President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan has said it is important to come to an understanding of the best approach in finding a way to address the challenge of hate speech and fake news.
According to him, as a democratic nation, where dialogue is characterized by ceaseless conflict, there can be no progress.
Lawan who was speaking during a town hall forum on Media, Regulation, Society and Governance in Abuja on Monday, asked if the country should rely on existing laws to deal with supposed infractions such as fake news and hate speech, or if there are even enough laws to deal with them.
“We are a democratic nation where dialogue, conversation, disagreement and agreement are central to how we resolve our issues.
“Where do we go from here as a nation, can we really say we have enough laws to deal with infractions and if so, are we implementing them enough? He asked.
He called on stakeholders to be dispassionate in addressing the issues, stating that the conclusion drawn from the town hall meeting will help the National Assembly and the Federal Government in addressing the challenges.
“As stakeholders in civil society, we should be dispassionate and be able to examine all matters critically.
“Emotions and sentiments hardly help in a gathering like this one, if our minds are open to all lines of thought; we’ll then develop a sense of perspective.
“Our conclusions will be subsequently helpful to the National Assembly and the government at large,” he added.
The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, has raised an alarm over the security challenges in various parts of the country.
Lawan, who spoke during Tuesday’s plenary at the Senate chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja, decried that the recent loss of lives recorded in the country was worrisome.
“My distinguished colleagues, the security situation in our country requires serious attention and due consideration by the Senate and indeed the National Assembly,” he told the senators in his welcome speech after the lawmakers resumed from their six-week recess.
The Senate President added, “Recently, the security in the country has deteriorated and the attendant loss of lives is not acceptable.
“We need to secure the lives and property of our citizens, as enshrined in our Constitution. We all are witnesses to how our economy is also affected by the inclement security situation.”
Senator Lawan believes there is a need to speedily seek for solutions to fix the security problems the country is grappling with.
He also hinted that lawmakers in the Senate chambers were working to engage the Federal Government on the implementation of the nation’s security strategy.
The Senate President said, “There is an urgent need for a paradigm shift and reform of the architecture and structure of our security systems. Equally important is citizen participation, and collaboration in providing security.”
“In this regard, the Senate will engage the Executive arm of government to discuss the implementation of the recently launched National Security Strategy (NSS) 2019.”
According to Lawan, major stakeholders in the nation’s security and police authorities appear to achieve consensus on the necessity of the introduction of community policing.
He, therefore, gave the assurance that the Senate was in support of the initiative to ensure the adequate security of Nigerians and their properties at the grassroots.
The Senate President promised that the lawmakers would pursue the implementation of community policing vigorously and invite police authorities to give an update on the progress made so far.
On power, he said, “My distinguished colleagues, it is an incontrovertible fact that the power sector cannot function optimally and thrive under the current circumstances.
“The anticipated outcome of improvement in effectiveness and efficiency of the privatisation process has not been achieved and doesn’t look feasible. Therefore, we have to take all the necessary steps to salvage this indispensable sector.
“The ensuing debate on the report of the Roundtable Discussions will no doubt reveal the actions that the Federal Government will need to take,” Lawan stated.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, pledged to ensure that the National Assembly sustains its cooperation with the Executive arm of government next year and beyond.
He made the promise in his Christmas message to the nation on Tuesday.
“I assure you that this synergy at the highest level of governance will be sustained in the year 2020 and beyond,” the Senate President said.
He added, “The modest achievements of the Assembly within the short period were made possible by the bi-partisan approach to national issues by the Federal lawmakers, the collaboration and harmonious relationship with other arms of government.”
Senator Lawan congratulated Nigerians, particularly Christians on the occasion of the Christmas and New Year.
According to him, Nigerians must not forget the essence of the season which is a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ and the ideals for which he lived.
He described the birth of Jesus Christ as a great example of humility, noting that he lived and preached peace, love, tolerance and self-sacrifice, as well as left mankind with the hope of eternal joy.
The lawmaker said, “These virtues transcend religion and deserve to be embraced by all Nigerians especially as we go through the challenges of nation-building and development.
“In the spirit of the season, we as a people and government must remember the weak and the most vulnerable in our midst and do the best we can to bring them succour and help them to also feel the joy of the season.”
He also wished the people journey mercies as they travel to share the season with family and loved ones and urged them to celebrate with moderation.
On its legislative agenda, Lawan said the ninth National Assembly has resolved to work for Nigeria by enacting legislations that serve the generality of Nigerians.
He explained that the members of the Assembly have devoted themselves to facilitating good governance and stimulating the economy to raise the standard of living of Nigerians, since their inauguration six months ago.
The Senate President added that their decisions on critical sectors of the economy, before they adjourned for the Christmas and New year, were essentially to make year 2020 and beyond prosperous for all.
