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10th National Assembly: Setting Agenda for the Presiding Officers

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By Mon-Charles Egbo

From every perspective, what shaped the events and activities leading to the 2023 general elections was a massive agitation for a regenerated Nigeria where everything is working for the good of all. The political parties, candidates and the electorate were unanimous that Nigeria must work “now or never”. The level of the expressed desperation, justifiably borne out of deep-rooted frustrations, suggested that Nigeria’s predicament must be addressed, especially now that it has mattered the most. By all standards today, Nigeria manifests substantially, every index of a failing state.

Though sharply divided along ethnic, partisan and religious lines, the Nigerian masses today are closely united by humongous hardship and suffering. No one is spared because insecurity and hunger as descendants of poverty do not recognize tribe, race, status and faith. Yes, in Nigeria today, “the rich also cry”.

But, as the only organ of government endowed with the mandate of ensuring that good governance is sustainably delivered to the people, a legislature that is alive to its obligations to the people is what Nigeria desperately needs now.

This explains why every attention is today on the quality of leadership as well as the policy direction of the legislative agenda of the 10th National Assembly. Equally, there is a growing consciousness that tends to take away from the lawmakers-elect, their exclusive rights and priviledges about electing their presiding officers without external influence. Most Nigerians now want to have a say in the process just to achieve an expected outcome.

Similarly, political parties and lawmakers-elect have since been strategizing on how to have their ways, the same manner the number of those aspiring to lead is increasing by the day. The campaigns and horse trading have since shifted away from the conventional precincts of the national assembly to sundry places for critical decisions. The media expectedly is awash with reports and editorials, even advertorials, on who is who and who gets what relative to the 10th assembly.

Yet in all these, the big question is: what is in it for the country, especially the already impoverished masses?

There is a need for truthful and direct answers because the country is bleeding. Nigeria is in dire need of a legislature that truly embodies the ideals and aspirations of the people. There is a conscious yearning for a national assembly that indeed reflects the desires and wishes of the Nigerian masses for a government that protects and supports its citizens. The expectation of every well-meaning Nigerian is a country where poverty, hunger, insecurity and all divisive tendencies would be remembered only when our history is written.

Of course, this might sound utopian but it is as realizable as it is achievable. All that is required are strategic thinking, leadership creativity and sincerity of purpose. And herein lies the greatest challenge for the 10th national assembly.

If it truly wishes to offer itself as a legislature that Nigerians can proudly embrace and own, then it is no longer about the traditional detailed and appealing legislative agenda that prove too vague and ambiguous to implement in the long run. Rather, the occasion calls for a pragmatic and concise blueprint that has the inert capacity to frontally tackle the issues of poverty and hunger in the land. It is no longer about political expediency but about patriotism and nationalism. It is about making a positive difference for the benefit of posterity.

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Thankfully, the incoming government won on the party’s manifesto which highlights these issues, albeit elaborately. So it will not be difficult to secure the buy-in of the executive arm and other stakeholders. Again, the Ahmad Lawan-led 9th national assembly has graciously provided a veritable platform for the attainment of a Nigeria that works for the good of the people.

Hence, the 10th national assembly already has its job cut out for them. The leadership already has the direction and focus. The legislators-elect already have all the necessary resources for excellence in delivering good governance to the people. Once again, it requires the right mix of strategic thinking, leadership creativity and sincerity of purpose.

To begin with and by way of consolidating on some of the successes of the 9th Senate, it becomes imperative to focus primarily on sets of legislation that directly address the growing hunger, poverty and insecurity in the land, rather than seeking to churn out numerous bills that in the end make little or no difference on the daunting challenges on ground. Succinctly put, any motion or bill that is not speaking directly to the prevailing hunger, poverty and insecurity in the land should not be entertained except in peculiar circumstances. Even the all-important 1999 constitution alteration should be driven by the desires for national economic revitalization.

In the same vein and using the archives, there is a need to identify and isolate relevant reports of past legislative interventions that have direct bearings on the economy, for outright implementations. Some of them border on the power sector, NDDC, education, national social investments programme, insecurity, institutional reforms, etc.

And then towards plugging every form of economic leakage, all the revenue-generating bodies should be brought under intensive and extensive legislative spotlight until sustainable transparency and accountability are attained, possibly in collaboration with technocrats and experts as consultants.

