By Eric Elezuo
All through his legislative career which may come to an abrupt end on May 29 or June 8, 2019 or paused as the case may be, the senator representing Bayelsa central senatorial zone in the upper legislative chamber, Mr. Ben Murray-Bruce, may not have seen as much disappointment and let down as he suffered during the plenary of Wednesday, April 17, 2019 in the Senate.
Under his very eyes, his two proposed bills were roundly defeated on the floor of the House by his colleagues, most of whom unfortunately were members of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who gave infallible and impeccable reasons why it must not see the light of day.
The business tycoon senator couldn’t do much but emotionally asked his colleagues to ‘close your eyes, and imagine you are in the 21st century’. A request which was greeted with disdainful laughter and haughty looks.
The bills sponsored by Senator Murray-Bruce was read for the first time on the 10th of April, and within seven days was thrown to the dustbin. They centred on phasing out petrol vehicles by 2035, and replacing them with electric cars, and granting Nigerian citizenship to privileged Africans.
Highlighting the reason for the bill, Murray-Bruce had said: “Combustion engine cars have continued to cause deaths through uncontrolled pollution.” He noted that car pollution is one of the major causes of global warming and warned that passing the bill will nigerians escape pollution linked deaths.
He continued: “Secondly, we have been spending over N1 trillion annually subsidising fuel in this country. By introducing electric cars, fuel subsidy will automatically be gone and those funds will be used for infrastructure and education.” To an onlooker, Ben Bruce, as he is popularly called, was making sense.
Further in his argument, the senator known as Mr. Common Sense because of his regular mono-talk show on STV with the same name, said: “To charge your electric cars, all the filling stations will be replaced with solar charging stations. Thankfully, this country is blessed with sunlight 365 days in a year.
“Electric cars are outselling petrol cars as witnessed in Norway a few weeks ago. It makes more sense to build Nigeria’s biggest power plant than refineries.”
Ben’s common sense reasoning immediately came under a barrage of attacks from his colleagues. Leading the onslaught was Senator Barau Jibrin, though who thinks the proposition is environment-friendly believes that “it is not doable.”
He further patronised Senator Murray-Bruce saying “I sympathise with the mover although it has good intendments, the fact is the economic perspective, let us put this on hold and allow time.”
Towing the line of Senator Jibrin, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, noted that there is no need for legislation for Nigerians to make use of such cars if need be.
In his explanation, he called out Senator Murray-Bruce, using his common sense logic: “What is not common in the sense of looking at the lead debate for a legislation to introduce electric cars. Before now, we were using donkeys for transportation then we started using cars. We did not require any law.
“Secondly, section 41 on freedom of movement covers it.”
Ekweremadu also stated that the bill should be discouraged because Nigeria is an oil producing country, “we must do everything to frustrate electric cars.”
Senator Andrew Uchendu remarked that the bill failed to meet requirements of order 77 of the Senate standing order in failing to state “financial implications.” The lawmakers saw everything wrong with the bill.
“In a few years time, combustive fuel cars will not be manufactured. It doesn’t cost much to maintain. You (Senators) do not belong to the 21st century. I understand,” an obviously disappointed Murray-Bruce submitted.
In his second bill, which also met waterloo, Murray-Bruce sought to amend the 1999 constitution in a bid to give Nigerian citizenship to African origins.
Considering the vehemence with which Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West, rubbished the bill, it would look like no one wants to have anything to do with the Bayelsa senator who will definitely not be returning to the 9th Senate.
“Does it mean we will leave our borders open and porous for every African citizen, and in the next few years, our population will hit 500 million,” Senator Melaye reasoned.
If there were bad days in the four years for Murray-Bruce, that day was not just one of them, it was certainly the worst. He could only shook his head, retract the bills and sat back dejectedly. It was one day Mr. Common Sense failed to make common sense!
ECOWAS Makes U-turn, Lifts Sanctions on Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger Republic
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has resolved to lift some sanctions on Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Niger Republic.
The resolution was taken at the extraordinary summit on the peace, political, and security situation in the ECOWAS sub-region in Abuja on Saturday.
