That HURIWA’s odyssey in mischief
Humam Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, a civil rights advocacy group, last week charged Nigerian lawmakers to give an account of the mandate their constituents gave to them. It went further to laud the Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, for an effective legislative representation by not only sponsoring several bills and motions but also promoting democracy for the good of the people, especially in his constituency in Abia North Senatorial District.
In the statement, HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, cited several bills and motions sponsored by Kalu as well as many beneficial projects he attracted to his constituency.
Truly, Kalu could not have done any less, being Kalu. He has always been dependable and a loud voice for the people’s cause, even before berthing at the Senate. As governor of Abia, he left indelible footprints, which the opposition has tried hard, albeit unsuccessfully, to erase, even after bringing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, into the fray.
However, this piece is not about the Trojan, Kalu. It is about the derailment of an otherwise beautiful assessment by HURIWA. Instead of stopping at Kalu or doing a holistic job, it went downhill by doing a seeming hatchet job when it rated Senators Frank Chukwuma Ibezim, representing Imo North, and Rochas Okorocha, representing Imo West, as the worst performing senators in the Ninth National Assembly. Why it chose just these two out of all the senators in the Senate, or South-east senators in particular, leaves much to be desired. What is HURIWA after?
In that statement, HURIWA challenged Okorocha and Ibezim to tell Nigerians why they had virtually ‘‘achieved nothing since their time in the Red Chamber.’’ How uncharitable!
This is nothing but a laughable odyssey in mischief. To start with, what criteria did HURIWA use in its assessment before arriving at its wonky conclusion? Moreover, it is evident that this suffered from a knowledge deficit because it is not based on facts, especially as regards Senator Ibezim, and that is why the challenge is very welcome so that the Imo North senator could present a little bit of information on his activities in the Senate.
Ibezim took his seat in the Red Chamber of the Ninth National Assembly, about a year and eight months ago, precisely on April 27, 2021, to complete the tenure of the late Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu. It is, perhaps, because of his sterling performance within such a short time that HURIWA is measuring him against Kalu, who has been in the Senate since 2019. Even his worst critics would acknowledge that this comparison is unfair, malicious and ill-driven.
In its quest to hurriedly run down a hard-working lawmaker in its invidious scheme, HURIWA deliberately failed to factor in the fact that Kalu is a ranking and principal officer of the Senate, who wields great influence and enjoys huge privileges. To expect Ibezim, a first timer in the Senate and non ranking member and having spent less than half of Kalu’s years in the Senate is definitely unjustifiable.
Besides that, Ibezim came to the Senate with scars of a long-drawn legal battle. He had to wade through 28 court cases, including tribunal, up to the Court of Appeal before he eventually triumphed. Two of those cases ended up at the apex court in his favour.
Added to this is the fact that Ibezim came to the Senate more than a year after Uwajumogu’s unfortunate demise on December 18, 2019, during which time the zone was not represented and could not even make any input into the national budgets. Consequently, Imo North was at ground zero when Ibezim took over the mantle of representation.
That, however, did not deter him, as he plowed into work to recover Imo North from the locusts that had eaten up much of its potential. It was unexpected because being a newcomer to the Senate, nobody gave him a chance to do much, considering also the many disparaging lies spread abroad about him during the electioneering campaign.
Ibezim attracted and completed the 60 KW Solar power in Umuchiaku, Ihitte Uboma Local Council – the first of its kind in the South-east; the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, in Nsu -the largest in the geopolitical zone; 5km erosion control road; 4km erosion control road at Ishinweke-Lowa; 3km Umualumaku road; maintenance of old Okigwe-Umuahia road, etc. He has also ensured the Federal Government’s involvement through the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, FERMA, in the construction and maintenance of certain roads through the intervention of the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola. Not to be left out are the several kilometers of the road network at the campus of the NOUN.
Ibezim sponsored bills and moved motions. For instance, among others, he sponsored the bill on African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Domestication And Enforcement) Bill, 2021, and led the debate on the general principles of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Domestication And Enforcement) Bill, 2021.
He was also behind the Bill for an Act to Establish the National Research and Innovation Council, the National Research and Innovation Foundation and for Related Matters.
Leading the debate, Ibezim explained that the bill is neither intended to promote duplication of research efforts nor establish any new unwieldy bureaucracy on the subject matter of research and innovation but to provide the necessary legal backing to the existing National Research and Innovation Council (NRIC) inaugurated by the Federal Government in 2014, as the apex policy body on research and innovation in Nigeria.
To be continued tomorrow.
Anthony Iwuoma is a journalist and public commentator.