Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, last week lent his voice to efforts being made to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, a challenge that has brought all countries of the world to their knees.
In Nigeria, it saw the country wreathing in the pains of untimely deaths and economic hardship caused largely by global supply chain disruptions that forced a near zero demand for oil, the mainstay of the country’s economy.
Lawan’s contributions at the National Assembly (NASS) was one of the dominant issues that defined activities at the law making arm of government.
On December 24, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, promised that no Nigerian will be shortchanged in the distribution and application of COVID-19 vaccines when they arrive in the country.
He made the vow as NASS debated Federal Government’s N400bn proposal for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
“The National Assembly in consultation with the relevant agencies will ensure due diligence in the procurement and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine when they become available. This would ensure that all Nigerians have equitable access to inoculation against the stubborn virus,” he had said, in his Christmas message to Nigerians, issued by his Media Aide, Ola Awoniyi.
Given Senate’s oversight responsibilities, Lawan’s contributions can be viewed as a timely commentary. This is especially so, as it speaks to the need for transparency and equity in the procurement and distribution of the expected vaccines.
The premise for Lawan’s submissions are not unfounded. Severally, bureaucracy, nepotism and corruption have combined to make a mess of most government initiatives.
The Senate’s resolve to ensure equity, transparency and accountability must, therefore, be pursued with all vigour. Indeed, the upper house must work to clear all misgivings engendered by the mismanagement of the Covid-19 palliatives across the country.
More importantly, it is hoped that the Senate will adopt an all encompassing stakeholder approach as the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), led by Professor Innocent Ujah, has stressed the need for the vaccine to undergo a quick clinical trial before it is administered to Nigerians.
“If the vaccines come into Nigeria, we need to quickly do our own evaluation of that vaccine,” Ujah said.
His submission need not be taken for granted given wide claims that African countries were largely not involved in the clinical trials of the vaccine.
NASS MEMORY LANE
“Let me state once more for the avoidance of doubts that I have no more political ambition and will retire home in 2023. I did not print any poster and did not send anybody to paste any poster. Only God knows the intention of those doing that. How can one be talking about 2023 that is three years away when we do not own our lives? I am not even contesting for any office, talk less of the presidency?”
Answer: See end of post
Two other stories
On Hunters’ Council
The Senate, on December 22, kick started a legislative process to enact a law that will define and regulate the activities of various hunter groups in Nigeria.
The bill, sponsored by Biodun Olujimi, when enacted, would make hunters work in synergy with other security agencies.
“When passed into law, the Hunters’ Council Bill will ensure that farmers will go to their farms, plant their seeds and return home without fear. Traders will also carry out their trading and take the proceeds to the bank with the assurance that nobody will waylay them on the way.”
Olujimi’s initiative, as well intentioned as it may be, will have to go through the legislative crucible. First, the bill presupposes that there is no existing law that takes care of her concerns or that the existing one does not fully address some perceived gaps.
Secondly, the bill may have to contend with some foundational fears that it is intended to smuggle through the back door the arming of local vigilance groups who may masquerade as hunters.
Whatever may be the concerns, it must be acknowledged that the desperate search for solutions to the country’s security challenges draw from the inherent weaknesses of an over centralized system that now calls for a devolution of powers.
It is common knowledge that in some communities, especially in the north, farmers are now taxed by bandits before they can have access to their produce.
The threat to food security explains why in October 2019, the governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, called for the recruitment of 10,000 local hunters to fend off Boko Haram terrorists.
If Olujimi’s bill gains the backing of his fellow NASS members, it may just offer a symbolic step towards the institutionalization of the Agro Ranger concept which is currently being experimented in some states.
However, fears that the bill, if passed into law, will lead to the proliferation of light arms may just act as a spanner in the wheels.
Farah Dagogo, a member of the House of Representatives, on December 23, faulted alleged plans by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited to cancel a model secondary school project in Bonny Island, Rivers State.
The NLNG had in April 2015 co-signed a deal with the Rivers State government and Tianjin Energy Resources Limited to spend N4.5bn on the development of the school.
“What is N4.5bn compared to the exploitation, exploration, degradation and the gas being flared in that area, with its attendant hazard health implications?” Dagogo had stated.
“It tells you the level of regard NLNG has for the people, if a project of mere N4.5bn could be discontinued; a school project at that, in an area they make billions of dollars,” he added.
Dagogo’s frustration is well understood.
For decades, the Niger Delta region has lamented the destruction of its environment and means of sustenance by oil prospecting firms.
Even the much publicised Ogoni clean-up exercise flagged off by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, in June 2016, has been greeted with skepticism.
However, while Dagogo’s pursuit speaks to the need for local businesses to impact their operational environments, he would also do well to champion national debates aimed at enacting national laws that make for better protection of locals and guarantee sustainable development.
Answer: Senator Theodore Orji
Orji made the statement, on April 13, 2020, to distance himself from the campaign posters in Umuahia and Aba, Abia State’s capital and commercial nerve centre respectively, indicating that he is not contesting for the presidency come 2023. Also, to made public his intention of retiring from active politics once his tenure at the Red Chambers expires in 2023. Orji is a two-term governor of Abia State: 2007-2015.
By John Chukwu…
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