Ex-US Senate Leader Harry Reid Dies At 82

FILES) In this file photo taken on December 8, 2016 US Senate Minority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks during his portrait unveiling on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  AFP

 

Former US Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who rose from humble beginnings to lead the upper chamber during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, died Tuesday. He was 82. 

“I am heartbroken to announce the passing of my husband,” his wife, Landra, said in a statement released to US media, adding he died “peacefully this afternoon, surrounded by our family.”

Reid, who used his experience in Congress to help Obama steer his landmark Affordable Care Act through the Senate, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2018.

Laconic and soft-spoken, Reid was born and raised in the mining town of Searchlight, Nevada on December 2, 1939, in a house with no hot water or indoor toilets.

A prize-fighter in his youth, he used his pugilistic instincts to work his way up to becoming one of the longest-serving majority leaders in US Senate history, and even called his memoir “The Good Fight.”

President Joe Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president and with Reid for two decades in the Senate, said in a statement his former colleague was a “giant of our history” and one of the “all-time great Senate Majority Leaders.”

“For Harry, it wasn’t about power for power’s sake. It was about the power to do right for the people.”

Obama on Tuesday made public a letter he had written to Reid shortly before his death, in which he said: “I wouldn’t have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support, and I wouldn’t have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination.”

Current Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, tweeted Reid was “one of the most amazing individuals I’ve ever met.”

“He never forgot where he came from and used those boxing instincts to fearlessly fight those who were hurting the poor & middle class.”

 ‘Skill and determination’

Despite his hardscrabble upbringing, Reid was elected to the Senate in 1986 and became the chamber’s Democratic leader in the 2004 elections.

He served as the majority leader from 2007 to 2015.

Reid often referred to his working-class origins — his father was a miner, his mother a laundress, and neither parent graduated from high school.

He hitchhiked 40 miles (65 kilometers) as a teenager to attend the nearest high school, then graduated from Utah State University and put himself through George Washington University Law School by working nights as a member of the US Capitol Police.

Quixotic, he once filibustered the Republicans by himself for nine hours, reading from the history book he wrote about his hometown of Searchlight.

Reid was more conservative than most other Democrats in the Senate.

A practicing Mormon, he was staunchly against abortion rights — a stance that sometimes found him working at cross purposes with others in his Democratic caucus.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Reid a “titan,” describing him as “a leader of immense courage and ferocious conviction who worked tirelessly to achieve historic progress for the American people.”

Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, said Reid’s rise from poverty to political power was a “quintessentially American story, and it took Harry’s legendary toughness, bluntness and tenacity to make it happen.”

Reid had remained outspoken and blunt even in retirement.

He slammed McConnell in 2020 for ramming through then-president Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney-Barrett just two months before the election, after having refused to allow a vote on an Obama nominee nine months before the 2016 election.

“He and the chairman of the judiciary committee — it’s just terrible what they’ve done… They are such hypocrites,” Reid said of McConnell at the time.

AFP

Senate Hints At Next Action After Buhari’s Refusal To Sign Electoral Bill

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

The Senate on Wednesday hinted at its next line of action after President Muhammadu Buhari declined his assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

While the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, informed his colleagues of the President’s decision via a letter read on Tuesday, the matter became a major subject of deliberation when the lawmakers resumed plenary.

Shortly after Lawan led the principal officers into the chambers and the commencement of the day’s proceedings, the lawmakers went into a closed-door session that lasted more than 30 minutes.

When the session was over, the Senate President briefed that the lawmakers deliberated on issues bordering on the workings of the Red Chamber, in particular, and National Assembly in general.

He added that they discussed how to respond to the letter from President Buhari on the bill, as part of the way forward.

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The Senate, in its resolution, agreed to consult with the House of Representatives in January 2022 when both chambers would be in session.

According to the lawmakers, the constitutional provision serves for the Senate and the House of Representatives to jointly take the appropriate action.

The lawmakers also resolved to consult with their constituents during the recess, since they have a role to play as major stakeholders in the laws being made in the National Assembly.

Apart from the electoral bill, the Senate considered the report of its Committee on Appropriations on the 2022 Appropriation Bill, presented by Senator Barau Jibrin.

Senator Jibrin moved that the Senate do receive and consider the report of the committee, and this was seconded by Senator Stella Oduah.

After the lawmakers deliberated on the bill, Senator Barau Jibrin laid and presented the report. Thereafter, the 2022 Appropriation Bill, 2021 (SB. 829) was read the third time and passed.

