Assembly would not arrogate to itself the power of exclusively passing the social media bill into law without inputs from Nigerians.
Lawan stated this in an address delivered to declare open a Public Hearing on the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, also known as the Social Media Bill, presently under consideration by the National Assembly.
The public hearing which held on Monday was organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
According to the Senate President, freedom of speech and the inalienable rights of man are issues that should not be compromised under any guise.
He added that it was in the spirit of ensuring the protection of individual rights in Nigeria that the Senate referred the bill to its committee for legislative work, so as to get the input of all concerned Nigerians.
Lawan, therefore, urged all stakeholders present at the hearing to be open-minded, dispassionate and tolerant of opposing views on the bill.
He said, “This hearing is a crucial one because the Bill has generated a lot of passion. The passion is not unexpected because the Bill relates to the Internet. The Internet has become central to our lives, as it has reshaped how we live, work and how we interact.
“Like every other innovation, it has had its positive and negative sides. While it has somewhat made communication easier, faster and even cheaper, it has also affected our ability to easily trust some information.
“When this kind of situation arises, we should interrogate all the sides in the divides on a continuous basis. Doing this will lead to a better understanding of the dimensions and provide an agreeable way forward.”
The Senate President insisted that the National Assembly has never assumed the position of knowing it all.
He stressed that the rules and procedures of the lawmakers do not even envisage a position where they would arrogate themselves knowledge of everything.
Lawan explained that the Senate’s decision to refer the bill to the relevant committee in November 2019 was to open discussion on the piece of legislation.
According to him, a public hearing of the sort will avail the Senate the opportunity of sampling all shades of opinion on the bill.
The Senate President stated that for the country to experience peace, growth and development, Nigerians must engage each other on ways to address the excesses and limitations that were consequences of the abuse of freedom.
He said, “It is pursuant to our procedure to open up discussions that we have invited you all. In assembling here today however, we need to remember that there are multiple positions on every argument.
“This implies that we should not just be open minded and dispassionate, but should be ready to hear the other side, no matter how strong we feel about our own position.”
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan on Monday advocated for a constitutional role for traditional rulers in the fight against insurgency and other security challenges.
Lawan made the call when a delegation of traditional and political leaders from Taraba state paid him a visit in his office.
The delegation was at the National Assembly to participate in a public hearing on a bill to establish Federal College of Education, Mutum Biyu Taraba state.
The Senate President said, “there is no way we can succeed in the fight against insurgency or any insecurity without the support and cooperation of traditional rulers.
“One thing is obvious when traditional rulers had the mandate and official responsibility to administer their places before the local government reforms of 1976, I think our security situation was better because our security architecture included them.
“That is not the situation today, and when we face such a very profound security situation that we have today, it is time to look at giving traditional rulers more formal responsibilities in the administration of our country.”
The Senate President said the present security challenges made it more auspicious for the Senate to look at the possibility of giving constitutional responsibilities to traditional rulers during the forthcoming constitution review exercise.
“We need to do that so that we do not need to run to them only when we have issues. They should always be there to support any administration that is in power to administer the country,” he said.
Lawan said the Senate is working hard to come up with far-reaching resolutions on how to address the security challenges facing the country.
He recalled that the Senate after its resumption from recess, set up an adhoc committee under the chairmanship of the Senate Leader, and promised that the report of the committee would be debated “hopefully this week and come up with solutions and views on how to end the insecurity”.
Earlier, the leader of the delegation and Taraba state commissioner for Tertiary Education, Mr. Edward Baraya thanked the Senate President for his support for the bill.
Bararaya said Taraba state lacks higher institutions particularly those of training teachers, saying that the College of Education if established would improve aceess to education for the people of the state.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan says the Senate will on Tuesday consider a critical bill that specifically seeks to amend the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) in a bid to boost the business sector in Nigeria.
In a statement issued on Sunday by his Special Assistant (Media), Lawan said the Senate has commenced moves to strengthen the country’s economy.
“Presently, we are one hundred and thirty-one in the ranking of doing business in the world. If we pass the CAMA bill, and the President signs, we will move to be within the first 100. That means we will jump over thirty positions to be a better country in the ease of doing business.