Furthermore, there should be a forensic sectoral review of the federal bureaucracy to determine certain ministerial departments and agencies that actually deserve zero budgetary allocations beyond personnel costs. This is to eliminate the perennial complacency in governance which has become the bane of national development. Also, there should be periodic legislative roundtables on employment generation and wealth creation. Again and without being confrontational or compromising the relative independence of the legislature, the 10th national assembly will indeed become a reference point in legislative excellence if it gets the president to demonstrate profound political will in inaugurating the public procurement council and also resolving the petroleum subsidy debacle in a dispassionate manner that the masses are not further impoverished. These two thorny subjects are both critical and strategic to Nigeria’s quest for a vibrant economy. Among others, they constitute the two major channels for the propagation of economic sabotage, of which the Lawan-led 9th assembly in all fairness slated them for attention which unfortunately could not materialize.

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Meanwhile, it is instructive that to easily track progress in all these, there has to be in place, a dynamic framework highlighting the established goals with plans and timelines as well as the key performance indicators (KPIs) for achieving them. This will certainly engender sustainable unity of purpose and commitment to a shared vision among the lawmakers.

Also of paramount importance, nothing meaningful can be achieved if the 10th national assembly is not in harmony with its internal and external environments. As such, there shall be a deliberate policy towards institutional rebranding or repositioning aimed at repairing and or, improving the image and reputation of the national assembly.

It does not require formal research to agree that the national assembly is presently being poorly perceived by the public. Sequel to limited knowledge of the workings and roles of the legislature and also the actions and inactions of the past assemblies in addition to elitist orchestrations in most cases, this institution is currently overshadowed by the combined effects of ignorance, apathy, prejudice and hostility, despite landmark accomplishments over time. Hence towards this dimension equally, there has to be in place a robust strategic public communication framework ensuring that every legislative output is publicised highlighting its inherent good governance implications, and especially in alignment with the constitutional roles and responsibilities of the legislature.

And also to earn public acceptance and goodwill for optimal performance, there has to be a quarterly specialized publication and an audio-visual documentaries for public enlightenment and reorientation on the core duties of the legislature as well as accounts of stewardship. And to facilitate the campaign, the presiding officers should be accessible to the media through regular no-holds-barred interviews with practitioners. These are necessary because if you don’t tell your own story, others will do it for you the way it suits them, and also, people judge you based on what they know about you. It thus means that the 10th national assembly should seek to make transparency its watchword. It should not leave the public to resort to unnecessary assumptions concerning the workings of the legislature. All the misrepresentations, either deliberate or ignorantly, have to be corrected. This is what reputation management entails. Lawmakers do not award contracts. They do not generate employment. They do not share money among themselves. They do not control the national budget or have access to the national vault. They do not earn outrageous salaries. They are the representatives who guide the people to good governance. They should not be compared with the governors, ministers and council chairmen. There could be corrupt individuals but as an institution, the national assembly does not condone but expose corruption.

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Again, there should be a mechanism to ensure that every legislator maintains a functional constituency office and also will be presenting a quarterly report of their regular interface with the constituents. This is to ensure that the streamlined views and needs of the constituents are accorded national attention for integrated and ordered development.

Then above all, the 10th national assembly cannot deliver any good or add meaningful value to governance if it is being undermined internally. Certainly, the narratives cannot change in an absence of a highly-skilled and motivated workforce. Elsewhere, legislative staff do not complain for any reason. They are recognized and treated as critical stakeholders in the legislative business. There is always for them, an environment for operational efficiency. They are regularly trained, equipped with the right tools and adequately remunerated. But sadly, the Nigerian story is utterly discouraging. Is it not the height of national embarrassment for the workers of Nigeria’s bastion of democracy to openly protest and embark on strike actions consistently over poor working conditions? It is even more disappointing when the specialized support staff otherwise known as legislative aides, grumble and groan.

The ultimate effect is always poor output that hurts corporate image and reputation.

For example, each time there is a presidential decline of assent on bills from the national assembly, the reason is mostly cited as “poor legislative drafting”.

As such, workers’ welfare and well-being deserve topmost priority if legislative excellence is the ultimate goal. After all, charity as we say, begins at home.