While the regional bloc said the political and targeted sanctions on the Niger Republic remain, it lifted some financial and economic sanctions on Guinea and other sanctions on Mali.
Following the military coup in Niger Republic on July 26, 2023, which toppled President Mohamed Bazoum, ECOWAS imposed several sanctions on the country.
But reading the communique after the emergency summit of the West African bloc on Saturday, ECOWAS Commission President, Omar Alieu Touray, reeled out some of the sanctions the Authority resolved to lift.
They include the closure of land and air borders between all ECOWAS countries and Niger Republic; no flight zone to all commercial flights to and from the Niger Republic, suspension of all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS member states and Niger Republic and freezing of all service transactions including utility services.
Other sanctions on Niger lifted are the freezing of assets of Niger Republic in all ECOWAS Central banks; freezing of assets of Niger State and the state enterprises and parastatals in commercial banks; suspension of Niger Republic from all financial assistance and transactions with all financial institutions lifted and travel bans on the military officials and their families involved in the coup attempt.
Touray said that the decision by ECOWAS is based on humanitarian considerations especially “as we are in the month of Lent and as we prepare for the holy month of Ramadan”.
He noted that the authority also resolved to lift the sanctions regarding the recruitment of Malian citizens in statutory and professional positions within ECOWAS as well as lifting financial and economic sanctions on the Republic of Guinea.
The ECOWAS President added that he has been instructed by the Commission to invite Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Guinea to attend the technical and consultative meetings of ECOWAS as well as all security-related meetings.
ECOWAS directed all its institutions, member states, and other regional institutions to implement these decisions.
Peter Obi Dismisses INEC’s Report on 2023 Election As ‘Medicine After Death’
Presidential Candidate of Labour Party in the 2023 elections, Peter Obi, has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of deceiving Nigerians with report of the poll released earlier on Friday.
In the 526-page report of the 2023 elections, formally released ahead of the first anniversary of the election, INEC explained why the IREV failed to upload the presidential results despite the seamless working of the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS).
The commission attributed the challenge to technical glitches, which was, however resolved and that this did not in any way affect the credibility of the elections.
Obi, who spoke to Daily Trust through Dr Yunusa Tanko, the Chief Spokesperson, Obi-Datti Campaign Committee, described the report as medicine after death.
“I think the INEC report is medicine after death. The truth about it is that if I didn’t mean that INEC actually deal with this issue as it happened during the election, possibly Nigerians will have believed and trusted this particular report.”
“But here we are, the report of the INEC which signifies that the IREV refused to function or been uploaded during the election is false. Considering the fact that there were three elections that happened on that day, the Federal House of Representatives, the Senate, and the result was uploaded and there was no issue.
“Why must there be issue as regard to the presidential election? So totally for us is deceit, disdain for the people and is trying to promote an indecency,” he said.
He lamented that unfortunately everyone knew when INEC gave a written document, citing that they would not agree with any result that is not posted on the IREV.
“It is documented and everybody saw it. But then this is the same INEC who went again to the Supreme Court citing that they had an authority to collate the result manually and it was stamped on authority on illegality by our judiciary.
“And you want to convince me that that particular issue of glitch was not done deliberately? The truth is that nobody was arrested. Somebody ought to have been arrested who has been saddled with that responsibility.
“And if he is saddled with the responsibility, he must be held responsible and account for why the glitches occur.
“And even if there was a glitch, it’s just like your network taking off. It shouldn’t take up to a whole day. A few seconds it is off, three seconds it is back. Why was the server not back or why is the glitch not resolved?
“So for me and many of us, this is totally unacceptable. The report is deceitful to the Nigerian people. Our electoral Act and electoral law must be revisited to give clarity as regard to the process of our election.
“We don’t want to give any lacuna to any of our election process and give room for the judiciary only to decide who wins election. Election should be done and dusted at the polling units,” he said.
Akpabio Lied, No State Received N30bn from FIRS – Makinde
Oyo State Governor and Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Seyi Makinde, on Thursday, declared that there was no truth in the claim by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, that states of the federation got an additional N30 billion each outside of their statutory revenue allocations, to address food insecurity in their states.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Suleiman Olarenwaju in Ibadan, the state capital, said the state has not received any N30 billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service or the Federal Government, and that his administration has been and will always be open and transparent to the people of the state.