“This is one of our greatest legacies by the grace of God, bringing back the budget cycle to that desirable and repeatable January to December budget cycle,” said Senator Lawan.

“We promised Nigerians in 2019 that this Senate and indeed the National Assembly will bring back that cycle of the budget so that our economy is better influenced and supported. We thank God Almighty for making it possible for us to achieve that in 2020, 2021, and 2022 budgets that we have done.”

Electoral Bill: Again, Senate Holds Closed-Door Session, Awaits Reps For Next Move

File photo of some lawmakers during plenary in the Senate chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja.

 

Senators resumed plenary on Wednesday with another closed-door session discussing President Muhamadu Buhari’s veto on the Electoral Act Amendment bill.

The closed-door session was held for a few minutes.

At the end of the session, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the lawmakers discussed President Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.

He added that the Senators have decided to wait for their colleagues in the House of Representatives to resume before taking any action as whatever step they need to take will involve the House of Representatives.

He also said the Senate will consult with their constituents and other stakeholders during the Christmas and New Year break.

Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives are currently on holiday and their sitting has been adjourned till January next year.

READ ALSO: Buhari’s Letter Declining Assent To Electoral Act Amendment Bill Read At NASS

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila in a speech to the lawmakers on Tuesday in Abuja to mark the adjournment of the House for the Christmas and New Year break said the House will address the matter in January 2022.

Gbajabiamila explained that the time was short to address the sensitive issue at hand in haste because members were set to proceed on break, and they must pass other important bills such as the 2022 Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill before doing so.

President Buhari had withheld his assent to the bill citing the cost of conducting direct primary elections, security challenges, and possible manipulation of electoral processes by political actors as reasons.

The National Assembly on Tuesday read President Buhari’s letter in which he declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

The letter was read at both the Senate and House of Representatives plenary session, a day after reports emerged that Buhari had declined assent to the bill.

 

Veto or Not

President Buhari’s decline to the Electoral Amendment Bill drew reactions from various quarters.

While Governors such as Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti and Samuel Ortom of Benue State lauded the President’s decision, civil society organisations (CSOs) and some federal lawmakers were clearly disappointed.

A federal lawmaker Senator George Sekibo confirmed to Channels Television on Tuesday that some senators are planning to veto President Muhammadu Buhari on the electoral act amendment bill.

He said they have compiled 73 signatures to veto the President.

The 109-member Senate will require a two-thirds majority to veto the bill into law.

Senate Passes 2022 Appropriation Bill Of N17.13trn

PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE STORY: A photo taken on October 7, 2021, shows a bag containing the draft 2022 budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly in Abuja.

 

The Senate has passed a 2022 budget of N17.126 trillion against N16.391 trillion as presented by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Senate while passing the bill on Wednesday increased the benchmark price of crude from $57 to $62 per barrel, from which a proposed increase in revenue is expected.

The sum of N3.8 trillion is for debt service, N6.9 trillion recurrent non-debt expenditure while N5.4 trillion is for capital expenditure.

After the passage of the budget Senate President Ahmad Lawan commended the National Assembly for restoring the budget cycle back to January to December.

“We thank Almighty God for helping us achieve that,” Lawan said.

“Let me commend this senate for standing tall. We are rounding the year on a very high note, we passed the PIB and it is not an act, something that was not passed for over 20 years.

“We passed the electoral bill but we know there are some reservations, so we will look at it with the house of representatives. I am sure that this Senate and the National Assembly has done a lot in legislative intervention,” he added.

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The House of Representatives also raised and passed the exact figure on Tuesday.

The lawmakers made provision for 10 percent of monies recovered by EFCC and the National Financial Intelligence Unit to be utilised by the agencies for their operations, to strengthen their fight against corruption.

The budget deficit was increased by N98 billion to accommodate some other requests of national importance which have not been captured in the budget estimates and which could not be covered by the revenue increase.

Electoral Bill: Senate Holds Closed-Door Session After Buhari Declined Assent

A screengrab taken on October 12, 2021, shows some lawmakers during plenary in the Senate chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja.

 

The Senate held a closed-door session on Tuesday after President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. 

During plenary, the lawmakers discussed President Buhari’s letter to them in which he explained his refusal to sign the bill.

