Senate President Ahmad Lawan says the current legislative arm of government is not a rubber stamp National Assembly.
Critics of the current legislature have said that they seem to only be doing the will of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congres (APC), rather than working for the Nigerian people.
However, the Senate President who was Special Guest at the commissioning of New Evans Ewerem Way in Imo State noted that the two arms of government are working in tandem to see that the dividends of democracy are duly provided for the Nigerian people.
“We in the National Assembly have been working with the veto arm of the government, so far, so good. We do so consciously, we do so purposefully, we do so patriotically because we believe that both arms of government are voted in to serve the people.
“And where we will have to disagree with the veto arm of government, we’ll do so. We have done so before and if it becomes necessary to do so, we will do it again,” he said.
The lawmaker added, “But where we have no cause to differ, where we have no cause to say ‘No!’ we will not differ and we will not say no because that is what will serve the people of this country.
“We don’t care if the opposition will say ‘this rubber stamp assembly,’ you had an assembly that never saw anything good in working together, what did the people get, nothing.
“As a person, as the chairman of the National Assembly, as the president of the Senate, I don’t care if you say what we do is rubber stamp but you know inside you, inside your heart, that we are not Rubber stamp; we are there to make sure that the people of this country get the best deal from the government that they vote in.”
Following the recent spate of insecurity in the country, Senate President Ahmed Lawan has advocated for increase funding for security agencies in the country to procure adequate technologies and manpower needed to combat crime in the country in line with global best practice.
The Senate President made this statement in Owerri the Imo state capital when inaugurating some road projects embarked upon by the Uzodimma led administration in the state.
While condemning the recent attack on Police stations in Imo state and the illegal release of inmates at the Owerri Correctional Centre, Mr Lawan says the security agencies in the country need more resources to fight the spate of crime in the country and as the chairman of the Legislative arm in the country, they will continue to make appropriate laws that will increase funding for security agencies.
The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan has called on Nigerians to continue to support the Federal Government in its efforts to tackle insecurity and provide an enabling environment for the country’s economic growth.
He gave the charge on Thursday in his Easter message to Nigerians, assuring that the National Assembly will continue to work for the people in achieving peace in the country.
“Let us also continue to support the Government in its efforts to provide security and an enabling environment for economic growth and prosperity,” he said in a statement tweeted on the Senate President’s official handle.
“The National Assembly will continue to work for the Nigerian people in this regard and in their legitimate pursuit of peace, happiness and prosperity in their beloved country.”
Senate President preaches love, hope, tolerance at Easter
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan felicitates with Nigerians, particularly the Christian faithful, as they join the rest of the Christian world in celebrating Easter. pic.twitter.com/4tCjhkmd5n
According to him, the ninth National Assembly will always work to support the policies of the government.
“Our various Committees are currently working on the various proposals for amendment of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Reforms Act to mention just a few as well as the Petroleum Industry Bill,” Lawan noted.
While saying that Easter is a time to show love, he reiterated that nation-building requires sacrifice.
“Building a great nation requires sacrifice, endurance and hope. This is especially true in our own case where diversity in tongues and faiths make the task complex,” he added.
“But with abiding hope in our manifest destiny of greatness, I believe we shall overcome the challenges and build the Nigeria of our dream.”
He also told Nigerians to “to use the occasion to preach religious tolerance, love for our neighbours and commit to our civic responsibilities” even as he urged them to abide by the COVID-19 protocols as they mark the event.
According to the Senate President, the current budgetary allocation of the National Assembly in the 2021 Appropriation Bill, which is N125 billion, is less than one per cent of Nigeria’s total budget of N13 trillion.
He also revealed that the National Assembly was working to ensure the passage of the 2021 Budget by the second week of December 2020.
The lawmaker gave an assurance that the 9th Assembly would conclude work on the proposed constitutional amendment and review of the Electoral Act in 2021.
The current members of the Senate and House of Representatives assumed office following their victory in the 2019 general elections.
While some of them are returning lawmakers, it is the first time for others to represent their constituencies and senatorial districts at the green and red chambers.
They were inaugurated as lawmakers on June 11, 2019, and the tenure of the 9th Assembly is expected to run until 2023.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has said that the ninth Assembly will not be distracted from discharging its duties.
Senator Lawan stated this on Monday when a delegation of leaders and traditional rulers from Oke-Ogun in Oyo State paid him a courtesy visit.
The delegation, led by the Aseyin of Iseyin, Dr. Abdul Ganiyu, facilitated by Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, was in Abuja to attend a public hearing on a bill for the establishment of a Federal University of Technology in Oke-Ogun.
