20 Years After, NASS N37bn Renovation Project Is Long Overdue – Sabi Abdullahi

 

The Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi has said that the renovation of the National Assembly complex is long overdue, 20 years after it was built in 1999.

Speaking to Channels Television’s on its Politics Today programme, Senator Abdullahi stated that not much has been done to upgrade the building, owing to the level of legislation that is going on in it.

“When we came on board in this particular republic in 1999, the structures and every other thing that was put in place came in with the transition and since that time till now, it is on record that not much has been done to upgrade, renovate and to continually add value to that institution even as the legislature continues to evolve in terms of what it requires to carry out its democratic function.

“The idea of rehabilitating that particular complex is long overdue because this is 20 years now and there was no major rehabilitation done to the structure and it has been serving Nigeria from that period up till now.”

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He insisted that the earmarked N37 billion is not on the high side because the appearance from the outside is contrary to what the inside looks like and the outcry by Nigerians is not relevant.

“What people see from the outside is not what that building is alone; you need to go inside to understand what that building is before you can think maybe what is being done is on the high side.

“Nigerians do not value the democratic process we have. If they do, they won’t be saying what they are saying.”

Holding a contrary view, a legal practitioner, Jiti Ogunye, who was a guest on the same programme, stressed that the proposed sum is a sheer waste of resources, owing to the infrastructural challenges facing the country.

Mr Ogunye, while reiterating Senator Abdullahi’s claim that no major renovation has been done on the complex, gave examples of South Africa, the United States of America and the United Kingdom, whose legislative buildings have been existing long before the National Assembly complex.

“What is being proposed is sheer waste, profligacy, irresponsibility and I am saying this with all sense of responsibility.

“The deputy chief whip was referencing 1999 it has not been renovated, so we need this humongous amount, N37bn to renovate it and because they are legislators, that’s the nerve-centre of governance.

“This is wastefulness, what we are being told is just a metaphor, a national calamity; this Lagos-Ibadan expressway that has been stopped for years. This is not our priority; the money is going to be wasted. We don’t need that N37 billion,” he stressed.

A file photo of Senator Sabi Abdullahi

When asked if the Senate plans to reduce the N37 billion for the renovation of the complex, Senator Abdullahi stated that it is not the responsibility of the legislature, insisting that the duty lies with the Federal Capital Development Agency (FCDA) who was mandated by President Buhari to carry out the renovation.

“When we complain, we have a right to do so. The National Assembly is not the one that put the budget there; it is the responsibility of the FCDA.

“I was in the eight Assembly and we were complaining that the structure is due for renovation. We couldn’t do anything because it’s not in our mandate to do that, it is the mandate of the FCT and FCDA.

“Mr President, seeing that this ninth Assembly is ready to work, was magnanimous in saying the FCDA should examine the complaints we are making and that’s what led to that particular budget,” he added.

Defamation, Libel Laws Inadequate To Tackle Hate Speech – Sabi Abdullahi

A file photo of Senator Sabi Abdullahi

 

 

The Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, on Thursday said existing laws on defamation and libel are grossly inadequate to tackle hate speech in its form.

He stated this against the backdrop of criticism and reactions to the introduction of the Hate Speech Bill by the National Assembly.

Senator Abdullahi who represents Niger North Senatorial District in the National Assembly explained that parliaments across the world have identified hate speech as a new “threat that dehumanises and targets individuals and groups, and also threatens peace in a diversified society.”

He stated that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which is a 47-nation member organisation, in a report identified threats posed by hate speech to include exclusion among minority groups, alienation, marginalisation, emergence of parallel societies, and ultimately radicalisation.

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The lawmaker warned that these were present features in the socio-dynamics of Nigeria as a nation and have placed the country on the brink of implosion from the effect of hate speech.

“The provisions of defamation and libel laws in Nigeria clearly lack the grip to tackle the dimensions of hate speech in acts such as victimisation, marginalisation, and exclusion,” he said in a statement.

Senator Abdullahi added that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in its resolutions contained in a publication entitled ‘The Role and Responsibilities of Political Leaders in Combating Hate Speech and Intolerance’, endorsed criminal legislation to prohibit and sanction hate speech.

The publication, according to him, read in part, “The Assembly believes that a wide range of measures is necessary to counter hate speech, ranging from self-regulation, particularly by political movements and parties, and in the statutes and rules of procedure of national and local elected bodies, to civil, administrative and criminal legislation prohibiting and sanctioning its use.”

Citing countries such as Germany and France, the lawmaker stated that the parliaments of both countries passed a landmark law in 2018 and 2019 respectively to fight online hate speech.

According to him, these and many other countries all have defamation and libel laws but have introduced legislation to tackle hate speech as a specific threat.

“Hate Speech bill is about prohibiting incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence,” Senator Abdullahi stressed.

He explained that the new legislation passed by France and Germany compelled all social media networks to remove offending content as well as create buttons to enable users to flag cases of abuse.

In a related development, the lawmaker lauded the position of the United Nations on the introduction of the Hate Speech Bill without a death penalty by the National Assembly.

“I must commend the United Nations for its position on the Hate Speech bill without the death penalty.

“It goes to show that they understand the gravity of the problems and threats face by Nigeria as a united entity, and which the National Assembly is taking proactive measures to address with this bill,” he said.

Senate Spokesman Confirms Receipt Of Letter From Buhari

Senate Spokesman Confirms Receipt Of Letter From BuhariSenate spokesman, Sabi Abdullahi, has confirmed that the Senate has received a letter from President Buhari extending his vacation.

Briefing journalists in Abuja, Senator Abdullahi said that the Senate has no plans to reconvene plenary to allow the Senate President read the letter on the floor of the Senate because it is not an emergency.

Communications to the National Assembly from the President are usually read by the Senate President or the Speaker on the floor at plenary.