By Ahuraka Isah,
Disturbed by incessant cases of killings across the country by suspected herdsmen, the Senate yesterday ordered the Inspector- General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, to arrest all armed killers masquerading as herdsmen in neighborhoods, forests and farms in different parts of the country.
Accordingly, the Red Chamber constituted an ad-hoc committee to investigate all cases of killings by terrorist elements who are masquerading as herdsmen nationwide.
Noting that it was a matter of urgent national security priority, the Senate declared that the culprits must be brought to justice.
Before the directive which came by way of resolution, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC Delta Central) had come under Point of Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rule, to draw attention of his colleagues to what he termed “a matter of urgent public national importance” during plenary session yesterday.
In the motion titled, ‘Need for urgent National Security intervention to stop the gruesome killing of Urhobos and other Nigerians in Delta Central Senatorial District and other parts of the nation by terrorist elements masquerading as herdsmen in rural communities, forests and farms”, he condemned the killings by alleged Fulani herdsmen.
Omo-Agege said, “Senate notes that historically, rural dwellers in Urhoboland and other parts of this country have always lived in peace and harmony with themselves and citizens from other parts of this beautiful country, including traditional herdsmen who are never armed with sophisticated war weapons and who go about their herding activities peacefully”.
He expressed worry that without regards for the sanctity of human life and any justification whatsoever, Urhobos and indeed other Nigerians were being gruesomely and extra-judicially killed in rural communities, forests and farms by terrorist elements and hardened criminals who are armed with sophisticated war weapons and who masquerade as herdsmen.
The lawmaker particularly condemned “the recent brutal killing of a young, vibrant, and popular youth leader, Solomon Ejoh, by terrorist elements/hardened criminals operating under the cover of herdsmen in Ovre-Abraka, Ethiope East Local Government of Delta State”.
He said the Senate was “disturbed that there is a mismatch between the consistent oral assurances by our national security agencies, more particularly the Nigerian Police Force, of their capacity and readiness to deal decisively with and arrest internal national security threats, notably the brazen killing of our people by terrorist herdsmen”.
Omo-Agege, however, maintained that “the Senate cannot watch idly where national security agencies fail to protect the lives and property of our citizens as enunciated in and mandated by our Constitution and laws enacted by the National Assembly”.
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over yesterday’s plenary said that Senate as an institution condemns in totality the act of killings and waste of lives and property, adding that governments at all levels and security agencies must wake up to their responsibilities to nip the problem in the bud.
…Declares Power Sector Operators Bankrupt
Meanwhile, hope for any possible solution in sight to the electricity problem facing the country dimmed for Nigerians yesterday as the Senate declared operators in the power sector technically and financially bankrupt.
Senators who spoke at the plenary of the Red Chamber on Wednesday said there was no solution yet to Nigeria’s power problem owing to the poor financial capacity and technical expertise of the operators charged with the responsibility of providing stable electricity supply at affordable rate.
The senators who spoke while contributing to a debate on ‘DISCOs, Electricity Consumers and the Burden of Overbilling’, sponsored by Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West)’ held that the country was on emergency because the current energy operators have no money to invest and operate the system, just as they are technically bankrupt.
While stressing that with the way things are, having a stable power supply in the country is an illusion, they lamented that the burden of overbilling being shouldered by electricity consumers in the country, even in the face of epileptic power supply by electricity distribution companies (DISCOs), was becoming unbearable for the masses in particular.
Senator Melaye was on Tuesday granted permission to present the motion yesterday after drawing the attention of Senators to the exorbitant estimated billings being forced on consumers by the DISCOs, arguing that “while we cannot have constant electricity supply, we are constantly inundated with bills”.
In his contribution to the debate, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce (PDP Bayelsa East) said there is no solution in sight as far as stable electricity supply was concerned in the country.
He declared that Nigerians have a catastrophe in their hands over the poor performance of the sector, even as he explained that those currently running the sector are both financially and technically bankrupt.
The lawmaker said, “They are technically bankrupt. Unless we revisit the entire privatization process, unless we understand and dissect what went wrong, we will still get estimated billing. They have no money to supply millions of meters required in the country, just as they don’t have the required expertise to test and operate the meters.
“We have a catastrophe in our hands; there will be no light in Nigeria under the current structure. No hope in sight, unless we revisit the process and try to understand what went wrong and bring in new players with required capacities.
“Those who privatised the sector did not imagine that the naira will be devalued from N160 to about N400 now. Those who invested in the business thought it was like a company where they will make a lot of money. I believe they only had enough money to pay the federal government and make the initial investment. They did not have the capacity to run a power sector company in a modern economy”.
Lamenting in a similar manner in his own contribution, Senator Bukar Mustapha (APC Katsina State), said going by realities on ground in the sector, the country is sitting on an emergency without any sign of immediate solution.
According to him, though the nation has capacity for generation of over 12,000mega watts, only 4,000mw have so far been achieved at any time out of which 1,800mw are paid for by consumers, making the providers to be in perpetual indebtedness.
He said, “The problem we have is the inefficiency within the system which we have actually so far not decided to address. I will give you a small example. Nigeria has an installed capacity of 12,522 megawatts of power. We have non-availability of 5,300mw. We have non-operational capacity of 3,180, meaning that the amount that is actually available is just over 4,000 Megawatts out of 12,500.
“We have transmission loss of 228 megawatts, we have distribution `loss of 447 megawatts. At the end of the day, only 3,800 megawatts reaches the consumer. And we have commercial loss of more than 36 percent. What is actually being paid for out of the over 3,000 megawatts is only 1,800 megawatts.
“So, unless and until we decide to look at these inefficiency within the value chain, there is no way we can have better electricity generation, distribution and also billing system in the country. This, to me, is clearly a case of the country sitting on an emergency and a practical way out must be worked out by concerned authorities before we can be talking of steady power supply”.
Earlier in his lead debate on the motion, Senator Melaye said the Senate was worried over “the astronomical rise in the electricity bills across the country”.
He noted that years after the privatization of the power sector, DISCOs handling the retailing and marketing of electricity have not been able to effectively meter their customers, thereby leaving millions of them at their mercy through estimated billings.
Security Forces To Enforce Use Of Pedestrian Bridges
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday urged the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to enforce the use of pedestrian bridges in the country.
This was sequel to a motion sponsored by Rep Johnson Oghuma (Edo-APC) which was unanimously adopted.
Oghuma said the motion was necessitated by failure of many Nigerians to use pedestrian bridges, resulting to loss of lives on highways.
According to him, in spite of the fact that pedestrian bridges were constructed to stop people from crossing busy highways, many Nigerians still endanger their lives by refusing to use them.
Oghuma cautioned that if drastic measures were not taken to enforce adherence, the trend would likely continue with loss of more lives.
He said, “The advantages of these bridges as safety measures for pedestrians can never be over emphasised due to the inherent danger in crossing the highways directly.
“Pedestrians still prefer to cross the highways directly rather than using the pedestrian bridges, thereby endangering their lives as there is little or no enforcement mechanism to compel pedestrians to use the bridges.
“If drastic measures are not taken to enforce adherence to the use of pedestrian bridges, the trend will likely continue and more lives will be lost through pedestrians being knocked down by speeding vehicle”.
The House, therefore, urged the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to protect the areas around pedestrian bridges by creating strong barricades.
The House also urged the ministry to provide street lights and shades on the bridges to encourage usage and to safe guard pedestrians from the sun and rains.
The House Committees on Police Affairs and Interior were mandated to ensure implementation.