Lawmakers in Nigeria resumed from their recess and called on President Goodluck Jonathan to declare total war on insurgency in the north east, insisting that the acts of terrorism must be brought to an end.
While the lawmakers were away, the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, battled with Nigerian Army in some states in the north-east.
Also, while they were away, the dreaded Ebola Virus was confirmed in Nigeria, leaving so much for the lawmakers to handle on resumption.
The lawmakers called for a national honour for the female doctor, Ameyo Adedevoh, who died from the Ebola Virus while treating patients infected with the virus.
They resumed this week but they had their hands full, as they sort to attend to national issues that emerged while they were on a long recess.
The Gavel this week looks at the parliament’s reactions to the violence of insurgency and the Ebola outbreak, which they commended the health ministry and health workers for their remarkable efforts in containing the spread of the virus.
The Senate President, David Mark, stressed the need for the growing atrocities of the Boko Haram sect to be tackled with serious commitment.
“The escalation of violence and the heinous crimes daily perpetrated by insurgents and terrorists including the declaration of a caliphate have reached an alarming proportion.
“The Boko Haram sect has become more emboldened and daring, killing innocent Nigerians and destroying property at will. They have declared total war on Nigerians,” he said.
He called for a clear and concise mission statement on how to win the war, insisting that security agencies must, as a matter of urgency, “fish out all the financier of the terrorist wherever they are and bring them to book”.
Some other Senators condemned the crimes, insisting that the reason for establishing a government was to ensure the security of Nigerians.
At the House of Representatives, the issue of 2015 general elections and the need to ensure that it was peaceful were emphasised by the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal.
He stressed that all efforts must be made to ensure the safety of Nigerians wherever they live, referring to the insurgency in the north-east which he said was threatening Nigeria’s unity and territorial integrity.
The resumption of primary and secondary schools in Nigeria was also considered by the House of Representatives Committee on Education at a meeting with the Ministry of Education.
The Presidential Summit on the State of Education in Nigeria introduced a revised nine-year basic education curriculum.
The new curriculum will see the introduction of some new subjects into the school system and also reduce the number of subjects for students from Primary One to Junior Secondary School from 20 subjects to 10.
This review is meant to strengthen the education sector more.
Well, the Senate was represented at the launch of the Revised Basic Education Curriculum in Abuja and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education promised that the National Assembly would endorse policies that would strengthen the education sector.
Everyday, pupils at the basic education level attend classes loaded with about 20 subjects, some of them obsolete for examinations. The school children and their parents overtime developed less interest in the bulk of activities.
But the Presidential Summit on the State of Education in Nigeria broke the status quo with the introduction of a revised education curriculum from 20 subjects to 10.
With the support of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) students can now improve their reading culture.
Educationists have embraced the revised school curriculum which is essential to aid development and appealed to the government to increase allocation to education in the annual budget in order to rescue the sector.
Federal lawmakers in the Senate and the House of Representatives have gone on a long recess, but pockets of activities are still going on in the national assembly.
The House of Representatives committee on environment is investigating the impact of non-adherence of some agencies to environmental standards in their operations.
But the investigative hearing did not get off well, as a vital member of an agency lawmakers were to interrogate was absent.
An investigative meeting between the committee and Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was stalled Thursday as a result of failure by the Director General of the agency, Mr Patrick Akpobolokemi, to appear before the committee and failure by the agency also to submit the relevant documents despite a three weeks notice.
The House Committee on Environment therefore gave the NIMASA three working days, till Tuesday August 5, to submit to it relevant documents pertaining to environmental impact management, environmental audit, and certificates for all projects carried out by the agency from 2012 till date.
The Chairman of the committee, Uche Ekwunife, said the agency’s action was a waste of legislative hours and a show of negligence on a sensitive issue such as environmental hazards and threat to human life.
The three-man team from the maritime agency led by the Director of Marine environment, Mr Moses Adewale, could not satisfactorily answer to the committee’s interrogation on the whereabouts of the Director General and why he was absent at the meeting despite the notice.
The committee members expressed disenchantment over what they tagged gross negligence on the part of the agency, saying the DG cannot have any other engagement more important than the meeting with parliament.
Consequent upon submissions by committee members, Ekwunife said the meeting would be rescheduled.
She gave the team until Tuesday morning to submit all relevant documents as well as for the DG to make an appearance before the committee.
The Nigerian Senate held a debate on the much anticipated report of a committee that looked into the alleged unremitted 49.8 billion dollars oil revenue.
After critically looking at the report, the Senate dismissed the allegation by the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), insisting that there was no such fund missing.