He stressed that the amendment to the Deep Off-Shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act, the Fiscal Policy laws, Procurement Act and the timely passage of the 2020 Budget, have proven the determination of the lawmakers to work for Nigerians.
He, therefore, wished Nigerians a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
According to the Senate President, the passage of the 2020 Budget by the National Assembly and its prompt assent by President Muhammadu Buhari would have a significant impact on the nation from January next year.
He also noted that the inflow of disbursed funds as a result of Nigeria’s return to the January – December budget cycle would see to the injection of resources by the government.
“This is something that was not available previously. We believe that the executive has a role to ensure that the 2020 budget is implemented fully as much as our resources can accommodate,” Lawan said.
On the FCT budget passed by the National Assembly, he stressed, “As the State Assembly of the FCT, we have discharged our responsibility. The next thing is for FCT to ensure that it implements the budget.”
The Senate President commended the Senate Committee on FCT for a job well done and urged it to be steadfast and ensure the implementation of the budget.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan has reiterated concerns about the number of out of school children in the country.
Addressing a delegation of Arewa Consultative Forum which paid him a visit on Wednesday, he lamented that it is not an enviable record that Nigeria has the world’s highest figure of out of school children.
“We are worried and concerned with educational deterioration in many parts of the country and especially the out of school children who numbered about 11 million, some will tell you 14 million,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his media aide, Mohammed Isa.
“The true thing is that nobody knows the figure. The figure could be much more than that because we are poor with our statistics.
“Majority of these out-of-school children are in the northern part of Nigeria. And this is the highest in the world. It is not an enviable position.
“These out of school children are our responsibility. We owe them, because it is not a privilege, it is their right to be in school. We shouldn’t allow them to continue to stray in the street.
“Whether we call them almajiri or not, these are the leaders of tomorrow and there is going to be a widening gap if such people are left uneducated. They will also contribute security challenge to us if they have not already,” Lawan said.
He further stated that the Senate is not unmindful of the challenges that the country is currently facing, noting that the north particularly faces more security challenges than other parts of the country.
“Before, the north was safer than many parts of the country. Today the north is worse in terms of security. So we have to work hard with the executive arms of government to deal with the security challenges as much as we can,” he said.
Moving to other matters, the Senate President explained reasons for the plans by the upper legislative chamber to hold roundtable conferences on power, solid minerals and agriculture sub-sectors.
Lawan said the power sector has witnessed a lot of reforms the climax of which was the privatization of the Generation Companies (GENCOs) and Distribution Companies(DISCOs).
“But I think the time has come for us to review what the GENCOs and DISCOs have been able to do since those operators took over from the Federal government of Nigeria.
“Of course, everybody agrees that they have not done very well. We cannot continue to be lamenting and do nothing.
“So we think that we should hold a roundtable Conference and tell ourselves the truth. This thing is not working. We can’t go on like this.
“Without power, we can’t develop this country at all. The insecurity can be related to unemployment among our youths. With improved power supply, definitely there will be more employment opportunity for our youth.
“So we are going to hold that roundtable Conference and we believe that at the end of the day, we should come up with ways and means and ideas on how to move forward.
“This we are not going to do alone. We have to involve the executive arm of government and I’m happy that the President particularly is feeling the same way,” he said.
On Agriculture, the Senate President said there is need for the government to come up with a roadmap and strategy clearly defined targets between now and 2023.
The Senate President also said there is need for a clearly defined policy on solid minreals sub-sector.
“We have to have a policy of supporting truly committed companies which want to do mining.
We believe that if Nigeria relies on solid minerals alone, we can make this country better.
“So we are going to look into the solid minerals sub-sector and see how we can come with legislation that will support it, ” he said.
Earlier, the ACF chairman, Alhaji Musa Liman Kwande told the Senate President that the forum will appreciate it if the railway and road network projects are simultaneously pursued from the North and South to assuage the fears of projects being abandoned after this administration.
He also sought support for the ACF 20th anniversary coming up in March 2020.
Thereafter, the Senate President directed the Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, to “give him a befitting seat”.
This comes three weeks after the Court of Appeal in Sokoto returned Senator Danbaba of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the lawmaker representing Sokoto South in the National Assembly.
In his judgement on October 30, Justice Fredrick Oho set aside the judgment of the Sokoto State Election Petitions Tribunal which dismissed the appellant’s petition in favour of the respondent, Abubakar Shehu-Tambuwal of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
Meanwhile, the Senate has received six aviation sector bills from President Muhammadu Buhari for consideration and passage into law.
President Buhari’s request was contained in a letter addressed to and read by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on the floor of the Senate.
The letter read: “Pursuant to Section 58 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), I formally request that the following Six (6) Bills be considered for passage into law by the Senate.