After the closed-door session, Senate President Ahmad Lawan quoted Buhari as saying that he declined assent over the direct primaries clause.


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He said the President reached the decision having received strong advice and carefully reviewed the bill and in light of present realities.

Direct primaries, Buhari’s letter read, will have serious adverse legal and financial consequences which cannot be accommodated just as the clause will have implications on the right of citizens to take part in governance.

Buhari further argued that the conduct of direct primaries will lead to a significant spike in the cost of conducting elections. This, he maintained, will mean a huge financial burden on political parties and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

He added that amending the bill to only accommodate direct primaries will stifle smaller parties, and thus not healthy for multi-party democracy.

According to him, this will throw up security challenges and it will overstretch security agents because of the large turnout of party members who will vote in direct primaries.

President Buhari added that the proposed amendment will give rise to a plethora of litigation, stating that he is constrained to withhold assent to the bill on the premise of all the points noted above.

Political parties, he said, should be able to pick how they decide to choose candidates for elections.

But the development did not go well with some lawmakers, prompting the Senate to go into another closed-door session.

This was after Senator George Sekibo requested that the house should go into a closed-door session to discuss Buhari’s letter.

He said that the Senate must discuss the President’s letter and take a decision on it.

Sources told Channels Television that some Senators are compiling a list in the chamber presumably to veto the President.

When the closed-door session ended, the Senate adjourned sitting to Wednesday, meaning they are not going on recess (Tuesday) as planned.

The upper chamber’s move was sequel to earlier indications that Buhari had declined assent to the bill citing the direct primaries clause in the Electoral Amendment Act.

The Nigerian leader, who argued that smaller political parties will be marginalised if the clause is allowed, also fears that with the prevailing security situation in the country, conducting direct primaries will be difficult.

But several critics, including Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, believe the President’s move is not connected to the direct mode of primaries.

Wike, a former minister, had earlier claimed that the President’s decision was due to his fears over the electronic transmission of result clause, but noted that Buhari has no reason to decline assent to the bill.

“The ruling party in their conspiracy is trying to deceive Nigerians that the mere inclusion of the direct primaries in the electoral act amendment bill is the problem why the President does not want to sign or why he has refused to sign,” Wike said on Sunday during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics. 

“The major issue is the transmission, the electronic transmission of results.”

Buhari’s Letter Declining Assent To Electoral Act Amendment Bill Read At NASS

A file photo of the National Assembly complex in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

 

The National Assembly on Tuesday read President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter in which he declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. 

The letter was read at both the Senate and House of Representatives plenary session, a day after reports emerged that Buhari had declined assent to the bill.

Before the letter was read, the Senate had gone into a closed-door session to discuss the content of the document.

After the session, Senator Lawan read the letter in which President Buhari explained the reasons for his action.

In the letter, Buhari cited the direct primaries clause as the reason for his decision.

He argued that the clause throws up several challenges one of which is the cost of conducting direct primaries. According to him, direct primaries will increase the Federal Government’s financial burdens because they are expensive to conduct.

Aside from the cost implication, the Nigerian leader explained that direct primaries will stifle smaller parties and also raise security concerns since there would be a large turnout of voters in such a mode of election.

Buhari added that political parties should decide the best way to pick their candidates for elections, noting that his stance was based on a careful review and consultations.

According to him, the move will also lead to more litigations by party members.


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No Constitutional Breach

The President’s move ends the debate over the reason for the delay in signing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

Critics and high-profile Nigerians had before now speculated over the possible reasons for Buhari’s delay in assenting to the bill.

While some believe it was the direct primaries clause, other like Governor Nyesom Wike claimed it was due to the electronic transmission of results.

Despite the debates generated before Tuesday’s reading of the letter at the National Assembly, presidential aide Garba Shehu had maintained that his principal does not need to explain his stance to the public following the expiration of the 30-day period during which Buhari was expected to sign the bill.

“And as I said, it would be disrespectful of the National Assembly, for me at this time, to say this is the content of the president’s communication, assuming that the communication has been sent to them,” he said on Sunday.

“So as I said, allow them to resume, I believe that the president will not act in breach of the Constitution. No, he will do what is right.

“The constitution says the president must sign within 30 days, the constitution did not say that there should be the disclosure of that decision within 30 days to the public when the disclosure to the National Assembly has been made.”

Senate Postpones Passage Of 2022 Budget

A file photo of lawmakers during plenary in the Senate.