Many Nigerians will not forget in a hurry the drama that followed the allegation by the then CBN governor Mr Sanusi Lamido, now the Emir of Kano (Muhammed Sanusi II), that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) failed to remit 49.8 billion dollars into the Federation Account.
The war of words between the NNPC and Mr Lamido was interesting to say the least with both camps trading blames and levelling accusations against each other.
The Senate waded into the controversy and asked its Committee on Finance to investigate the allegations made by Mr Sanusi Lamido.
The committee organised several public hearings, interviewing agencies and organisations that may have had dealings with the NNPC during the period and later came out with its report which has been in the public sphere for some time now.
The chairman of the finance committee, Senator Ahmed Markarfi, gave details of the investigation at plenary.
He said there was never any unremitted 49.8 billion dollars and the committee did not see how the CBN governor arrived at the figure of 49.8 billion dollars in the first place.
The committee observed that that there was lack of proper and adequate coordination between the key government agencies such as CBN, NNPC, ministries of Finance and Petroleum, FIRS and DPR.
Lawmakers then debated the report, but the debate got off on a rocky start.
The committee in the report recommended that the subsidy regime be totally abolished.
But this recommendation was shot down by lawmakers.
The committee also recommended that the NNPC refund and remit 262 million dollars being expenses it could not satisfactorily defend in respect of holding strategic stock reserve, pipeline maintenance and management cost as well as capital expenditure.
This edition of the Gavel looks at the federal lawmakers’ discussion on the details of the report
The 10-month strike of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) also got the attention of the in the House of Representatives as they sought to end the strike.
Specifically, polytechnic lecturers went in strike on October 4, 2013.
The lecturers are demanding for proper funding of polytechnics, an end to the discrimination of polytechnic graduates among others.
The National Medical Association’s ongoing industrial action was also discussed at the Senate plenary.
In the video of this week’s edition of the Gavel, a member Senate Committee on Health, Senator Marjorie Okadigbo, expressed worries over the strike, stressing the need for the government and the medical workers to resolve the issues that led to the strike.
One major issue that dominated deliberations at the National Assembly during the week (May 12-16) is the state of emergency in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states.
President Goodluck Jonathan sent a letter to both chambers asking for the extension of emergency rule in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states for another six months.
In a letter addressed to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, President Jonathan said while substantial progress has been made to contain insecurity and restore normalcy in the three affected states, the security situation that necessitated the proclamation of the state of emergency was yet to abate.
This is the second time President Jonathan is seeking an extension of emergency rule in the three states. President Jonathan first proclaimed the state of emergency on May 14th 2013.
The emergency rule in the three states was later extended in November 2013 for another six months. But this recent request for an extension was not immediately granted by the national assembly.
The senate stood down the debate on the emergency rule insisting that they would have to meet with the security chiefs to assess the impact of the emergency rule that had been in place.
But even before the meeting with service chiefs, the caucus of northern lawmakers has made their position clear that they would not be voting in support of an extension of emergency rule.
The Senate did in fact meet behind closed doors with the service chiefs and would be voting on the extension of emergency rule next week.
Meanwhile in the House of Representatives, the debate on the extension was intense to say the least.
Lawmakers said the decision over an extension of emergency rule would be tough as the arguments against it are strong despite the many voices in its favor.
The argument in favor of the extension was that it would send wrong signals if the state of emergency is lifted now that strong support has been offered by the international community to tackle the insurgency in the area.
However most lawmakers from Borno and Yobe rejected the request saying the state of emergency has not achieved its purpose as the massacre and destruction there have continued unabated.
The House of Representatives met with service chiefs for more than two hours over issues surrounding the extension of state of emergency in the three north eastern states.
Despite what seemed like a unanimous decision, there were dissenting voices by some lawmakers who argued that it is unjustifiable and an outright imposition.
We had barely wrapped our heads around last Monday’s bomb blast at a motor park in Nyanya Abuja when news filtered of the abduction of more than two hundred young girls in Chibok Borno state.
The abduction of such high number of young girls in a state under under emergency rule is baffling and what is worse days after the abduction these girls seem to have vanished into thin air.
The security crises in the country have thrown up concerns of human rights violation by security agents and the Boko Haram sect.
Besides human rights violations, the crises have made many refugees in their own country.
The Chairman House Committee on Human Rights Beni Lar, said that the government has the duty of protecting the citizens of the country.
“We have had series of attacks in Nigeria that have claimed lives. Every citizens of the world under the United Nations convention has the right to life, the very basic fundamental right and the Chapter four of the Nigerian constitution gives every Nigerian the right to life,” she said.