“The bills are: Civil Aviation Bill, 2019; Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria Bill, 2019; Nigerian College of Airspace Management Agency (Establishment) Bill, 2019; Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (Establishment) Bill, 2019; Nigerian Meteorological Agency (Establishment) Bill, 2019; and Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (Establishment) Bill, 2019.”
After reading the letter, the Senate President directed the clerk to ensure that the bills were gazetted and distributed to the members of the chamber.
The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, has condemned the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners living in South Africa.
In a statement on Tuesday, he said Nigeria has had enough of its citizens being targets of such attacks and would no longer tolerate hate crimes in any form against Nigerians doing legitimate businesses in the country.
“Xenophobic violence is most condemnable anywhere; more so in South Africa, a country whose citizens benefitted from the unwavering support and solidarity of Africans and freedom lovers across the world in their historic struggle against apartheid,” the Senate President said.
He added, “More disturbing, however, is that these attacks indicate the neglect of educating the younger generations on the sacrifices that Africans proudly made towards expunging the scourges of colonialism and apartheid from their continent.
“The enormous contributions of Nigeria to this historic struggle are underscored by its recognition as a frontline state in the prolonged confrontation against the powerful racist regime that had held generations of Southern Africans in bondage and subhuman conditions.”
According to Senator Lawan, this recognition is in spite of the fact that Nigeria does not share geographical borders with the sub-region and is far removed from the direct consequences of apartheid.
He noted that the liberation of South Africa was rightly celebrated across the continent and the Black world as the final emancipation of Africans from colonialism and apartheid.
The lawmaker, therefore, stated that it was an unacceptable irony that a section of South Africans would choose other Africans in their country as the targets of violent attacks.
He said, “It would be recalled that I had on July 15, this year, met with the South African High Commissioner, Bobby Moroe, in Abuja over the same issue.
“At the meeting, I had said ‘The South African Government must as a matter of urgency do whatever it takes to protect the lives and property of Nigerians living there, just as the Nigerian Government remain committed to the safety of South Africans residing here and their investments.
“I believe we have faced enough, we will no longer take it anymore. The South African parliament must act fast to put a stop to this menace.”
Senator Lawan noted the efforts the Federal Government to convey the displeasure of Nigerians with the treatment of their compatriots in South Africa.
He said every step necessary must be taken in protecting law-abiding foreigners, including Nigerians, and their businesses from hate crimes in the country.
He added that the Senate was closely observing the situation and urged the Nigerian Government to accept nothing but the immediate cessation of hostility to Nigerians living in South Africa.
Senator Ahmed Lawan on Tuesday said the people of Yobe State gave him their total support to be elected the President of the Senate.
He stated this during a thank-you visit to Yusufari, Jakusko and Bade Local Government Areas of the state.
“The people of Yobe State, across political shades, prayed and fasted for me to be elected into the office of President of the Senate, and I’m happy we were able to make it,” the lawmaker was quoted as saying in a statement from the media office of the Senate President.
He thanked the people of Yobe, particularly the state governor, Mr Mala Buni; his predecessor, Senator Ibrahim Geidam, and all the leaders of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state.
A Better National Assembly
Senator Lawan, therefore, noted that work has started and asked for more prayers to remain focused on the job.
He said, “I want to urge them (the people) to continue to pray for us at the National Assembly, particularly in the Senate, for us to continue to perform optimally.
“As an institution, we have a lot to do to support the executive arm of government led by President Muhammadu Buhari to deliver on the dividends of democracy and our campaign promises to Nigerians.”
“So, I’m happy to be back, especially knowing also that the people of Yobe believe in their son. I have no reason not to do what is right, as they have shown trust and commitment to this cause and I want to tell them that I will remain resolute and focused as I intend to work hard to achieve the desired goals,” he said.
Senator Lawan believes with the support he has received so far from his colleagues in the Senate, the lawmakers will achieve a lot in the Ninth Assembly.
He added, “I also believe that Nigeria will have a better National Assembly, and a working legislature at the federal level that will, in turn, allow Nigerians have a better deal in terms of the development of the country.”
Six ministerial nominees have enjoyed the ‘take a bow’ privilege at the screening by the Nigerian Senate on Wednesday.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday, forwarded the names of 43 nominees to constitute his cabinet to the senate, eight weeks after he was sworn in for a second term.
According to the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, the decision was in line with the long-standing tradition of the legislature that all former lawmakers nominated for appointments are given an automatic endorsement.
The ministers-nominees who enjoyed the privilege include; Godswill Akpabio, Olorunnimbe Mamora, George Akume, Sharon Ikeazor, Emeka Nwajuiba, a serving Reps member and surprisingly, Rotimi Amaechi, a former minister of Transportation.