A spokesman for the delegation, Ahmed Raji, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the courtesy call was to thank the Senate President for his support for the bill.
Responding to remarks by Raji, the Senate President said: “We here in the National Assembly, this Assembly, has promised Nigeria that the Ninth National Assembly will work for Nigerians.
“That is our trajectory. We are not looking sideways or back and forth. We know what we are going for which is to make Nigeria better and in doing that, we will not allow ourselves to be distracted.
“We believe that every part of this country must have a tertiary educational institution and it is only fair that the Oke-Ogun zone has one.
“We believe that opportunities for our teeming youths to go to tertiary institutions must be provided. At the moment, we don’t have enough spaces and therefore a Federal University of Technology in Oke-Ogun will be a welcome idea.
“And I want to assure you that the President himself believes in fairness and justice. We will do our part and I want to assure you without sounding like the spokesperson for the president, the President will also play his role positively by the Grace of God.”
The delegation’s spokesman further noted that out of about 30 Federal institutions in Oyo State, none was cited in the Oke-Ogun zone which has about 60 percent of the landmass and 10 out of the 33 Local Governments in the state.
“We want to plead with the Senate President to help us see to it that this bill is passed and not only for the bill to be signed into law but that the implementation is also done,” he added.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has congratulated Nigerians, especially the Muslim Ummah on the occasion of the Eid-El-Fitr.
In his Sallah message, the Senate President noted that the celebration marked the breaking of fast and the end of the Holy month of Ramadan.
He also commended the frontline workers in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.
Lawan said, “I congratulate the Muslim faithful on the successful completion of the fasting period despite the formidable challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic which stood between us and total observance of key rituals of the period.”
“I wish to specially commend all our healthcare and other essential services providers who are at the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 and assure them of the full support of their lawmakers and representatives for victory against the vicious enemy,” he added.
The lawmaker called on Nigerians to continue to observe the health precautions and sustain the acts of purity, charity, perseverance, and tolerance in their daily lives and general conduct, even as the holy month has ended.
He also asked them to keep praying for Nigeria and for God’s intervention against all the challenges confronting the nation and the world in general.
The Senate President assured Nigerians that the National Assembly would continue to provide the initiatives and responses expected of a responsible Legislature in a vibrant democracy, and as an arm of a caring government.
He also urged the Muslims to celebrate with restraint as recommended by the spiritual leaders and relevant authorities.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has distributed food palliatives to residents in Damaturu and the six local government areas in Yobe North Senatorial District of the State.
The local governments are Bade, Nguru, Jakusko, Yusufari, Karasuwa, and Machina, respectively.
The gesture by Senator Lawan was aimed at providing relief to residents in Damaturu, the State Capital and his Constituency, who are affected by the lockdown policy following the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
The distribution of palliatives was accompanied by the provision of infrared thermometers, chemicals for disinfection, spraying machines, hand sanitizers, face masks, hand gloves and boots.
Also to be provided are Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to some hospitals across the various local governments in Yobe North Senatorial District.
The first phase of the distribution which commenced on April 28 April 2020; entered its second phase on May 9, 2020; and will be concluded with a third phase to be carried out on Thursday, May 21, 2020 to compliment the Ramadan celebrations.
Among materials already distributed in the two phases are Seven trucks of Rice, ten trucks of sugar, 4 trucks of millet, and three thousand (3000) cartons of turkey oil among other consumables and food items.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has called for the immediate review of the privatization exercise of the power sector by previous administrations.
Lawan gave the charge in his concluding remarks on a motion considered on the floor during plenary on Tuesday.
The motion titled: “Power Sector Recovery Plan and the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic” was sponsored by Senator Gabriel Suswam (PDP – Benue North East).
The Senate President, who bemoaned what he described as the “inefficiency of Power Generating and Distribution companies” in the country, called for a review or eventual reversal of the terms of privatization.
According to Lawan, parties involved in the shared purchase agreement with the federal government can only seek the intervention of the latter when sufficiently justified.
“The power sector has been privatized as we all know, but it has not delivered. We gave them our common patrimony and they still came back to us as Distribution Companies (Discos) and Generating Companies (Gencos) to look for money from the public.
“I think the time has come to review, and probably reverse this privatization because if we stay as it is today, for the next ten years there will be no power in Nigeria, as the situation is. So we need to be decisive about the power sector.
“We expected efficiency and effectiveness in power supply, but I think on both sides, the shared purchase agreements were maybe not adhered to. But definitely what is obvious is that the Discos have no capacity at the moment to give us power.
“The Gencos have challenges too, and I think it is not a good commentary that we should continue to give them money after we sold them. These are businesses now, they are private businesses.