From the foregoing, therefore, it is expected that anyone aspiring to become a presiding officer in the 10th national assembly should demonstrate a proven commitment to benchmarked performance in directly confronting the escalating poverty, hunger and insecurity in the land. In this regard, they should present to the Nigerian public their service charter or social contract with the masses, accompanied by plans and timelines for their actualization within the life of the assembly. They should show a willingness to be accountable always. It is no longer about political correctness. It is not about tribe and religion. It is not even about gender. It is about sincere leadership and service. It is about empathy. It is about antecedence. It is about conscience. Even if the choice is informed by consensus, it is about capacity, character and competence. It is about our common prosperity as a people, towards a Nigeria “where peace and justice shall reign”. So, may we not bungle this opportunity!

Egbo is the print media aide to the president of the senate

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General News

First Lady Calls for Gender Parity, Applauds APC Initiatives, and Encourages West Africa to Follow Nordic Models

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By Iyojo Ameh

Nigeria’s First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, has recognized the substantial barriers that women in the West African sub-region face in achieving gender parity.

Speaking at the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA) event at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja on Monday, 22 July 2024, Tinubu emphasized the need for women’s active participation in politics, stating:

“Despite progress, significant barriers still exist. We must rethink women’s proportional representation in governance.”

Tinubu commended the All Progressives Congress (APC) for removing financial barriers for women in politics and highlighted the success of gender quotas in countries like Sweden, Norway, and Spain, which have led to more inclusive governance. She urged governments to enforce gender quotas through legal frameworks and monitoring systems, saying:

“Governments must take the bold step to kickstart the journey to an enduring democracy of quality representation.”

The First Lady expressed confidence in Nigerian women’s abilities, stating:

“Nigerian women are smart and intelligent and can work alongside our male counterparts, without friction, for the good and development of our country.”

She thanked ECOFEPA for its commitment to achieving 30% women representation in parliament, saying:

“The journey towards achieving 30% women representation in our parliament is achievable once we take the bold step to kickstart the journey to an enduring democracy of quality representation.”

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General News

TIME TO STAND TOGETHER

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By Sen. Ahmad I. Lawan, Ph.D, GCON

In these difficult times facing our beloved nation, Nigeria, we stand at a critical juncture where the weight of history rests squarely upon our shoulders. As leaders, we have individual and collective duties and responsibilities to safeguard the future of our country and ensure its prosperity. In the face of mounting economic challenges that threaten to undermine our national unity and progress, it is imperative that we unite and rally behind our President, regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity, or religious beliefs. It is time to set aside our differences and work together to build a prosperous future for us all.

Nigeria’s economy has been plagued by a myriad of problems, including high inflation, unemployment, and a widening income gap. President Tinubu, upon assuming office on May 29, 2023, had pledged to prioritize economic growth and job creation through a series of bold and innovative policies captured under the ‘Renewed Hope Agenda’. He backed these up by investing heavily in infrastructure, making efforts to attract foreign direct investment, and promoting entrepreneurship. His thinking was that by creating a conducive environment for businesses to thrive, we can expand our tax base, generate more revenue, and provide the much-needed employment opportunities for our teeming youth population.

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Nevertheless, the economic headwinds that we encounter are not peculiar to Nigeria alone. The global economy has been severely impacted by a confluence of factors, which in turn have resulted in supply chain disruptions in the demand for crude oil, our country’s major source of revenue. These external forces have exacerbated pre-existing economic vulnerabilities within our country, leading to rising inflation, unemployment, and falling living standards.

President Tinubu is acutely aware of the challenges and hardship that Nigerians face. His administration, to the best of our knowledge, has outlined a comprehensive economic plan aimed at addressing these issues in a holistic and sustainable manner that seeks to, amongst others, Stabilize the economy and control inflation; Promote job creation and economic growth; Improve infrastructure and energy production; Enhance agriculture and food security; and Combat corruption and promote transparency.

However, the success of any government’s economic plan depends heavily on the cooperation and support of its citizens.

In the face of difficulties facing the country, it is essential that political leaders come together at this time to support President Tinubu in developing and implementing effective solutions to the unintended outcomes that trailed some of the policies of the administration.

The nation’s future hangs precariously in the balance, and it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to prioritize the well-being of our citizens.

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It is disheartening to witness the petty politicking and divisive rhetoric that have dominated our political discourse in recent times. While healthy debate is essential for a vibrant democracy, it must not be allowed to overshadow the urgent task of addressing the plight of our people.