“So, it is a very important bill for all of us. Of course, in the last Senate, all the processes were conducted on this bill, so there will be no need for us to waste too much time on it,” he said.
The move follows a proposal by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC – Kebbi North), to amend the Companies and Allied Matters Act (Chapter C20) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (2004).
Senator Abdullahi believes that the introduction of model netting provisions in the Bill as a means of mitigating credit risks would promote financial stability and investor confidence in the nation’s financial sector, and increase investor confidence.
The law, which has not been significantly amended in the last 28 years, was enacted in Nigeria as a decree of the military government in 1990.
The Bill also seeks to provide an efficient means of regulating businesses, minimize the compliance burden of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), enhance transparency and shareholder engagement, and promote a friendly business climate in Nigeria.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday contradicted the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on the payment of N620 million to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), an amount budgeted for the emergency response to novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Contrary to the announcement that the money had been paid to the agency in full, the lawmaker stressed that no kobo was released.
He, therefore, asked the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, to immediately release the money to the health agency.
The minister, at a press briefing in Abuja on Friday last week, said the Federal Government had released every fund needed by the Port Health Services and the NCDC, which he described as the nation’s first and second lines of defence for coronavirus.
According to him, the Port Health Services received about N70 million while the NCDC got N620 million.
Ehanire admitted that Nigeria used to have very little quantity of reagents to diagnose coronavirus, but the supply of the substances has been improved.
The Senate President, however, said, “I am sad, we are indeed actually sad, that of the N620 million that was supposed to be released to this place for fixing of everything here to NCDC, not a kobo has been released.
“We are going to get across to the Minister of Finance and all the other authorities that have anything to do with this to release this money latest between today and tomorrow (Thursday).”
Lawan spoke when he led the leadership of the Senate on a tour of isolation centres located at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada.
He regretted that the temporary isolation centre was not in good shape, stressing that it doesn’t look ready to receive any patient.
“We are in an emergency, even if we don’t have people who are affected, we shouldn’t just rest on our oars.
“We have to do everything and anything possible to fix that temporary isolation centre to be prepared to receive anyone who falls sick in this respect,” said the lawmaker.
The Senate President was worried that Nigeria has yet to have a completed Isolation Centre in the north-central geo-political zone that would provide emergency response to disease outbreak in the country.
He, therefore, asked those saddled with leadership responsibilities in the country to live up to expectations through the timely discharge of their mandates and duties.
Lawan said, “There’s no way that Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, with a population of 200 million, and yet the Federal Capital and six surrounding states of the North Central; you don’t have one room that you can call an isolation centre, where anyone who unfortunately falls into this crisis will be taken to. This is not acceptable.
“So, we are going to ensure that the money is released, we are going to put pressure. This is what they are supposed to do, and they must do it.”
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, says agriculture remains a viable means for employment creation in Nigeria.
According to him, substantial investment in the sector by the Federal Government would guarantee food security for the country.
Lawan stated this on March 4, against the backdrop of a bill that is under consideration by the National Assembly, seeking to establish the Agricultural Development Fund.
“The agricultural sector remains unarguably the most viable means of ensuring that we create employment opportunities and that we create wealth for our people as well.
“If there is anything that needs to be done to enhance this sector, we should do so”, the Senate President said.
He noted that the establishment of the fund will make available some funds for the sector to do better and thrive, adding that same will boost the Nigerian economy and provide the much-needed food security in the country.
Earlier, sponsor of the bill, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC – Nasarawa West), leading debate on the bill, said “the current contribution of the agricultural sector to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stands at 15-20 per cent with the potential for improvement through the implementation and sustenance of appropriate intervention programmes, policies and enabling laws.”
According to the lawmaker, in spite of the policies and enabling laws, the utilisation of arable land in the country is only 40 per cent, and agriculture largely subsistence with minimal value addition.
“It will be difficult to achieve agricultural productivity and value addition required for industrial development without sustainable funding. The fact is that the current budgetary system will continue to be improved but it will be insufficient to generate the necessary transformation in the agricultural sector,” Adamu said.
