Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Senate as an advocate, by Mohammed Isa

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Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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As in every democracy globally, each chamber of the National Assembly in Nigeria often uses the instrument of motions during its plenary to make legislative intervention in matters of public interest.

Though not as weighty as bills because it lacks the force of law, motions are designed for the parliament to advise and direct the attention of the Executive to certain issues. It has strong persuasive effect for the executive to take certain decisions or actions on a particular matter that is of public interest.

It is due to its required nature as an instrument of urgent intervention that the process of its presentation and adoption was simplified compared to that of a bill that has to go through cumbersome processes.

It is in line of this legislative duty the 8th Senate under the leadership of its President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki in 2016 passed a number of motions as its legislative intervention, particularly as they relate to exposure of corruption, wastage and leakages.

N25bn TSA Fraud

The Senate on February 25, after considering the report of its Committee on Banking and other Financial Institutions that investigated the alleged inflated deduction of charges on Treasury Single Account (TSA) passed resolutions asking the Federal Government to urgently terminate the 2013 contract between the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and SystemSpes.

Similarly, the resolutions saved the government of N25 billion which would have been paid to the platform provider based on the charge of one per cent transaction fee for all collections.

The Senate also asked the CBN to ensure the refund of the portion of the deductions already made on the inflate rate.

The Senate further directed that N656,504,100, instead of the claim of N7,650,925,566.40, be provided as transaction costs for fund transfers and collections for the period ending  November, 30, 2015. “The amount was arrived at using the upper end of the approved band of N700 per transaction for 937,869 transactions for the period between March 1 and November 30,2015,” it added.

N445bn Import Waiver Fraud

On June 6, 2015 the Senate, worried by huge amount of money lost through the abuse of grant of import waivers by the Federal Government, set up a nine-man committee under the chairmanship of Senator Adamu Aliero (APC-Kebbi Central) to probe all waivers, concessions and grants and review all such related policy to recover all government revenues and block leakages.

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After months of diligent investigation, the committee on May 24, 2016 presented a report with a shocking revelation of the loss of a whopping N447.4bn to import duty waivers, concessions and grants fraud from 2011 to 2015.

The Senate in passing resolutions on the report asked the Federal Government to recover N24bn from Olam International Limited (a subsidiary of Stallion Group) and Millan Group for exceeding the quota system granted them on rice importation.  It also asked the  government to recover N10.3bn from Dangote Limited, Kersuk Farms, Bua Group, Elephant Group and Golden Penny for violating the rice import quota granted them.

NEITI Report

The Senate on June 16, 2016 constituted an ad hoc committee to investigate the fraud and anomalies uncovered by the 2013 audit report of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). The report revealed that Nigeria lost over $9 billion in stolen, unremitted oil money in 2013.

Power Sector Probe

The Senate, on August 14, 2016 after adopting a motion set up an ad-hoc committee on power led by Senator Abu Kyari, to probe the power sector. The committee later discovered that over N2.77 trillion has been spent on power generation since 1999 with little result.

Abolishing Electricity Fixed Charges

In response to the outcry that greeted the introduction of fixed charges on electricity consumers, the Senate’s mandated Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC  to immediately abolish the charges, and bulk metering of villages and communities.

Humanitarian Crises in North-East

On October 4, 2016, the Senate established an 8-man ad-hoc committee on humanitarian crises in North East charged with ascertaining the total amount of funds that have been released to the Presidential Initiative on the North East (PINE) and probing of spending by the Federal Government on the humanitarian crisis in the North-East.

The committee in its interim report adopted by the Senate on December 14, 2016 indicted  the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. David Babachir Lawal for misappropriating over N200 million PINE funds. In adopting the report, the Senate called for the resignation and prosecution of the  SGF. The Senate promised to forward its findings and the incriminating evidence against the SGF to President Muhammadu Buhari.

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Another legislative intervention on North-East by the Senate was the allocation of N10 billion in May 2016 to cater for the welfare of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). That is apart from the institutional donation made by the legislative house for the upkeep of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Borno and Adamawa States.

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Alleged Illegal Repatriation of $12bn by MTN

The Senate committee on banking and other financial institutions is currently investigating the alleged repatriation of $12 billion by telecommunication giant, MTN, over a number of years from Nigeria without following due process and paying necessary tax in the country.

The investigation was triggered by the adoption of a motion sponsored by Sen Dino Melaye (APC-Kogi).

Non Remittance of $3.4bn By NNPC

Another ongoing investigation by the Senate is on the alleged non remittance of $3.4 billion into the federation account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The matter was also brought to the attention of the Senate by Senator Melaye.

Intervention on ASUU Strike

As part of its intervention mechanism, the Senate after adopting a motion moved by Senator Jibrin Barau (APC-Kano) on November 14, 2016 mandated the Senate President to intervene and amicably resolve the impasse between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff U Union Of Universities (ASUU).

Series of meetings with stakeholders convened by the Senate President resulted in the suspension of the already declared one week warning strike and created room for further solution and dialogue on the demands by ASUU.

Stoppage Of Proposed Hike In Data Price

The Senate, in a motion on November 13, 2016 halted the proposed hike in prices of data plan approved by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for telecommunication companies.

Resolution on Economic Recession

The Senate responded to Nigeria’s economic recession by commencing, shortly after resumption from its annual recess in September, a robust debate on the state of the economy.

At the end of the debate broadcast live on television, it adopted and submitted a 21 point resolution on actions that the executive needed to take to shore up investors’ confidence, create jobs, increase revenues and get Nigeria’s economy back on track.

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The Senate listed out 11 priority bills that deal with different parts of the economy to help end the recession. These bills, once passed and signed into law, will help to end the current economic recession.

Though not having a force of law, motion in advance democracies are treated with utmost respect and given priority attention by the Executive unlike what obtains in our clime.

To reverse this negative trend, the Senate recently constituted a legislative compliance committee to ensure that all agencies of government and committees of the Senate remain compliant at all times with all decisions of the legislative body, especially those contained in its bills and resolutions.

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Giving an inkling of what to expect from the new compliance committee, Its chairman, Senator Babajide Omoworare (APC, Osun), said “the committee would ensure that adequate measures are put in place to guarantee implementation of National Assembly resolutions and other sundry issues by government agencies.”

According to Omoworare, “the Senate Committee on Legislative Compliance was constituted in accordance with the provisions of Section 62(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and in compliance with Chapter XIII of the Senate Standing Orders.”

The Senate he said identified the need to constitute the committee in a bid to resolve “one of the most debated issues confronting the National Assembly since the return to democratic rule in 1999, which is the implementation of resolutions of the legislature by the Executive arm of government. It is in avowed determination to ensure that this matter is promptly and adequately handled that the Senate created the committee,” he added.

While inaugurating the committee, the Senate President said it was saddled with the task of guiding the Senate and serving as its monitoring and evaluation desk in order to restore and sustain the integrity of the institution whenever it acts. The committee is also to guarantee that Senate resolutions were not blatantly abused.

Mr. Isa is a Special Assistant to the Senate President on Public Affairs 

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