YNaija Legislators’ Ranking: Abaribe, Akin Alabi, Omo-Agege top lawmakers’ effectiveness list for March

February saw a continuation of drama in the country’s apex law-making body as we witnessed deliberation on a bill seeking to establish an agency that would fully reintegrate repentant Boko Haram terrorists into the society, as well as another seeking to outlaw the use of generators in the country. Sadly, March wasn’t any different as it saw the green chambers of the Federal legislature commence delivery of 400 Toyota Camry Cars (2020 model) for its members. But it can’t all be negatives, there are positive stories coming from both houses.

An analysis of these key developments forms the background for our effectiveness ranking for Federal Legislators this March:

The terrible:

10. Bima Muhammadu Enagi (Niger South Senatorial District)

Nothing more worrisome came out of the National Assembly in the month of March more than the bill by Senator Enagi, seeking to outlaw power generating sets, better known as “generators,” in the country.

In a country where 95% or more households and industries depend on alternative power from generators for the effective running of their homes and businesses owing to irregular power supply, it is nothing short of irresponsible that the bill not only proposes imprisonment for a term of not less than ten years on conviction, anyone who imports or knowingly sells generating sets, but directs a stop to the use of electricity generating sets which run on diesel/petrol/kerosene of all capacities with immediate effect in the country.

Nigeria currently generates 4,000mw of electricity (approximately) but distributes about 3,000mw for a population of about 200 million and one can only wonder the amount of thought that went into the drafting of such legislation.

9. Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe East Senatorial District):

The former Yobe Governor is the brain behind one of the most ridiculous bills to have ever graced the floor of the hallowed Senate Chambers. Titled ‘National Agency for the Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalization, and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria,’ Senator Gaidam argues that the bill if passed into law, would ensure repentant insurgents were fully integrated into society and provided with education opportunities.

It remains a mystery as to why a sect that is ideologically motivated to reign terror on citizens should be considered worthy of being beneficiaries of taxes paid by the same citizens. Most worrisome is the fact that the very foundation of the ‘Boko Haram insurgency’ is anchored on the notion that the form of education Senator Gaidam proposes as a measure to rehabilitate them, considers same as abominable.

8. Abbas Tajudeen (Zaria Federal Federal Constituency, Kaduna)

Amidst vehement opposition to the controversial twin bills; Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulations and Other Related Matters Bill 2019,’ popularly known as Social Media Bill, as well as the Hate Speech Prohibition Bill 2019, it will certainly prove a lot difficult to phantom the exact problem Honourable Tajudeen was looking to solve while drafting a bill seeking to regulate activities of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) through a commission in a democracy.

Entitled “A Bill for an Act to Establish Civil Societies Regulatory Commission for Coordinated Regulation of Civil Society Organizations for the Purposes of Strengthening their Capacities to Promote Democracy and Development in the Country, and for Related Matters,” no one needs a prophet to spell out that effort to set up a Civil Society Regulatory Commission is nothing but an attempt to supress free speech in the country and subject CSOs to needless monitoring – against the spirit of the 1999 constitution.

It is common knowledge that the existence of the parliament as an organ of government is one of the most distinguishable features of a democracy, to protect citizens rights and promote civil liberty. Worse of all, such legislation amounts to unnecessary duplicity as there are existing laws like the Corporate and Allied Matters Act which regulates the activities of all organisations. Thankfully, the bill has been shut down at the parliament, as was done in the 8th Assembly when it was first introduced by former Deputy majority leader, late Hon. Buba Jubril.

The bad:

7.  Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun Central Senatorial District)

While majority of scholars have proposed a return to fiscal federalism or the much talked about ‘Restructuring’ of the country as the panacea for the snail-paced development of the country, it is unacceptable that there are still efforts to keep the country stuck to this ‘command and control’ arrangement. This is evident in the attempt to establish a South West Development Commission (SWDC) after the pattern of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the recently established North East Development Commission (NEDC).

Sponsored by Senator Amosun, the framers of the bill argue that the legislation seeks to resolve issues of underdevelopment by redirecting federal government’s attention to the development challenges of the South West region which comprises Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo States, adding that it will address the dwindling fortunes of the South West region by implementing a regional development plan, taking into consideration the region’s unique endowments, natural advantages and capabilities.

We agree with the intent of the proposed law in part, but being a former Governor, Amosun amongst all people should know that restructuring (return to ‘true federalism’) would solve most of the arguments his bill has raised. Worse of all, the argument that the creation of commissions in the zones will only generate competition that will compel progress and growth and will unlock resources and potentials of the South West is backward thinking, as the states of the region have not been able to prove this theory with its jointly-owned Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission. Only control of the region’s resources by its own people will guarantee such development the bill is seeking to initiate.

The good:

6. Tasir Wale Raji (Epe Federal Constituency, Lagos)

Honourable Raji is proposing a bill to prohibit and criminalise casualisation of workers after 6 months of engagement by employers. The bill which has scaled second reading at the House of Representatives, amongst other things also seeks to prohibit outsourcing of employment in core areas of operation.

