The 10th Senate inaugurated on June 13, 2023 came with their leaders often referred to as presiding officers. They are Godswill Akpabio, president of the Senate, and Barau Jibrin, deputy president of the Senate. The election that produced the duo was a hot contest involving former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Abdulazeez Yari; former Abia governor, Senator Orji Uzo Kalu; Senator Osita Izunaso; Senator Sani Musa, and Senator Ali Ndume, among others.
Immediately after their inauguration, members of the 10th Assembly hit the ground running, but not without controversies and misunderstanding from some Nigerians.
The first controversial issues the Akpabio-led Senate were faced with is the rejection of a proposed 40% of electricity tariff.
While some Nigerians commended the lawmakers for the rejection, some misunderstood the proceedings to think the Senate was mocking poor Nigerians.
The Senate, which seems to be sensitive to the plight of Nigerians by rejecting the proposal for the 40 per cent hike in electricity tariff, received knocks from some Nigerians for saying the poor should be allowed to breathe.
Senate President Godswill Akpabio, in his reaction, said people who obviously do not understand the legislative process that a presiding officer had to reiterate a prayer before putting it to vote were attacking them for their good service to Nigerians.
Akpabio said, “If you go right, they complain, if you go left, they complain. Maybe we should stay in the middle. But we care about the Nigerian masses and every action is for the interest of the country.”
But the Senate described as misplaced a comment by the Labour Party chieftain, Prof Pat Utomi, over the decision of the Senate to stop the planned increase of electricity tariffs which would further increase the suffering of the masses.
Chairman, Media and Publicity Committee of the Senate, Yemi Adaramodu, said the Senate is alarmed at the insidious misinterpretation enunciated by some political surrealists, who always leave the causes of their troubles to look for unnecessary scapegoats.
“The personal tirades and character assaults hauled at the Senate President by Professor Pat Utomi, are misdirected and uncalled for. Insinuating that the President of the Senate, His Excellency, Godswill Akpabio, was mocking the Nigerian masses with the phrase ‘Let the poor breathe’, is dressing falsehood and mischief in an undesirable garment.
“The Senate is an assembly of Distinguished men and women, who are sent by the Nigerian public to the Hallowed Chamber to represent their interests. The public-interest motion to halt an increase in the electricity tariff for Nigerians is one of such instances that tests the Senatorial responsiveness of Distinguished members of the 10th Senate,” the Spokesman said.
Another controversy that came up in the Senate in the last 100 days in office is the issue of planned military action in Niger, Nigeria’s neighbour.
Tensions were high, especially from the Northern part of Nigeria. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) whose chairman is Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had earlier in a communique declared that the member countries will carry out military action against any illegitimate takeover power.
But the Nigerian Senate declined to approve military action in the Niger Republic, with many, especially in Northern Nigeria, saying it demonstrated commitment to the independence of the Legislature of the 10th assembly.
The intervention by the Senate that led to the suspension of the Resident Doctors’ strike immediately after their engagement with the Senate president and the NLC/TUC suspension of strike after their engagement with the Senate President was a milestone by the lawmakers.
But a controversy ensued, with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) alleging that lawmakers pocketed N100 million each as palliatives while the poor masses were pushed to share a bag of rice.
The Senate said the allegation of a purported allocation of N100 million to its members made by the leadership of the NLC is strange, ludicrous and unthinkable.
Senate spokesman, Yemi Adaramodu, wondered what negative characters want to gain from their lies and falsehood against the National Assembly.
“There is no 100 million for a legislator anywhere. From which budget is this coming from? How, where and when? This is another satanic plot of a miserable gang of media and political dark angels, to bring the Nigerian parliament into disrepute and pitch the legislators against the Nigerian public,” he noted.
“We believe that the public is aware that popular democracy is an anathema to some unpatriotic political mercenaries, hence their systemic blackmail of the parliament, which undoubtedly is the sole democracy and sovereignty.
“We urge the public and especially, the Nigerian workers, to disregard these unscrupulous pontiffs. The legislators, who are chosen among the masses of the people, shall certainly be with the people and eternally for the people. The National Assembly shall not hesitate, henceforth to take constitutional and legal actions against these irreverent merchants of rumours and ill wills against Legislators. The National Assembly should not be taken as a political scapegoat.
“We don’t expect anything less from the NLC leadership, we only opined that they would place national interest above partisan nihilistic outbursts. If the Congress wishes to serve as the conscience of Nigerian workers, it must purge itself of catalytic political voyages that can truncate our democracy. We believe that Nigerians see this new unscrupulous advocacy as a comedy to entertain only the unsuspecting,” Adaramodu said.
Also, the sacrifice the Senate made by suspending their recess to screen and confirm ministers of the federal republic of Nigeria was another achievement the lawmakers were commended for in the last 100 days.
Out of the 48 names President Bola Ahmed Tinubu sent to the Senate, 45 were successfully screened and confirmed.
The three nominees that were not confirmed are Malam Nasir El-Rufai – Kaduna, Senator Abubakar Danladi – Taraba and Stella Okotete (Delta State).
According to Senate President Godswill Akpabio, the three nominees were still having issues with their security clearance.
The Senate suspended their vacation to screen the ministerial nominees through odd hours and non-plenary days – Friday, Saturday and Monday and they received commendation by some Nigerians.
The diligence in the ministerial nominees’ screening which occasioned the decline in the confirmation of the three nominees, according to some Nigerians, puts the Nigerian Senate on a strong pedestal of institutional integrity.
Also, the relative peace and harmony in the Senate immediately after the announcement of committees, according to pundits, is epochal in the nation’s annals.
Pundits say the traditional banana peels echo in every legislative vacation has not been experienced in the last 100 days adding that the vacation is seamless as well as it is robust across inter party relationship in the Senate.
While some complained about the prayers of the Senate president concerning their recess allowances, analysts say no legislative body in the world goes for its annual recess without allowances.
“Some of the lawmakers call this annual recess work period. It is a time they go to their constituencies to meet with their “bosses” to discuss issues pertaining to their areas which they can solve immediately.
“They also use the period to knock on the doors of their constituents, know their demands and organize media events. All these need funding and the lawmakers need their allowances to fund these activities,” a public affairs analyst, Bala Musa said.
After 100 days in office, the Senate must take its major functions of being the watchdog over other arms of government seriously, especially in areas of legislative oversight.
With the Godswill Akpabio-led 10th Senate now off to work with committees set up, Nigerians expect the members to keep the fire burning and exercise supreme political authority on behalf of the people.
On their part, Nigerians are saying the 10th Senate must not be a rubber-stamp for all actions and intents of the executive, especially arbitrary loan approval requests, in the national interest.
Nigerians are now yearning for a National Assembly that can ensure economic recovery because of the current harsh economic realities.
Pundits insisted that the 10th Senate is not expected to go the way of the ninth in being exactly on the same page with the Bola Tinubu-led administration at all times, but to be serious in exercising its mandates for the benefit of the people.A