By Chuks Okocha
Last week, chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay was quoted as saying that the 8th Senate under Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki is the worst Senate in the history of Nigeria. He went further to state that the members of the 8th senate would be kicked out come 2019.
But. this his claim does not seem to be in tandem with facts on ground. As it is always said, facts are sacred and opinions and comments are free.
The Professor of law may have contempt for the 8th Senate but certainly, he should not muddle up facts with verifiable and historical facts.
The 8th Senate, like it or not, has distinguished itself with several achievements and landmark facts that other sessions of the Senate before it did not attempt to do. The facts on ground is that the 8th Senate has developed a practical formula with passion with which it discharges its duties. Apart from the maturity and the sagacity with which it approaches issues before it, the Saraki-led Senate has displayed a sense of transparency and care which other senate before it lacked.
We are all witnesses to the various interventions of the 8th Senate that restored normalcy in the system. A mention of few instances will suffice in this regard to at least assuage the likes of Sagay that the 8th senate is not the worst in history of the National Assembly. It is, in fact, one of the best.
The basic duties of the Senate, nay the National Assembly, is the passage of bills and motions that should guarantee good governance of Nigeria as a sovereign country.
And in this area, the 8th Senate has distinguished itself very creditably.
For years, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) has remained in the pipeline with all other sessions of the Senate unable to make a head way towards the passage. But it took the 8th Senate gut and determination to break the 13 years jinx and pass this important bill, but three other bills associated with the PIB are already at the committee stage. These are the Host Community Bill, Fiscal Policy Bill and the Administrative Issues Bill.
What is more, when the nation was gradually being over-heated over the introduction of a new education curriculum that tends to merge both the Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) and the Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK), it took the intervention of the Senate now being demonized by Sagay to restore normalcy by getting the relevant Ministry to act decisively.
Where was the professor, when the students and academic community of the Ladoke Akintola University of Science and Technology (LAUTEC) were languishing at home for almost two years due to protests against poor funding by the owner states. The intervention by the Senate has compelled the Osun and Oyo states to take action that will resolve the impasse in the institution. Also, this same ‘worst’ Senate got the Federal Government to intervene in the case of the death of two students of the Queens College, Yaba, Lagos, due to poor hygiene in the school. Today, the Ministry of Education is working with the Senate committee on education to provide more money for the improvement of the heath situation in the school?
Also, the intervention of the Senate stopped the plans by the electricity companies from increasing tariffs and continuing with bulk metering of houses and communities. The same Senate stopped telecommunications from introducing higher rate for purchase of data. These were actions that were commended by stakeholders.
It is on record that the timely intervention of the 8th Senate helped in the passage of the Peace Corps of Nigeria bill. The positive impact of the bill is that it would in many ways than one help in tackling the rising unemployment among youths. The likes of Sagay are professional critics. They are no problem solvers.
From Sagay’s understanding, this is the worst Senate ever. Yet, when you compare the 8th Senate with others, it would be seen that the present one has done the best even in the areas of passage of bills. The 8th Senate has passed a total of 128 Bills within a period of 26 months. While the 5th Senate passed 129 in four years. The 6th Senate passed 72 in four years and the 7th Senate passed 128 bills in four years.
In terms of direct interventions in the affairs of Nigerians, the 8th Senate cleared 82 petitions in 26 months while the 6th and seventh Senate cleared 6 petitions each in four years.
Unlike in other sessions of the Senate, the 8th Senate passed a comprehensive INEC Reform Bill within its first two years. This is significant because it gives enough time for the implementation of the amended law to serve the electoral needs of the country. In other sessions of the Senate, the electoral laws were amended close to elections.
Since 2010, several unsuccessful attempts were made to review the 1999 constitution. Some failed due to lack of the right strategy. Others failed because of partisan considerations emanating from both the legislature and the executive arm. This time around, the Constitution Review Process have been concluded in the National Assembly. Now, there is enough time for State Houses of Assemblies and the Presidency to play their own part.
Before now, several Nigerian youths and civil society groups have always gathered at the National Assembly gate urging the National Assembly to make open the details of its budget. The #OpenNASS# hashtag was then popular. At that time, pessimists like Sagay found in these campaigners a veritable tool to destabilise the activities of the National Assembly.
But the National Assembly has since taken the sail out of the wings of the campaigns by making public the line by line details of its budget. This open budget is perhaps the first in the last one decade. Yet, Sagay still believes the present Senate is the worst in history. This conclusion may be a result of his jaundiced sense of history.
The present Senate has done more to help the national economy grow out of the present recession and to modernize the economy by using laws to make it comply with international best practices. Many laws in the statute books that have been outdated have been revisited. This included the Railways Act which has not been touched in the last 60 years and the Customs Act which has not been amended in decades.
The amendment of the Public Procurement Act to make it compulsory for Ministries, Departments and Agencies to patronize Made in Nigerian goods is aimed at ensuring that the trillions of money devoted to government procurement are spent in Nigeria and used to grow local industries and create employment.
With all these achievements, Sagay must be coming from the moon to pass the judgement which are definitely not supported by facts. If there is anything the PACAC chairman has against the Senate aside its performance, he should find a way to resolve the issues. The Professor by his blanket condemnation is only cheapening his calling.
– Okocha (Special Assistant on Print Media to Senate President)