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.
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.