Unlike other nominees who were former federal lawmakers, Mr Amaechi was former speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
The National Assembly’s Point of Order makes room for Senators returning based on the number of times elected, senators who have been members of House of Reps, Senators elected for the first time but does not recognize State House of Assembly.
But Senate President Lawan described the benefit given to Mr Amaechi as an extension to lawmakers from the state House of Assembly, and a beneficiary by chance.
“We have agreed on a policy on how we go about the screening of nominees, we agreed that any nominee with the legislative background will enjoy the privilege that we normally extend to such nominees.
“I can see this nominee is so clever that he emphasized that he’s been a speaker.”
However, Senator Danjuma Goje, representing Gombe Central read the senate rule and objected to the privilege and noted that the Senate rules do not extend the ‘take a bow’ to state lawmakers.
“I was a victim, when I came to this senate in 2011 as a former member of the House of Assembly and when I insisted that I had the cognate experience, I was told the order does not recognise House of Assembly, I don’t know whether we are changing these rules.”
Senator Lawan agreed that the privilege to state lawmakers is not in the rules, but asked the upper chamber to regulate themselves, even without things in the rule.
“We adopt this because we should extend this privilege to the House of Assembly, there is nothing wrong in that. The present nominee is only a beneficiary by chance.”
There was a brief rowdiness at plenary, but the Senate President explained that they are not doing it for Mr Amaechi, but he is benefitting because the senate said so before he came.
“Any person who passed through a legislative house should be a beneficiary of this policy,” he stated.
Aside from the six who took a bow, the senate screened a total of 10 ministerial nominees out of the 43.
They include; Uchechukwu Ogah, Adamu Adamu, Dr Ogbonaya Onu, and Olamilekan Adegbite.
Mr Lawan described the performance of all the nominees who appeared before the Senate as “impressive”.
He also announced that the exercise will continue on Thursday and listed those to be screened to include Sen. Tayo Alasoadura, Mustapha Shehuri, Retired Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi, Niyi Adebayo and Timipre Slyva.
Also to be screened on Thursday are Mrs Ramatu Tijjani, Mohammed Abdullahi, and Sunday Dare.
Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, has condemned the use of force by security agents on protesters.
The Senate President made this known in a statement on Tuesday through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ola Awoniyi.
Senator Lawan expressed his profound sadness over the avoidable loss of lives in the violent clash of members of Islamic Movement in Nigeria with security agents deployed to maintain law and order in Abuja on Monday, July 22, 2019.
He mourned with the management of Channels Television on the tragic death of their reporter, Precious Owolabi during the incident.
The President of the Senate says it is tragic that a brilliant life and professional prospect was abruptly cut short in a manner that diminishes us as citizens of a democratic nation.
Lawan extends his condolences to the family of Mr Owolabi, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) on the painful loss of their son, member and colleague.
He also sends his condolences to the family of Usman Umar and the Nigeria Police over the death of their son and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) during the incident.
Lawan sympathises with the families of other victims of the tragic incident.
The President of the Senate strongly condemns the habitual resort to violence by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria under the guise of the exercise of their rights to freedom of association and expression.
Senator Lawan also deplores the excessive use of force by the security agents on the protesters.
He calls on the security agencies to evolve a new approach for peaceful enforcement of law and order, even in the face of provocations.
He further urged the Federal Government to find a speedy resolution to the agitation by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, within the context of the rule of law and national peace and security.
All lawful options need to be considered towards avoiding carnage from needless confrontations of citizens with the security forces.
The Senate President, however, stated that the lawmakers would pressure the Federal Government on the need to pay attention to making the rail system functional.
He also assured the Niger State government that the 9th Assembly would play its role in ensuring that federal roads in the state were fixed.
On security, Senator Lawan said the Senate was united and focused on pursuing common goals irrespective of political party differences.
He added that this was to ensure that issues of insecurity, poverty, unemployment and other social vices bedevilling the growth of the country were tackled collectively.
In his address, Governor Abubakar Bello appealed to the Senate President to consider giving Niger State the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Works.
He gave assurance that his administration would work with all the three senators in the state, as well as both members of the National and State Assemblies to ensure the state develops.
The governor noted that the strategic senatorial action plan of Senator Sani was a demonstration of such synergy.
On his part, Senator Sani informed the gathering that his priority would be to empower his constituents with quality education and ensure the revival of the Child Rights Act, to guarantee the protection of children from molestation.
He also promised to support legislation that would promote family welfare, and whatever efforts the state government would make in the areas of health, road rehabilitation, construction, and security.
The event had in attendance the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo Agege; Deputy Senate Chief Whip, Senator Sabi Aliyu Abdullahi, and Senator Bamidele Opeyemi among others.