X-raying 10th Senate under Tinubu’s administration 1 year after

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By Naomi Sharang, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Features

The 10th Senate, popularly tagged the ‘uncommon Senate’, was inaugurated on June 13, 2023, when Nigerians were grappling with the sudden rise in the cost of living, following the removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Tinubu on his assumption of office on May 29.

The National Assembly and particularly the Senate was placed on a tight corner as so much was expected from the lawmakers toward cushioning the effects of the new government policy, which has led to high inflation and high cost of living.

As expected, the Senate began by passing executive bills that were expected to impact directly on Nigerians such as the Students’ Loan Bill, which was passed on March 14 and assented by the President on April 3.

The bill evolved as part of the strategies to ensure full implementation of the Access to Higher Education Act, 2023 as it sought to provide loans to indigent students to pay for their fees in Nigerian tertiary institutions.

At the signing of the bill, Tinubu commended the National Assembly for its expeditious passage, saying that the action was a pointer to the administration’s priority on education for Nigerian youths as a tool of fighting poverty.

“We are determined to ensure that education is given the proper attention necessary for the country including skills development programmes.

“This is to ensure that no one, no matter how poor their background, is excluded from quality education and opportunity to build their future.

“We are here because we are all educated, and we are helped. In the past, we have seen a lot of our children drop out of colleges and give up the opportunity,” he said.

With the signing of the bill into law by the president, the Nigerian Education Loan Fund was established to handle all loan requests, grants, and disbursement to deserving beneficiaries.

The Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) was to be funded from multiple streams and would engage in other productive activities.

Its sources of funding as included one per cent of all profits accruing to the federal government from oil and other minerals, one per cent of taxes, levies and duties accruing to the federal government from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS),

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Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).
Others were education bonds and education endowment fund schemes.

The loan would also be funded through donations, gifts, grants, endowment, and revenue accruing to the fund from any other source, according to the Act.

Another similar bill passed by the Senate was the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Trust Fund, sponsored by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Sen. Yemi Adaramodu.

The bill sought to provide a sustainable source of funds for the NYSC, skill acquisition, training and empowerment of corps members, training and retraining of the personnel of the scheme, development of camps and NYSC formations and facilities.

Another critical bill at the Senate which had passed second reading was a bill to amend the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Act, 2007.

The bill was sponsored by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Sen. Adetokunbo Abiru.

The bill sought to limit the tenure of the Governor and Deputy Governors of the CBN to a single non-renewal term of six years.

Another bill that excited most Nigerians was a bill to revert to Nigeria’s old National Anthem, “Nigeria We Hail Thee”, which has passed second reading.

The sponsor- Senate Leader, Sen. Opeyemi Bamidele said that it sought to make provisions for Nigeria to revert to its old national anthem that would promote a better symbol for unity, peace, and prosperity- compared to the current one.

Giving a scorecard of the achievement of the Senate, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Sen. Yemi Adaramodu, said that the 10th Senate had performed creditably well in the last one year.

He said that the upper chamber was able to come up with bills and motions that had impacted positively on the lives of ordinary Nigerians within the last one year.

“When we look at the education sector, we look at the bill and the passage into law, signed by the President, the Students Loan Bill, you will see that it is a people-centred bill.

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“The social security bill which has now culminated to be called the social security trust fund which was passed within four months of the ascendancy of the Senate, is another very important bill.

“There are so many motions that had even scaled through, that had gone into resolutions, which had been passed to the President, which have renewed the hope of Nigerians especially in security and in the finance sector,” he said.

Adaramodu said that the CBN (Act), 2007 amendment bill would insulate the governor and the bank’s management from partisan politics.

“When we look at the Central Bank Bill, it is going to insulate the CBN governor and its management from partisan politics.

“And it is going to reiterate seriously and strictly on weight and means, so that it will not weigh too much against the GDP and then the income of the federation and then run Nigeria into internal unaccounted debt.

“Several bills and motions like that had been passed. And within the last one year, the 10th Senate had been replete with activities apart from the legislative activities, oversight activities.

“The NYSC Trust Fund which had already been passed in the Senate, it had gone for concurrence and then it went to the President,’’ he said.

He added: “That bill is seeking to rejig the NYSC scheme to ensure that Nigerian young adults are given the benefits to have something to do immediately after graduation from the NYSC scheme.’’

The lawmaker said that the Senate had done very well within the past one year, considering the scope where it operated.

“And then the issues that are bedevilling Nigeria especially security issues and then the economic issue.

“Several times, the senate had come with even the big stick at times for the security of Nigeria to be taken seriously and then for the security chiefs to work seriously for the security issues of Nigeria. And we have been reaping the results,” Adaramodu said.

But analysts have rated the 10th Senate otherwise.

Mr Cletus Uwakina, a right activist and the President, Crusaders’ Advocacy Initiative, said that the performance of the10th senate had most often fallen below expectations.

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‘’In spite of some minor legislative successes, the national assembly has often fallen short in fulfilling its duties effectively as representatives of the people, particularly in areas of legislative oversight and accountability.

“One of the most glaring failures of the NASS is the significant delay in passing essential bills.

“The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), aimed at reforming the oil and gas sector, is a prime example, in spite of its importance, the PIA faced nearly two decades of delays and debates before being enacted in 2021.

“Such delays are not isolated incidents, many other crucial bills, including those addressing health, education, and economic reforms, often languish in committees for extended periods, undermining the legislative process and stalling necessary reforms.

“The national assembly role in overseeing the executive branch is critical for ensuring accountability and good governance,’’ he said.

He added: “However, its effectiveness in this area has been frequently questioned, investigations into corruption and misconduct within the executive often result in minimal substantive action.

“For instance, the probe into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) over allegations of mismanagement involving billions of naira generated significant media attention but ultimately led to little or no accountability or reform.

“Similarly, its investigations into the alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 relief funds lacked thoroughness and failed to lead to significant changes.

“In spite of initial efforts to scrutinise how funds were utilised, the outcomes of these investigations did not meet public expectations for transparency and accountability.’’

“Suspected corruption within the national assembly itself undermines its credibility and effectiveness, reports of budget padding, where legislators inflate the budget for personal gain, and accusations of accepting bribes to influence legislative decisions are not uncommon.

“Such practices not only eroded public trust but also compromised the national assembly’s ability to hold others accountable for similar offenses.

“The high salaries, allowances, and acquisition of very costly exotic official cars for legislators, particularly in a country facing economic hardships portray the National Assembly as an institution that is insensitive to the pains of citizens”. (NAN Features)

****If used, please credit the writer and News Agency of Nigeria.

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