She also spoke on how internally displaced persons can seek redress for abuse of their rights.
Away from the security crises in the country, the Federal Government, few weeks back, released the white paper on the report of the presidential committee on restructuring and rationalisation of federal government parastatals, commissions and agencies.
Although the Federal Government rejected some of the recommendations in the Steve Oronsaye report it accepted the recommendations of merging the Nigeria airways management authority (NAMA), Nigeria civil aviation authority (NCAA) and the Nigeria meteorological agency (NIMET)
The Gavel sat down with the Chairman Senate Committee on Aviation Senator, Hope Uzodinma, to get his thoughts on this recommendation.
He said that going by the requirements of various conventions Nigeria had entered into, it would not be possible to merge the regulator and the operator, insisting that the practice internationally is that both agencies would remain autonomous. “That is what is obtainable in all countries. Aviation is regulated globally going by the various conventions and agreements,” he said, explaining that the attainment of CAT1 status came with a condition that Nigeria must have a regulatory body and that there must be legislation.
The Joint Security Committee of the Senate for three days have been investigating the causes of the Fulani herdsmen clashes with farmers along the borders of Nasarawa and Benue states.
Aside from meeting the government of both states, the committee visited some of the communities affected by the violence.
While in Nasarawa State, the team held a closed door meeting with the State Governor, Tanko Al-Makura, who presented the committee with three volumes of previous government white paper on insecurity.
The Governor said that all the necessary information had been provided for the committee to aid its investigation.
Speaking with Channels Television afterwards, Governor Tanko Al-Makura said, “The issue about this skirmishes, insurgencies, fighting among ourselves or getting people’s houses destroyed, getting people killed are things that will not do us any good.
“Unless and until we find solutions to them, we will be putting our children’s lives into jeopardy and the future might be elusive for all of us.”
He solicited support for the Senate Committee towards achieving the target of getting to the root of the matter, but also advised that community based conflict resolution remained the best approach to solving crisis.
“The issue of bringing about peace should be everybody’s business”, he said.
Chairman Senate Joint Committee on Security, Mohammadu Magoro, also revealed that the issues of establishing grazing reserves had been raised but a decision had not been made on it.
Communities lying on the border between Nasarawa and Benue States have been left devastated after attacks by purported Fulani herdsmen.
In some attacks there was an alleged use of chemical substances that left people that inhaled it dead with foams coming out from their mouths, a development that caught the attention of Nigerian lawmakers.
The governors of the two states had promised to restore order in the affected communities
Also worried are members of the House of Representatives after a motion, describing the crisis as a matter of urgent national importance, was brought to the floor of the house for consideration.
Although a peace deal facilitated by the Nigerian police has been reached between both parties, the house would be interested in knowing how the chemical substances can be tracked before it spreads to other parts of the country
In the Senate, it was a week that saw federal lawmakers in the Senate bring up fresh proposals to amend the electoral act and the Nigerian Constitution.
The new proposals were in continuation of the amendment of the constitution which the National Assembly began almost two years ago.
Some of the bills had to do with the amendment of the Electoral Act.
Senator Abu Ibrahim sponsored one of the bills which sought to amend the electoral act to provide for elections to be held on the same day.
But majority of the lawmakers rejected this amendment.
Another bill, which was sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Senator, Ike Ekweremadu, seeks to amend the Electoral Act to provide for the tenure of the office of the secretary of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and determine voting procedure.
According to the Deputy Senate President, the bill seeks to grant INEC the latitude to use electronic voting system when it has the capacity to do so.
Another lawmaker is sponsoring a bill to amend the 2010 Electoral Act to put the burden of proving the regularity of any election on the INEC. The bill has passed second reading in the Senate.
If eventually passed, the electoral body would be charged with the responsibility of proving the regularity of an election before the election tribunal or court in Nigeria.
The sponsor of the bill, Senator Hadi Sirika, in his debate said the responsibility of proving the regularity of an election ought to be the duty of the body or organisation that arranged for the conduct of the election and thereafter conducted the said election
But another lawmaker, Senator Heineken Lopobiri, disagreed saying the bill is “at variance with the laws of the country”.
But when the question was put forward, majority of lawmakers supported the amendment and the bill passed second reading.
That was not all on amendment of the constitution and Electoral Act.
Producing A New Constitution
The senate committee which has been working on reviewing the constitution presented some new proposals at the April 2 plenary.
One of the proposals is to make provision for the president in addition to the National Assembly to initiate a process of producing a new constitution.