The lawmaker noted, “One of the first steps that need to be taken to ensure adequate funding for the agricultural sector is the enactment of this bill in order to pave way for the creation of a mega-agency to manage viable and sustainable sources of agricultural financing.”
He added that the bill, when passed into law, would give legal backing to the establishment of the Agricultural Development Fund, and will compliment other funding development opportunities at the international and regional levels.
Abdullahi stressed that the fund, which will be domiciled under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, would “fill the apparent gap in agricultural development in the country, especially where the mainstream government budgetary allocation is grossly inadequate.”
Senator Adamu Aliero (APC – Kebbi Central), while contributing to the debate said if passed into law, the bill would put in place the needed structure that will take care of agricultural funding in the country.
“The bank is not capitalized, stakeholders have called for recapitalization but the CBN has not responded to these calls,” he said.
The lawmaker noted that the piece of legislation besides taking care of the existing gap of funding in the agricultural sector, will promote value chain, generate employment as well as reduce poverty.
Senator Sandy Onuh (PDP– Cross River Central) said: “one of the challenges of agriculture in Nigeria is that it is predicated on subsistence.”
“Subsistence agriculture exists because farmers do not have access to funding, they continue to be where they are year in year out.
“There is a need to establish the Agricultural Development Fund. Everyone around the world is talking about moving from subsistence to commercial farming”, the lawmaker added.
The bill which scaled second reading was referred by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for further legislative work.
The committee which is chaired by Senator Abdullahi Adamu is expected to report back in four weeks.
Meanwhile, the Senate also on Wednesday considered a bill for an act to establish the Federal University of Agriculture, Dambatta, Kano State.
The bill which scaled second reading during plenary was sponsored by Senator Jibrin Barau (APC– Kano North).
The piece of legislation was referred to the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institution and TETFUND for legislative input.
The Committee which is chaired by Senator Ahmed Baba Kaita (APC–Katsina North) is expected to turn in its report in four weeks.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan has appealed to the United Nations, World Health Organisation (WHO) to help Nigeria end tuberculosis.
In a statement issued by his Special Assistant (Press) Ezrel Tabiowo, the Senate President said the National Assembly has been supporting investments in the nation’s health sector.
He stated this on Wednesday while receiving a delegation of the United Nations Programming Mission to his office in Abuja.
Lawan who noted that the nation is ranked first in Africa, however, decried that paucity of funds poses a major threat in the fight against the disease.
“If we are number one in the African subregion and ranked ten in the world, it is not an enviable statistic.
“We are also constrained by the paucity of funds, we wish we could have more funds, and while we are trying to do our best, the United Nations and other bodies such as the World Health Organization should try to support our country,” he stated.
Speaking further, the Senate President emphasised on the need to educate Nigerians on the dangers of both communicable and non-communicable diseases.
While recalling that the Eight Assembly passed legislation to devote about one per cent of the annual budget to universal health coverage, Lawan said the budget is still not enough.
Speaking also, the Leader of the delegation and Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tereza Kasaeva, explained that tuberculosis has claimed the death of over 1.5 million Nigerians annually, hence topping the list in Africa.
According to her, the nation also ranks number one with the highest cases of tuberculosis infection within the African region and among the top ten countries globally.
“Tuberculosis is an old disease but still number one infectious disease killer in the world with One million five hundred thousand deaths annually.
“Unfortunately, here in Nigeria, you are number one in the Afro-region, and among the top ten countries globally.
“This year, we will provide a progress report to the United Nations Secretary-General about progress report in these countries,” she said.
Kasaeva, therefore, called on the Federal Government to make additional investments in primary healthcare services through urgent interventions by the National Assembly.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on Tuesday said the Senate may consider the report of the ad-hoc committee on security challenges next week.
He gave the indication during plenary following the consideration of a motion brought to the floor by Senator Aishatu Ahmed(APC – Adamawa Central).
The Senate set up the committee chaired by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, had on January 29 to interface with the security agencies on the level of insecurity in the country and report back to the upper chamber within two weeks.
Senator Lawan promised that the Senate would engage the executive arm of government on the resolutions of the committee as contained in its report.