“If there are areas that we must intervene as a government, then it must be seriously justified, but the way it is, I think there is need to review this privatization and see what has really happened, because something is certainly not right.
“And for the next ten years, if there is nothing fundamental and drastic in this sector, nothing like power will be stable in Nigeria, and that will be unfortunate.
“So, it is good our committee is investigating even the previous billions, in fact over a trillion. I mean that’s a lot of money and there must be justification for this.
“We hope that they will be effective, but in the event that this thing is not addressed properly, there will be need for Government really to look into this privatization that has taken place, because probably the wrong investors took over or maybe government is not fulfilling its own promise,” Lawan said.
Earlier, sponsor of the motion, Senator Gabriel Suswam explained that following the outbreak of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government through Ministry of Finance intimated the leadership of the National Assembly of plans to establish a N1.7trn Intervention Fund to be utilized to upgrade healthcare facilities across the country.
The lawmaker stated that “while the appropriate Executive Bill that will articulate the actual use of the proposed N1.7 trillion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund is yet to be presented to the Senate for consideration, the devastating impact of the pandemic on the power sector has necessitated the need for the Senate to draw the attention of the federal government to the need to include the sector in the disbursement of the proposed fund bearing in mind the vital role of stable electricity supply to current efforts towards jumpstarting the economy which is still groaning under the impact of the pandemic.”
Suswam noted that, “stable and uninterrupted power supply is also a critical factor in the management of COVID-19 patients at the designated isolation and treatment centres across the country as well as in the implementation of the proposed upgrade of healthcare facilities.”
According to him, “prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant negative impact on the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), the NESI was already facing teething operational constraints including the absence of cost-reflective tariffs, inadequate enumeration and metering of consumers, limited access to funds for investment, poor revenue generation, and high levels of Aggregate Technical Commercial and Collection losses.”
He recalled that the Senate as a clear demonstration of its commitment to proffer lasting legislative solution to the challenges confronting the NESI recently mandated its standing committee on power to brainstorm with relevant stakeholders to identify all constraints with a view to addressing them in the interest of the Nigerian economy.
The lawmaker, however, raised concerns that “the COVID-19 pandemic has further impacted negatively on the NESI as the Distribution Companies reported 50 percent loss of their monthly average revenue collection for the months of March and April 2020.”
He said that “if the negative impact of COVID-19 on the NESI continues without any emergency financial intervention from the federal government, Discos already facing dwindling revenues in the wake of the pandemic may not be able to meet their remittance obligations to the market as set by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) in December, 2019 Tariff Order.”
Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC – Kogi West) in his contribution said, “when privatization came up, we were told that it will accelerate the economic development of our nation. We were told that it will create more jobs for people.
“Today, Mr. President, virtually all sector that were privatized, I’m sure are worse than before they were privatized. Power Holding was privatized. I do not know how many of us that can boast that we have regular power supply.”
Accordingly, the Senate its resolutions while commending the federal government for the proactive initiative to establish the N1.7 trillion COVID-19 Crisis Intervention Fund, urged the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to include the Nigerian Electric Power Sector in the disbursement of the proposed N500 billion Intervention Fund.
The upper chamber also mandated the Senate Committee on power to investigate all federal government interventions in the power sector since the privatization of the sector to date with a view to ascertaining the adequacy of such interventions.
It also mandated the Committee to investigate all market participants in the power value chain and ascertain the level of corporate governance compliance in the Nigerian Electricity Industry.
While urging the Federal Government to suspend the planned tariff increase which is scheduled to take effect from July 1, 2020, the upper chamber called on the Central Bank of Nigeria to allow operators in the power sector access to foreign exchange for procurement of equipment and materials.
The Senate also urged the Federal Government to consider additional tariff support to cushion the effect rate shock over a fixed period to allow time required for TCN and Discos to access funds and implement performance improvement investments that will support increased tariffs to certain classes of customers especially during the pandemic.
The Upper chamber after consideration of the motion adjourned plenary till Tuesday, June 2, 2020.
Lawan specifically noted Senator Wampana’s active involvement in politics as a Speaker of the defunct Gongola State House of Assembly, a Senator representing Adamawa North Senatorial District and later as a Minister of State for Public Health during the Second Republic.
The Senate President said Nigeria will, no doubt, miss the wealth of experience which the Senator acquired over the time.
Lawan prayed for the repose of Senator Wampana’s soul and for the Almighty God to grant those that he left behind the fortitude to bear the loss.
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.”
He, therefore, described the situation as unacceptable, noting that the centre has to be fixed within the fastest time possible.
“There is no way that Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa with a population of 200 million, yet in the Federal Capital and the surrounding states – six 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 would be taken to.
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.