For years, some Nigerians have said the 1999 c onstitution does not represent the wishes and aspirations of the people, as it had more of military input.
Even with a constitutional review underway in the National Assembly, the voices calling for a new constitution have not quietened.
This is creating a window of opportunity for Nigerians to have a new constitution, with the chances that a new constitution might come as a recommendation of the National Conference currently holding in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
A matter of such significance elicited an intense debate for and against the proposal.
Other new proposals which were presented for amendment include alterations of section 68 and 109 to mandate the clerk of the National Assembly and State House of Assembly to notify INEC in writing, within seven days, of the vacancy arising from the death, resignation or vacation of seat of a member of the National or State Assembly.
Another proposal is to empower INEC to deregister political parties which fail to win presidential, governorship, chairmanship of a local government, area council or seat in the National or State Assembly.
Lawmakers would vote on these amendments on Wednesday April 9.
Lawmakers React To Judgement On Defecting Members
In the House of Representatives, the court judgment delivered over the matter of defection of some members of the house from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) to the All progressives Congress (APC) generated a lot of reactions.
The APC caucus in the house spoke to journalist about the judgement.
“None of their 37 members that defected from the ruling party shall vacate their seats nor cease to take part in major decisions in the House as partly ruled in the judgment by a Federal High Court in Abuja,” they said.
Minority Whip of the house, Samson Osagie, told journalists that Justice Adeniyi Ademola, who delivered the judgement, was merely expressing an opinion over a matter that was not before him and in effect meddling with the internal affairs of the house on which he is ignorant.
He however said the defected lawmakers had appealed the judgment.
The House of Representatives also took a stand on the matter after it arose from an executive session.
The deputy chairman of the House Committee on Media, Representative Victor Ogene, said the decision of the house was that no action should be taken on the matter until all cases in court over the defection had been concluded.
Representative Ogene said the lawmakers are not in a hurry to act and the speaker of the house was not under any pressure to declare the seats of any of its members vacant.
War and Conflict has continued to leave imprints across the globe, from Syria to Sudan, Central African Republic and even Nigeria in West Africa.
These wars and conflicts have left thousands dead and millions displaced, with women and children emerging as the biggest casualties.
It has become a threat to human race and tackling it has become paramount in the hearts of different country’s lawmakers.
For this reason, talks at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Meeting centred on peace and democracy.
Parliamentarians were reminded that, as the voice of the people, they must be at the heart of reconciliation and peace building.
“Parliamentarians need to be an integral part of this process in identifying priorities and monitoring progress, mobilising resources for development, enhancing accountability through legislative oversight and giving voice to the most vulnerable through proper representation,” the Director General, United Nations, Geneva, Michael Moller, told the gathering of lawmakers.
The Nigerian Senate President, David Mark, reminded the parliamentarians on the need to uphold the role of the parliament in addressing the multitude of challenges across the world’s conflict zones.
“We must remain vigilant as we strive to achieve peaceful co-existence between and within nations,” he said.
Nigeria is asking neighbouring African countries to collaborate to fight insurgents ravaging some parts of the nation.
Senate President, David Mark and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, held talks with lawmakers of neighbouring countries at the 130th Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) Conference held in Geneva, Switzerland.
The outgoing Secretary-General of the IPU, Anders Johnson, while explaining how lasting peace and security across the world can only be achieved through inclusive and participatory processes, revealed that, the IPU had sent trial observers who went on missions to talk to leaders in countries about how best to resolve situations involving different forms of violations of human rights.
Women In Politics
Women participation in politics was also looked into, stressing the need for women to take full advantage of the space created for women in politics.
Rwanda has the highest female participation in politics with over 56 per cent and Nigeria is still below 20 per cent.
Women in Nigeria were, however, urged to gear up and participate in politics.
The IPU also held the election of its Secretary-General, with Cameroonian born Marthin Chungong, emerging as the winner.
It is the first time in 125 years that an African was elected as the IPU Secretary-General.
The emergence of Mr Chungong is believed to be a good development and progress for Africa.
Challenges affecting legislative processes were also discuss, with court injunctions topping the chart of impediments to lawmaking in all countries.
How can this be tackled? The Clerk of the Nigerian Senate, Mr Benedict Efeturi, explains in the video.
Federal lawmakers in Nigeria have condemned the killings and destruction of property in some states by suspected herdsmen.
The Senate where there was a long debate on the matter, the lawmakers called on the inspector general of police and chief of army staff to work together and bring the culprits to book.
A similar position was taken by lawmakers in the House of Representatives, where the National Security Adviser was urged to investigate the matter.