He added that the Senate would also work closely with the House of Representatives and Nigerians towards ensuring that solutions were found to the lingering security problems in the country.
“The Senate discussed and debated so much on the insecurity in the country and set up an ad-hoc committee under the leadership of the Senate Leader.
“The committee is working very hard; we are trying to look for solutions to the insecurity bedevilling the country. We are not going to rest on our oars until we are able to provide solutions,” the lawmaker said.
He added, “This is the essence of our being in government. Of course, it will require that we work with the House of Representatives and the Executive, as well as the citizens because I believe that the citizens have to be taken into confidence in the fight against insecurity.
“So, we will not waste any time, as soon as the report is ready, I believe by next week, we are going to look at the report of the ad-hoc committee and take those important and very viable resolutions, and engage with the executive arm of government.”
The Senate President noted that the executive and legislature were on the same page and promised that they would do whatever it takes, even if it has to do with investing huge sums in security.
“Life is more important than anything, so we need to protect the lives of Nigerians who have sent us here,” he added.
Relying on a point of order on matter of urgent public importance, Senator Ahmed decried the attacks on Gombi Local Government Area of Adamawa State where represented.
She informed her colleagues that an insurgent group armed with seven gun-trucks and motorcycles invaded the town on Friday last week.
According to the lawmaker, three soldiers were killed in the dastardly attacks, while properties worth millions of naira were burnt or destroyed including, public hospital, school, telecommunication facilities, and police stations among others.
She added that the Garkida crises, which led to the destruction of lives and propriety, was planned by the insurgents to have a religious connotation considering that churches and residences of some prominent indigenes were burnt.
Senator Ahmed described the attack as an act aimed at destroying the foundation of peaceful co-existence among Garkida community and Adamawa State as a whole.
“As a result of this, the urgent need to take more drastic actions in the face of such affront on the national security architecture, the region and indeed the entire nation is long overdue.
“In view of the enormity of the situation, the Federal Government needs to put more innovative measures in place to frontally confront these challenges,” she said.
In a three-point resolution, the Senate urged the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, to re-establish a military command base in Garkida and also all major settlements bordering the Sambisa forest.
It also called on the North East Development Commission to immediately embark on rehabilitation of public and religious institutions destroyed and provide assistance to other individuals affected.
The Senate also asked the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to urgently assess the extent of damage and provide relief materials immediately to Garkida community.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has asked the security agencies to beef up the security measures at the National Assembly to avert any threat.
Speaking during an emergency meeting with top security officials on Tuesday in Abuja, Lawan disclosed that he has received a report of security threat to the National Assembly.
“Personally, I had a report from the DSS that we had a security threat. Many unknown and uninvited people came or are coming into the National Assembly complex and we felt we shouldn’t take this lightly,” he said at the meeting.
The Senate President added, “From today, we have to find a temporary solution to support the security arrangement here. We will find a more permanent solution by the time the entire environment is remodelled.”
In attendance were the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Yusuf Bichi, and representatives of the Defence, Police, Civil Defence, Fire Service, and other security agencies.
Lawan stressed that the responsibility for ensuring security for all Nigerians was a collective for both the legislative and executive arms of government.
He noted that the lawmakers were working hard and round the clock, saying they have an active ad-hoc committee that was already engaging the security agencies.
“As principal officers of the National Assembly, or let me say in the Senate in this respect, our responsibility and obligation is to ensure that our senators, members of the House of Representatives, workers of the National Assembly, our visitors and indeed anyone who has a lawful business to do in this National Assembly are safe.
“For a very long time, this National Assembly will always have people who have no business coming here,” he said.
The Senate President added, “With the heightening insecurity in the country, the time has come for this National Assembly to be properly secured for members of the National Assembly to carry out their legislative and other functions, under a very safe atmosphere and of course, our workers, our visitors.”
“What that means is that, if someone has no business here, that person shouldn’t be in the National Assembly. Because we are a parliament, we are a place or an institution where our constituents who feel very strongly about any issue can come and express their opinions.
“Some will come for protests. Some will attend public hearings in the committee rooms. Some will visit the gallery or in some cases even enter the chamber when allowed to do so.
