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Senate receives knocks over restructuring

By Seye Olumide
31 July 2017   |   4:30 am
The Senate has attracted the anger of many adherents of true federalism and restructuring over its rejection of the constitution amendment bill seeking devolution of powers...

Senate President Bukola Saraki

The Senate has attracted the anger of many adherents of true federalism and restructuring over its rejection of the constitution amendment bill seeking devolution of powers that would have moved some items from the exclusive list in the 1999 Constitution to the concurrent list.

Last week at the Senate plenary, the lawmakers shut down the devolution of powers bill, which sought to alter the Second Schedule, Part I & II of the constitution with 48 no votes while 46 voted yes, with one abstention.

Reacting to the development, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, knocked all the Southern lawmakers, accusing them of not representing the interest of their various zones in the National Assembly.

The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin said it was alarming in the first instance that the sitting of the Senate on Thursday 27th July 2017, where such a crucial decision was taken only had 12 out of the 18 Senators from the Southwest in attendance.

According to him, “This figure is appallingly embarrassing on a normal legislative day but is more of a treason against the people they represent given that an issue of critical importance to the region was on the table for discussion.”

The group noted that it was a sad day for the Southwest st that when the issue of Lagos -Ibadan rail project was debated and loan request approved by the Senator Shehu Sani-Committee on Local and Foreign Debt, there were only two senators from the zone in the chamber “even when our representatives were not unaware that the issue was coming up for discussion.”

Afenifere further expressed concern that: “It was learnt that it took intense lobbying by the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki to save the project from being stalled by Senators from other zones in spite of the persuasive argument by Senator Sani Committee that the Lagos-Ibadan project was a pilot one by the funders to see how effective we can be before approving the requests in other zones.

Said he, “Lagos Ibadan rail project is funded by loans from China sourced by the Federal government. We appreciate what senators of other region did to save the project when our own representatives were not available at their duty posts.”

He challenged Southwest Senators to explain to their constituencies, reason behind their absence or their gross dereliction of duty at the most crucial moment.

According to him, “The Yoruba nation has had quality and effective representation at the National Assembly in the past not to be shocked by this unserious approach to legislative duties.  We seriously admonish a rethink and more dedication to duty by our elected representatives.”

In another reaction, former President of Aka Ikenga, which is the think-tank of the intellectual arm of Ohaneze, an Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Chief Goddy Uwazurike said the decision of the Senate and the attitude demonstrated by some of the southern lawmakers showed that they were not on the same page with the people.

According to him, “Nigeria cannot continue the way it is currently constituted and the fear is we are either going to get there peacefully or otherwise if our government representatives refuse to face the fact.”

Nwazurike added that the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference had proffered necessary solution stressing, “the reason our lawmakers are reluctant to do the needful is unexplainable.”

Also faulting the senate, The Southwest Think-Tank (SWETT) knocked the National Assembly over what it described as the attempt to sideline the report of the 2014 Conference through its constitutional review process.

While it insisted on the restructuring of the country along regional line, the group said there could be no other alternative than to restructure Nigeria to true federalism.

Publicity Secretary of SWETT, Mr. Femi Davies said any attempt to circumvent the wishes of the people as contained in the report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference by any guise would fail.

Meanwhile, the Senator representing Lagos East Senatorial District, Mr. Gbenga Ashafa has defended the Federal Government’s loan request from China Exim Bank during the consideration of the report from the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts.

Ashafa, who is also the chairman, Senate Committee on Land Transport said it is imperative of his colleagues to approve the loan request, as doing it would be supporting the legislative agenda of the upper chamber.

He noted that there is a time frame attached to the loan and that if the loan is not approved by the Senate, the country stands the risk of forfeiting the loan, which would help a great deal in actualizing developmental projects across every part of the country.

“The legislative agenda of this Eighth Senate involves charting a new course for national economy by opening up the economy for greater investment and ease of doing business.

“Hence the creation of the National Assembly Business Environment Round Table (NASSBER) to identity priority bills that will aid in investment in the economy. The consequence of this is passing of several economic bills into law including the Nigeria Railway bill 2017.”