The re-occurring cases of violent attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen in the north central part of Nigeria has been on the increase in recent times, leaving many people dead and many displaced.
On the floor of the Senate, lawmakers frowned at the issue claiming the attacks appear targeted at destabilizing the nation.
Lawmakers, during the debate, gave possible reasons for the attacks and the likely solutions.
The Senate mandated a joint committee to investigate the matter while the House of Representatives urged the executive to urgently address the issue of continuous attacks on citizens.
Nigerians will now wait to see the effect of the resolutions reached by the Senate and the House of Representatives, hoping it will bring an end to what many say is becoming another security problems.
Call For Probe Of Petroleum Minister For Reckless Spending
The lawmakers also called for the probe of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, for waste of resources on the arbitrary charter and maintenance of a challenger 850 Aircraft for non-official use.
Honourable Babatunde Adejare raised the issue in the House of Representatives’ plenary session, saying that the Minister had spent 130 million Naira monthly for two years to maintain the private jet used only for herself and her immediate family.
He said that the expenses were bridge of Fiscal Responsibility Act and all other laws of fiscal discipline.
These allegations against the Minister and other deliberations were captured on this edition of Channels Television’s programme, The Gavel.
In an effort to end the insurgency in Nigeria’s north east, the House of Representatives says it will do its best to ensure that funds appropriated for the welfare of Nigerian soldiers are properly utilised.
The speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, told a delegation of the Old Students’ Association of the government school in Yobe, attacked by insurgents, that the House would hold plenary on the issue of funding for the military to ensure that they were well motivate to enable them tackle the insurgents effectively and efficiently.
The Gavel also looked at the investigation of the National Assembly into the claims by the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) did not remit 20 billion dollars to the Federation Account.
The programme also looked at the budget defence by government ministries.
For two weeks the National Assembly entertained defence of budget for government ministries. A routine handled to ensure that monies appropriated to the ministries in the budget were properly utilised.
Also on the programme was the ground breaking ceremony of the second Niger Bridge was held but some Nigerians have expressed fears that the project was a political strategy by the Nigerian President and may not get the needed commitment to see to its end.
But a member of the National Assembly in the video made a defence for the government. Watch the video and see what she thinks.
The leadership of the National Assembly in Nigeria has cautioned members against heating up the polity with provocative utterances.
At the resumption of plenary in January 2014, the Nigerian Senate President, David Mark, expressed worries over persuasive political tension rising from fostering political disputes.
He said that the political class had been blinded by naked ambition.
Senator Mark said: “The political class has so painfully forgotten the lessons of our national history and has once again allowed the collision of certain personal ambitions to overheat the polity and undermine governance, coming at a time when our nation is still transiting amid tremendous trends and enormous social and economic challenges”.
He laid emphasis on what he called primordial politics at the expense of governance, saying that it is irresponsible and even dangerous.
“I have said this several times and even at the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me once again caution against provocative utterances.
“Here in the Senate, how we ride the challenge and not let it deflect our focus from our constitutional responsibilities and our duties to the nation would be a measure of our maturity as elder statesmen and women as democrats and as patriots,” Senator Mark cautioned.
Matter Of Serious Concern
The Speaker of the House of Representative, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, reminded the members of the House that the Legislature cannot afford to lose time as the House had a loaded schedule ahead.
He said that the reminder had become urgent given that the entire political space was already saturated with politics and politicking.
“However, as we have always maintained, now, more than ever before, is the time to remain focused on our legislative functions.
“I am aware that the time to spice our routine functions with politicking may indeed not be too far away, until then, however, let us remain totally committed to the execution of our mandate as the people representatives,” he also emphasised.
Honourable Tambuwal maintained that recent developments in some parts of the country, concerning civil liberties and the safety of lives and property of citizens had become a matter of serious concern.
He stated that the three incidences in Rivers State bore all the trappings of impunity which must be eschewed at all cost if Nigeria must continue to deepen its democracy.
The lawmakers had called for the redeployment of the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, who they said was contributing to the crisis in the state.
Two Rallies of the Save Rivers Movement had been disrupted by the Nigerian Police Force and hoodlums at different occasions, one of which resulted in the hospitalisation of Senator Magus Abeh, who claimed he was shot by the police with a rubber bullet.
The crisis had heightened after the defection of the Rivers State governor to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Thirty-six lawmakers of the PDP, in the National Assembly, had also defected to the APC, a situation that has led to dispute over who the majority leader of the house will be.
The increasing number of defections in the National Assembly led to the call for caution by the leadership.