“And when you take security for granted, sometimes you may have a bitter experience. We don’t want to take for granted the safe corridor that we have had. At least nothing has happened.
“We don’t want to wait until something happened. This kind of discussions had taken place in the past. This is the Ninth Senate, we want to do it differently.”
Lawan said plans were underway for a better and permanent security architecture for the National Assembly.
He, however, clarified that nobody was advocating a blanket ban on the people with genuine reasons for visiting the National Assembly.
The Senate President also warned that any security officials found wanting in the line of duty would not be spared.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has asked leaders at all levels to do less of talking and show more action in tackling the challenges facing the country.
For Nigeria to surmount its challenges, he believes all leaders must as a matter of urgency come together to ensure that the security and welfare needs of the people are adequately met.
“As leaders, we owe the people, not only the explanation but actions,” Lawan was quoted as saying at a function in Kaduna on Monday.
He added, “Those of us in leadership positions, we know what we need to do. We need to have courage and commitment and sustain them.
“Nigeria is at a crossroad and more than ever now requires the unity of the people. The issues bedevilling Nigeria today require that all leaders, at all levels and in all parts of Nigeria, need to come together.”
The Senate President made the remarks in his speech at the 60th birthday celebration of the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
According to him, the nation is at a point where the provision of infrastructure alone by the government cannot sufficiently address the underlying cause of growing insecurity and illiteracy in the country.
“What we need is not only infrastructure, but we need the capacity building of the people. In this part of the country, this report has been consistent and apparently, little has been done to reverse it,” the lawmaker stated.
He, therefore, called on the Federal Government to immediately introduce policies that would return the over 13 million out-of-schoolchildren back to school to curb the rising number of illiteracy in the country.
The Senate President decried that the report of 13 million or 14 million out-of-school children mostly in the north was dangerous for the country.
He stressed that until the trend was reversed, no amount of infrastructure can prevent the social angle that would lead to serious insecurity.
Lawan urged leaders to live up to the responsibilities of their respective offices by demonstrating courage and acting expeditiously to guarantee the protection of lives and properties of citizens.
He said, “Today, we are challenged by insecurity, sadly it is all over the country.
“This requires that all of us at every level of government come together and work to ensure that lives and properties of citizens are protected.”
“The story is bad. Every day, it is either kidnapping, assassination or some kind of banditry that leaves our people and communities shattered and destroyed,” the Senate President added.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has said that the leadership of the National Assembly will no longer tolerate the unnecessary killing of Nigerians.
Presiding over Thursday’s plenary in the Senate, Lawan decried that the security of the country was being threatened by criminals.
He, therefore, demanded a complete restructuring of the security architecture of the Nigeria Police Force, as well as equipping police training institutions and training of men and officers of the Force.
A Sinking Fund
The Senate President stated this in his concluding remarks on a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Police Act and enact the Nigeria Police Bill, 2019 to provide for a framework for the Police Service.
He said, “We are in a very unusual time. When Nigeria was at war at one stage, there was a very rigorous recruitment of soldiers because the situation demanded that.
“I think we are in a similar situation and it is only fair for us as leaders of this country to take this challenge.”
“This bill should consider the restructuring of the command and structure of the Police. The present structure is not working, the Police Trust Fund is already accruing, the last count I was told there was about N52 billion or so, but it is not about throwing money to the Police.
“You need to adjust the structure, otherwise that money will just be a sinking fund,” he added.
The Right Side Of History
The Senate President stressed that the need for the government to be in a hurry to recruit, train and retrain security personnel.
According to him, equipping the police training institutions is supposed to be one vital aspect of getting the security arrangements right.
Lawan believed this must be done in a hurry, even if it means going for a supplementary budget.
“The kind of situation we are in, with the lives that are lost on a daily basis, is something we cannot tolerate, and in fact, we should be on the right side of history,” he stated.
The Senate President made the remarks after a debate on the bill sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs. Senator Haliru Jika.
In his lead debate, Senator Jika explained that the piece of legislation sought primarily to provide for the framework for the Police Service.
He said it was also aimed at ensuring cooperation and partnership between the police and communities in order to maintain peace and combat crime and insecurity in the country.