As the curtain finally draws on the sixth National Assembly, the senators yesterday were almost unanimous in urging President Goodluck Jonathan to consider attaching portfolios to the names of ministerial nominees forwarded to the Senate for confirmation.
The lawmakers made this demand at the commencement of the valedictory session of the sixth Senate on a day they unanimously passed the harmonised report of the Anti-Terrorism Bill and the State of the Nation Address Bill.
Also the Senate concurred with the House of Representatives and passed its 13 bills in less than 15 minutes.
The session will finally wind down today. A new Senate would be inaugurated on Monday, June 6.
Senators took turns to deliver heart warming and nostalgic speeches, in which they played back their experiences in the upper chamber that was inaugurated on June 5, 2007.
In his contribution, chairman, Public Accounts Committee, Ahmad Lawan (ANPP, Yobe) pleaded with Senate president David Mark to ensure that the presidency attaches the ministry to which the nominees would be posted so as to guide the chamber during the screening exercise.
Lawan pleaded passionately that the era of ‘bow and go’ in the chamber should be abolished as such practice would not allow the legislature to correctly assess the ministerial nominees’ capacity to perform in their duties.
“The Senate is a learning curve for me. For the seventh Senate, we need to make sure that we amend the Revenue Allocation Act so that better development and growth can permeate the grassroots.
“We shouldn’t allow those who are not qualified to be screened and passed in this chamber. ‘Bow and go’ should be abolished today and we must ensure that the ministerial list sent by the president is accompanied with their portfolios.”
Chairman, Senate Committee on Gas Osita Izunaso (PDP, Imo) supported Lawan, and argued that the chamber should henceforth subject nominees to thorough screening.
“We should be able to screen ministers properly. Let their portfolios come with their curriculum vitae. We should screen nominees thoroughly by knowing which ministry these nominees are being nominated for.”
Deputy minority leader Olorunnimbe Mamora (ACN, Lagos) waxed philosophical when he declared: “It is finished! One thing is certain; I know that God is not yet done with me.”
Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Committee Chairman Abubakar Sodangi (PDP, Nasarawa) recounted how the legislature and the executive were always fighting in 1999 but that the National Assembly had grown and matured over the years.
“Some of us started here in 1999 and when we came, it was a trying period for us. We were either fighting the executive or newsmen were not friendly to us that time in terms of publishing our furniture allowance. We have, however, achieved success in amending the constitution.”
Outgoing chairman, Senate Services Committee, Effiong Dickson Bob (PDP, Akwa Ibom) told his colleagues he remained “very humbled about my experience in the Senate. In the Holy Bible, it’s said that there’s a time for everything under the sun.
“Some of us were privileged to be here for eight years and it’s time to exit gracefully. Mr. President, history would record that throughout this sixth Senate, the committees were as they were constituted; albeit with minimal changes.”
Meanwhile, as the sixth Assembly of the House of Representatives closes officially today, arrangements have been concluded for the official 407 cars and other office equipment of each member to be sold to them at about 15 per cent of the cost of purchase.
When the House resumed for plenary yesterday, the speaker, Hon Dimeji Bankole, called for a closed-door session which lasted for about an hour. After the meeting was over and the press was invited back, the speaker announced that, ”the House met in executive session and passed a resolution on the holding of the vehicles and equipment of the sixth National Assembly and it was resolved amicably”.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the lawmakers agreed in the closed-door session for each to purchase their official 407 cars which were acquired by the National Assembly for a total of N2.6 billion for about N850, 000 each. The cars were each purchased at the rate of N4.6 million in 2009.
One of the members who spoke to LEADERSHIP, Hon Annas Adamu, said that the move wasn’t unusual as the format for the procedure of the sale was received from the Ministry of Works.
He said: “There was a circular from the Federal Ministry of Works which served as a guide and what we were told was that we were going to pay for each car, based on the value and the procedure adopted, the sum of N850,000 or thereabout”.
On the auction of computers and other items, the lawmaker added that they had become personal items, hence the need to take them along with them as they leave for elected members to take over. He however stressed that all procedures were following due process.
When approached on the matter, Hon Yakubu Dogara, who is the chairman of the House Services Committee, which is responsible for all matters related to members’ welfare, declined to give specifics on the sale but said that they were still working on the valuation of the cars.
Leader of the minority Hon Femi Gbajabiamila explained while speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP that the cars were initially valued at N2 million each when the exercise was undertaken in November last year but quickly noted that since then the value has dropped.
“They did the valuation of the cars in November last year, that was eight months ago, and I am sure you appreciate that it has dropped in value again. It was only good for that time. We valued the car at about N2 million eight months ago, so I think they will do an evaluation again and give us a proper value of the cars and those who want to purchase them will do and those who don’t will forget about it. The most important part is that there is equity and fairness and nobody is going to shortchange anybody,” he said.
In another development, Speaker Bankole yesterday announced that the House will today conduct its valedictory session to signal the end of the sixth Assembly.