This development is very laudable as it will go a long way in bringing employment laws in the country to be in line with global best practices as it further strenghtens the rights of such workers and will contribute in stemming the unwholesome practice that has rendered many workers unemployed. This is particularly important as any casual worker sacked by an employer after a six-month-period will be entitled to the benefit of full-time workers for six months.

5. Rochas Anayo Okorocha (Imo East Senatorial District)

4. Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central Senatorial District)

In spite of the controversy surrounding his alleged role in the invasion of the National Assembly complex by thugs during the tenure 8th Senate, Senator Agege is doing a lot in his current stead as Deputy Senate President of the 9th Senate to ensure that the country makes meaningful progress with respect to legislation.

One of his key interventions as Chairman of the Senate Committee on the review of the 1999 constitution within the last month, is an amendment bill that would make Vice presidents, Governors, as well as their Deputies, lose their immunity if they misappropriate public funds, making it possible for law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute any of such public officials guilty of any corrupt practices.

Entitled, ‘An Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to qualify criminal liability for certain public officers under Section 308,’ such legislative interventions reflects an understanding of better ways at fighting corruption than using oppressive, more expensive and largely ineffective methods that run afoul of the law in most cases. His recent assurance that all unassented bills by President Muhammadu Buhari in the previous Senate would be revisited by the ninth Senate is a welcome development.

3. Akin Alabi (Egbeda/Ona-Ara Federal Constituency, Oyo State)

Being one of the young lawmakers at the Federal House of Representatives, Honourable Alabi, with the aid of his social media platform is known to always engage Nigerians (including non-constituents) on topical issues in the country. There are evidence to also show that he uses polls on social media to weigh public pulse towards an intending motion he is looking forward to raise at the National Assembly.

Most importantly, as a representative that knows the plight of his constituents, the lawmaker recently started a door – door enlightenment campaign on COVID-19 to teach local residents about social distancing and self-isolation ahead of a partial lockdown in his state, while providing what he described as the first batch of his emergency relief package, comprising food items like Rice, Beans, Garri, Groundnut oil and hygiene products like hand sanitizers and soaps for the residents at their doorstep in order to cushion the effect of the stay at home order.

This action is reflective of his understanding that Government needs to lead the way in the fight against COVID-19 by providing palliative measures for the masses in order to make them comply with the guidelines.

2. Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South Senatorial District)

The Senate Minority Leader has in the last 3 months been a consistent feature on top social media trending topics owing to his bold and insightful contributions on the floor of the Nigerian Senate. From his bold call for President Muhammadu Buhari’s resignation over the worsening security situation in the country to a recent proposal of a bill for the establishment of an Armed Forces Service Commission that seeks to amongst other things, ensure strict adherence to federal character principle in the appointment of service chiefs.

While there are arguments that such concerns have been catered for, in Section 4 of the Constitution which enjoins the application of federal character principle in all appointments and in Section 153 of the 1999 constitution, which establishes the Federal Character Commission. It makes a lot of sense that Senator Abaribe and co-sponsors of the bill understand the importance of giving a sense of belonging to the geo-political zones in a federal state like Nigeria and knowing important roles he could play as a lawmaker in curtailing the abuse of executive powers.

Also worthy of note is the former Abia Deputy Governor’s vehement stance that the Senate considered part-by-part and sector-by-sector, the report on the 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan (to the tune of $22.7 billion) as requested by President Buhari to be spent by the Federal Government on key infrastructural projects across the country to ensure that lawmakers had a clear understanding of the loan and how relevant it is to the boosting of the nation’s economy.

  1. Femi Gbajabiamila (Surulere Federal Constituency 1, Lagos)

With the escalation of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, Nigeria’s House of Representatives made a proactive resolution on the closure of religious worship centres which further influenced the Federal Government’s closure of schools and tertiary institutions to prevent further spread of the virus. A measure it said was based on cues from Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Vatican that have banned open worship.

With abounding concerns about the effect of the pandemic on the economy, the lower house of the National Assembly also went a step further to pass a bill (from first to third reading) within one hour that seeks to  provide for relief on corporate tax liability, suspension of import duty on selected goods and deferral of residential mortgage obligations to the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria for a fixed term to protect jobs and alleviate the financial burden on citizens in response to the economic downturn occasioned by the outbreak of COVID-19 disease and for related matters.

Worthy of note is the fact that debate on this ‘Emergency Stimulus Bill 2020′ which is co-sponsored by the Principal Officers of the House was led by the Speaker himself, and it will go a long way in protecting the jobs of Nigerians by ensuring that employers of labour keep their workforce and pay their emoluments as and when due, which in turn guarantees that such employers, will be entitled to a refund of 50 per cent of the PAYE of workers within the period.

Editor’s Note: The YNaija Legislators’ Effectiveness Ranking is a perception index by our special editorial programme as determined by correspondent assessment, news reports, and opinion surveys. It is graded on the following parameters: quality of representation, social impact, and national development.

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