The Governor, who added that he has been doing everything to cushion the effects of the economic hardship on the people, warned that leaders should instill confidence and hope in the citizenry in this trying time rather than playing the blame game.
Makinde stated this in Iseyin where he commissioned the newly-renovated multi-billion naira Iseyin Central Mosque facilitated by a legal icon, Ahmed Raji, SAN, hailing the religious harmony in the state as being exemplary.
The Governor decried Akpabio’s reliance on unverified reports, clarifying that states couldn’t get funds from the FIRS, since all revenues go into the Federation Account and belong to the FG, states and local governments.
“The only fund that Oyo State got from the Federal Government outside of statutory allocation was N2 billion out of the N5 billion promised to all states in the wake of the removal of fuel subsidy, adding that the Federal Government had even been asking for the refund of the N2 billion,” he stated.
Makinde added that his government has been doing its best to mitigate the hardship on residents of the state, having been the first to announce and implement measures to cushion the effect of the hardship through the Sustainable Action for Economic Recovery.
He said, “This is a very difficult period in our nation’s history because all of us are aware of what we are going through economically. But for us as an administration, I can say we are the first in Nigeria to announce and implement measures on the 9th of June 2023, to cushion the effect of this policy through SAFER.
“We have been doing our bit. And the reason I came here is for us to talk to ourselves and intensify prayers. So, this is one of the edifices through which we can reach God, though we have done our bit. We have health insurance for our own people, we give farm inputs to our farmers but, at this stage, we need to cry to God.
“For the workers, we have been paying a wage award; N25,000 for workers and N15,000 for pensioners, and we have paid for close to six months. Only last week, I announced an extension for another six months so that we can have the time to conclude the discussion on minimum wage. Well, we know there is much to be done and we will continue to do everything within our power to support our people through this hard time.”
Makinde cautioned that “this is not the time to play politics, as we have real issues that deserve real solutions. But yesterday, I saw the video and read in the news where the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, made a statement, though he said it was an unverified report, stating that the state governments received an additional N30 billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, outside of our statutory allocation, in the last few months, to address food security.”
The Governor added, “Please, listen to me loud and clear. I can speak for Oyo State and can also speak for any of my colleagues. This is because, as the Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, I know when things are happening.
“If I want to play politics, I will keep quiet and let this slide, but I am not going to let this slide. FIRS cannot give money to any state. It is not possible. All revenues accruing to the country go into the federation account and it is distributed to all tiers of government. The FG does not give states money. The money in the federation belongs to all of us; it does not only belong to the Federal Government.
“So, if the Senate President, who is the number three citizen in this country, could be quoting an unverified report, people are looking at us as leaders. This is the period that we are supposed to give confidence to our people. It is not the period to start playing politics or to start looking for scapegoats.”
“We need to engage with our people. If our policies are not working, we need to listen to the people and amend them. So, if the number three citizen had nothing but an unverified report, why did he need to say it? Does his statement give confidence to the people or solve the problem of hunger and anger in the land?” he queried.
“Let me say it clearly, as for Oyo State and for most of my colleagues, there is nothing like N30 billion being given to states for food security and I stand to be challenged.
“Yes, the Federal Government promised the states N5 billion and out of that, it only gave N2 billion and they are even asking that the N2 billion should be refunded right now.
“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to manage the fiscal situation in Nigeria and manage the inflationary trend we have in the country right now.
“We have been transparent about everything we are doing here and this is the time for us to stay together as a nation to solve the problems we are facing. It is not the time to engage in blame games and propaganda. Hunger and anger are real and, as leaders, we must address them.”
Also speaking, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, appreciated Makinde for attending the event and for speaking passionately as expected of leaders, saying the state governor is on the right track.
Earlier, the facilitator of the Iseyin Central Mosque renovation project, Raji, appreciated the governor for his presence, urging citizens of the country to continue to pray for its leaders and to pray to God to lessen the burden of the people.