 

The Senate has shifted the date for the passage of the 2022 budget until next Tuesday, December 21.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan announced this during the plenary on Wednesday.

The upper chamber had said it would pass the 2022 budget on Wednesday, but it appears the delay in capturing the financial requirements of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Population Commission (NPC) in the 2022 budget may be responsible for the failure of the senate to pass the budget yesterday.

Speaking in an interview with journalists, the Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Jibrin Barau, said the commission has met with officials from INEC and NPC to discuss the problem of insufficient funds in the budget of the government agencies.

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“We had a very robust and frank interaction with INEC and the National Population Commission in respect to the complaints we have had in different quarters about the inefficiency of funds that have been provided for them in the 2022 appropriation bill,” Senator Barau said.

“Because of the stance of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that these two institutions need to be properly catered for in terms of their funding, we all know the importance of election in this country and indeed the entire world, it is the foundation of every democracy.

“I can’t tell you whether it will be passed this week or not because we are still working on it, you can make your calculations.”

Based on Barau’s comments, the Senate adjourned the plenary till December 21, 2021, thereby foreclosing its earlier projection to pass the budget this week.

This comes as the NPC proposed N400 billion for the proposed conduct of next year’s national census.

NPC Chairman, Alhaji Nasir Isa Kwarra, gave the figure while speaking with the committee.

The committee said submission received from the NPC would be added to the one expected from INEC next Monday to be part of the report to be laid before the Senate for consideration and passage next week.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on October 7 presented the 2022 Appropriation Bill for an aggregate of N16.39 trillion to the joint session of the National Assembly.

The President described the 2022 Appropriation as the Budget of Economic Growth and Sustainability.

FEC Approves 20% Salary Increase For Police Personnel

President Muhammadu Buhari presides over a virtual FEC meeting at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa in Abuja on December 15, 2021.

 

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the review and upgrade of salaries of police personnel by 20 percent.

The Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi, said this on Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council meeting which was chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the newly renovated council chambers.

According to the minister, the review exercise is expected to take effect from January 2022.

Read Also: Gender Equality Bill Suffers Setback In Senate

Dingyadi further stated that the review is in response to the demands made by EndSARS protesters in 2020, involving primarily improved welfare for police officers.

He said the take-home pay will be enhanced through the duty tour allowance to 6 percent of their new take-home pay and approval of N1.12 billion for payment of outstanding uninsured benefits for the period of 2013 to 2020.

President Buhari had promised that the salaries will be upgraded commensurate to service rendered to further maintain peace in the country.

FEC also approved the release of N13.1 billion for payment of outstanding death benefits of 5,472 personnel for the uninsured period of 2013 to August 2021.

In addition, the council approved a tax waiver in the sum of N18.6 billion for junior officers of the police to increase the take home pay effective from October 2021.

Minister of Finance Zainab Ahmed, however, disclosed that the new salary structure has not been provided for in the 2022 budget and her ministry will await the outcome of the verification of the various computations from the auditor-general.

According to her, the outcome will first require the executive to pass a supplementary budget to parliament.

Gender Equality Bill Suffers Setback In Senate

A file photo of Senator Biodun Olujimi.

 

The Gender Equality Bill on Wednesday suffered a setback in the Senate as the sponsor Senator Biodun Olujimi was advised to step it down for further consultations with lawmakers who have reservations about the bill.

Senator Olujimi had tabled the bill for second reading in the Upper Chamber during the plenary session, stating that the bill seeks to eliminate discrimination against women and physically challenged members of society.

According to her, the bill will help eliminate gender stereotypes and harmful practices against widows, as well as encourage women to reach their full potentials.

The lawmaker also explained that the bill which was thrown out in the Eight Senate has been repackaged and the issues ironed out through wider consultation with stakeholders.

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But two of her colleagues, Senators Yusuf Yusuf (Taraba) and Aliyu Wammako (Sokoto), argued that the bill talks about equality between men and women which is against Islam and Christianity.

 

 

They say they will not support the bill in this form unless the title of the bill is changed by eliminating equality from the caption.

Senator Olujimi, on her part, agreed to change the title of the bill to now read Gender Equity Bill.

However, this does not satisfy some lawmakers, particularly Senator Yusuf who says he cannot support a bill when he has not studied the content.

He, therefore, requested that Senator Olujimi steps down the bill for another day.

A few senators, including the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, also argued that given the significance of the bill, there is a need for further engagements to allow lawmakers better understand the purpose and intent of the bill.