The hardship that Nigerians endure is palpable. Skyrocketing inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the average citizen, leaving many struggling to put food on the table.

It is, therefore, imperative that as leaders, we all put aside partisan differences and work together in the national interest. By collaborating with President Tinubu, political leaders and stakeholders alike can pool ideas and expertise to come up with innovative solutions to Nigeria’s economic challenges.

Moreover, we all should be willing to make tough decisions and sacrifices for the greater good of the country. This may involve implementing unpopular reforms or policies, but these are essential in order to secure a better future for all Nigerians.

Although the federal government has announced the distribution of 20 trucks of rice to every state, which, in my opinion is a step in the right direction. But, I must point out that the quantity of foodstuffs needed in Nigeria today requires expeditious and massive supply by the FGN to address issues of both availability and affordability.

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President Tinubu cannot succeed in achieving this alone. He needs the support of governors, lawmakers, and local government officials. He needs the cooperation of the private sector and civil society organizations. And most importantly, he needs the patriotism of all Nigerians.

We must all be willing to compromise and find common ground, even if it requires us to step outside of our comfort zones.

The spirit of patriotism that once defined Nigeria must be rekindled. It is a spirit that transcends ethnicity, religion, and political affiliation. It is a spirit that puts the interests of the nation above all else.

By working together as leaders, we can overcome the country’s challenges and set it on a path towards sustainable development, growth and prosperity. It is my hope that we all rise to the occasion and support President Tinubu in his efforts to build a stronger and more vibrant economy; and a secured, stable and peaceful nation.

We are stronger together.

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Crime

Shitile Integrity Group Condemns Attacks on Harga, urges Govt.to Improve security in Sankara

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Shitile Integrity Group (SIG),a social -cultural group of Shitile sons in diaspora have condemned in strongest term, the incessant attacks on Harga, a community in Katsina -Ala Local Government Area of Benue State where several innocent residents have been killed, including the recent attack which about 18 defenceless citizens were gruesomely murdered in cold blood ,at the early hours of Saturday, 20th July 2024.

In a statement made available to the Citypost, Hon. Ben Ukeji
Ivaan I Ayange Tsanyi,
President, SIG group says the continuous tergeted attacks on Harga ,and other places in Shitile land is an indication of a complete breakdown of law and order, and urges government at all levels to step up security around Shitile, and indeed Sankera axis to protect lives and property .

Jeremy Bentham, says the essence of government is utilitarianism .

SIG bemoans the manner where lives of their kinsmen are brazenly wasted in a horrendous manner and called on the government to ensure that perpetrators of the heinous crime are made to face the full wrath of the law.

The statement reads in parts: “We condemned in its enterity ,this act of barbarism where innocent people are slaughtered, murdered like animals within Shitile land . This shameful, inhumane , criminal behavior
have continued unabated for some years leading to herriofic deaths as well as the destruction of socioeconomic and educational activities.”

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“We also want to state emphatically that, such acts are inhumane , ungodly, and must stop now!

SIG, note with utmost dismay, the violation of all international protocols and municipal law, especially the fourth (4 ) Geneva convention of 1949 which protects Civilians and civil objects from harm even in a war situation, talkeless of peace time .

“It is therefore, surprising to us that innocent blood of peaceful citizens is being wasted without adequate machinery on ground to contend the renigants .
We use this midum to appeal to those behind this murderous activities to eschew violence and embrace peace for the growth and development of Shitile nation both in Taraba and Benue States respectively.
It’s very important for the youth to understand that, issues are resolved through dialogue”

“SIG wishes to commend His Excellency, the Governor of Benue State, Rev. fr. Hyacinth Iormen Alia, for his efforts towards ending the menace and urge him not to relent on his oars.

We are aware of the government approval for the deployment of a Police Mobile Force to Harga to quell the crises

While we acknowledge the many initiatives of the governor in this regard,we most respectfully request the government to seek for a wholeistic approach to end this wanton killings and distraction of lives and property.

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“We equally call on the” traditional institutions in Shitile and Sankera intermediate area to take necessary measures in conjunction with the political class, and other stakeholders towards bringing this sad narrative to an end.
We sincerely commiserate with the families of victims of the attacks , the Mbacher community, Shitile nation and indeed Katina-Ala LGA.
May the good lord in his infinity mercy ,restore peace to Shitile land “

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