When Gbajabiamila tasked House members on challenges ahead

JACOB SEGUN OLATUNJI writes on issues that marked the resumed plenary of the House of Representatives ahead of the legislative agenda of the ninth National Assembly.


Fresh from the end-of-the-year recess, members of the House of Representatives resumed plenary and, as usual, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, urged them to prepare for the numerous duties ahead their attention. He set the ball rolling by reeling out some objective already met by the ninth Assembly, as spelt out in the legislative agenda and enjoined the members not to rest on their oars. While commending them members for the early passage of the 2020 Appropriations Act, he urged them to follow up in the oversight of the Ministries, departments and Agencies (MDAs)  without fear or favour so that Nigerians can enjoy good governance and dividends of democracy.

According to him, “there are a number of other initiatives we began in 2019 that require our continued commitment. These include efforts by the House to see to the full and profitable operation of the Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Onne and Onitsha inland ports; reforms of the power sector to ensure fairness in the billing system as well to allow for the development of an industry that is attractive to investment and capable of serving the best interests of the Nigerian people. We will not relent in pursuing these goals, as creating economic opportunity for all our people helps us solve the other problems that threaten the continued viability of the Nigerian State.”

On the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which has been before the National Assembly since 1999, the speaker restated the commitment of the lower chamber to breaking the jinx and the pass the bill as a means to sanitising the petroleum sector of the economy Towards achieving this, Gbajabiamila assured that the House would seek the collaboration of the legislature with the executive arm of government as well as other critical stakeholders in the petroleum industry.

The speaker also commended his members for the partnership of the House with special citizens like the People Living With Disabilities (PLWD). This was as he pledged the continued partnerships with other critical groups. He also announced the resolve of the House to ensure the passage of other necessary legislations, especially on the electoral reforms. He spoke on the need for reforms and urged relevant stakeholders to shun political affiliations in the bid to address issues in the political arena.

According to him, “We have just emerged from an election season that, in spite of its numerous successes, nonetheless exposed significant gaps in the process and which, if left unaddressed, threaten our democracy. Electoral reforms are not party issues. They are a matter of loyalty to an ideal that is greater than the party to which one belongs to, or the personal ambitions we may each hold. Electoral reforms are a matter of our nation’s future and I ask of you all that when the time comes to achieve the reforms we need, we do so with the utmost commitment to fairness and equity, respect for the rule of law and with abiding hope for a better future for all our people.”

The issue of the worsening insecurity in the land was also not left out as the speaker decried the upsurge in banditry, and the attendant kidnappings and killings especially the recent killing of Reverend Lawan Andimi, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Adamawa State and the abduction and eventual murder of Ropvil Dalyep, a student of the University of Maiduguri an indigene of Plateau.

Gbajabiamila  made it clear that the cup of Nigerians  were running out of patience and called  that drastic action needed to be taken, noting that neither the political leaders nor the leadership of the security agencies could afford to be complacent in the face of the continued banditry, kidnappings and killings. He pointed out that the worsening insecurity necessitated the need for Operation Amotekun, the regional security outfit initiated and inaugurated by the South-West governors of Lagos, Ekiti, Oyo, Ondo, Osun and Ogun states and other regional security initiatives to complement the efforts of the regular security apparatus.

“People of conscience mourned the loss of a reverend and a senior member of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Adamawa State, Mr Lawan Andimi, a good and honourable man who, through the church and in his personal capacity, served the people of his community and earned their reverence and our collective gratitude. In the midst of our mourning, our hearts were broken once more by the release of a video depicting the gruesome assassination of Mr Ropvil Dalyep Daciya, a student from Plateau State who was abducted by suspected Boko Haram terrorists on his way back to school at the University of Maiduguri.

“God forbid that it is now our nation’s fate to live forever under the threat of abduction and murder. What gaps and weaknesses continue to exist in the national security infrastructure that makes us more unsusceptible to the machinations of those who seek to achieve wealth and power through brutal violence? How do we achieve for all our people, a just and honourable peace?

“These questions are never too far from my mind and I know that it is the same for you too because, often, it is you who are at the front lines responding to the concerns of constituents who have themselves been victimised and those who fear that the moment of their own affliction is only a matter of time and circumstance,’ he said.

The Speaker therefore called on the House Leader and the Minority Leader to bring to the floor reasonable amendments to the Nigerian Constitution (as amended) with a view to start the process of passing into law more appropriate steps to tackling insecurity.

He was also not unmindful of what he termed as a clear and present danger the legions of out-of-school children on several streets across the country that are begging for arms and hawking for survival. “With no skills for survival, these children are at a great risk of exploitation at the hands of men of evil forces. This would be dire for Nigeria as a nation,” he added.

He called for a day to be set aside for a debate on the future of the out-of-school children with special focus on the almajiri children. He said the relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) should be invited to contribute to the special open session. He also stated that the issue of the recent outbreak of a new communicable disease, Coronavirus, from China is a serious challenge and assured that the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is taking proactive steps to ensure that the outbreak doesn’t become a local problem.

Gbajabiamila however commended the efforts and sacrifices of the members of the various security agencies, saying the country and the people owed them a debt that could never be fully repaid. He also commended those he said were committed to the task of nation-building, stressing that the tempo should be sustained .