Frustrated by the action of her colleagues, Senator Olujimi reluctantly stepped down the gender equality bill to prevent it from being killed and allow for further consultations.

Buhari Nominates New Minister, Seeks Senate Confirmation

A file photo of the Senate. Inset: President Muhammadu Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the Senate seeking the confirmation of a ministerial nominee, Mister Muazu Sambo from Taraba State.

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, read Buhari’s letter at the upper chamber during plenary on Tuesday morning.

The ministerial nominee may be replacing the ministers of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono, and Power, Saleh Mamman that were sacked in September.

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President Buhari also asked the Senate to confirm the nomination of some National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners to replace the outgoing ones.

The nominees are Malam Mohammed Haruna from Niger State as the North Central – National Commissioner, May Agbamuche Mbu, National Commissioner (Delta State); and Okeagu Kenneth Nnamdi, South East National Commissioner (Abia State).

Also appointed are Major General A.B. Alkali (retd.) – Adamawa State, North East, National Commissioner; Professor Rada H. Gumus, Bayelsa State, South-South, National Commissioner; Mr. Sam Olumeku, Ondo State, South West, National Commissioner; and Olaniyi Olaleye Ijalaye, Ondo State, South West (Resident Electoral Commissioner.)

President Buhari equally sent the names of nominees of commissioners for the National Population Commission.

The nominees include Mr. Benedict Opong, Mrs Gloria Izofor, Barr. Mrs Patricia O. Iyayan Kuchi, Dr. Bala Haliru, and Dr Iyatayo Oyetunbi.

 

Bill To Amend Administration Of Criminal Justice Scales Second Reading In Senate

A file photo of lawmakers during plenary in the Senate.

 

A bill seeking to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and other related matters, has scaled the second reading in the Senate.

According to Senator Orji Uzor Kalu who sponsored the proposal, the bill will forestall the unjust conviction of persons by the nation’s judiciary.

“This bill seeks to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015, the sections contradicting the principles of fair hearing and court jurisdiction as provided in the Constitution,” the lawmaker told his colleagues during Wednesday’s plenary at the Senate chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja.

“This is to further avert some loggerheads between the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and the Constitution.”

The bill passed the first reading on June 30, 2020. It is the first time an attempt is made to amend the law since it became an Act in 2015.

“I hope we can agree that, with this amendment, we aspire to create a criminal justice administration legislation that is both more effective and more humane.

“By ‘more effective’, I mean that we should respond to crime in ways that produce socially desirable results—greater safety, less fear, less suffering, greater respect for the rule of law and less injustice—and that we do so efficiently, investing our precious financial and human resources in ways that maximise the results we desire,” Senator Kalu added.

“By ‘more humane’, I mean we should respond to crime in ways that recognise the humanity of those victimised by crime, those arrested and convicted of crime, and others who experience the ripple effects of crime and our justice system.

“This affirmation of humanity, as I see it, incorporates values we hold dear in our democracy, such as equal protection of the laws, access to the rights guaranteed by our Constitution, and our fundamental belief in the dignity of the individual.”

Ex-Senate President Joseph Wayas Dies In London Hospital, Ayade Mourns

File photo of former Senate President, Joseph Wayas.

 

Former Senate President, Joseph Wayas, has died in a London hospital, the Cross River State Government announced on Thursday.

The Second Republic Senate President who had been receiving medical attention for some time passed away at the age of 80.

Reacting, Governor Ben Ayade said Dr Wayas who died on November 30, left indelible footprints on the sands of time.

Ayade in a statement by his spokesman, Christian Ita, described Wayas’ death as a monumental loss to Cross River State in particular and Nigeria as a whole.

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“As a state, Cross River is in pains as we mourn the passing of our illustrious son. He was a rare gem. Dr Wayas’ demise is indeed a monumental loss to our dear state and Nigeria,” Ayade was quoted as saying in the statement.

“As Senate President, Dr Wayas contributed to the deepening of Nigeria’s democratic ethos through his robust and vibrant leadership of the upper legislative chamber.

“And since his retirement from active politics, the former Senate President had been playing a fatherly and stabilising role in the politics and affairs of our state.”

He commiserated with the Wayas’ family, noting that his demise is a collective loss and the pains a shared one.

“We are with you in this moment of grief. We have you in our hearts and prayers,” the governor assured the family.