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The Day Ben Murray-Bruce Failed to Make ‘Common Sense’

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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!

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Buhari Approves Suspension of Ex-EFCC Acting Chairman, Magu

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Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the suspension of the boss of the country’s anti-graft agency, Ibrahim Magu days after he appeared at an investigative panel.

The Nigerian Government said Magu’s suspension is to “allow for unhindered inquiry” by the panel investigating allegations of corruption against the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“EFCC Director of Operations, Mohammed Umar, should take charge and oversee the activities of the Commission pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation and further directives in that regards,” Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, said in a statement on Friday.

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COVID-19: Fresh Lockdown Likely After Two Weeks – PTF

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The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Monday lamented the increasing rate of COVID-19 cases among people in government, saying it was directly impacting on governance and security in the country.

The PTF Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who stated this at the task force press briefing in Abuja, also said the possibility of ordering a fresh total lockdown to curtail further spread of the virus could not be ruled out.

The SGF, who advised prominent Nigerians to take COVID-19 protocols seriously, said the virus does not respect status.

Mustapha’s warning came amid rising cases of COVID-19 among state governors and other prominent Nigerians.  Recently state governors, including David Umahi of Ebonyi, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and their Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi  Akeredolu, contracted the virus.

Warning people in authority, the SGF said,  “Of recent, we have witnessed a high rate of positive cases especially among people in authority. This has a direct impact on governance and security of our nation. We urge that vigilance and care should be exhibited by all Nigerians, irrespective of status. This virus does not discriminate and the PTF shall keep sustaining its sensitisation messaging.”

When asked if the task force would be considering a fresh lockdown in the face of what it observed as disregard for guidelines, Mustapha said events of coming weeks would determine the next line of action.

He said, “We will not speculate on what will happen in future but we will protect the lives of Nigerians.

“To achieve that, if it means to lock down again, we will not shy away from that responsibility. We will recommend to the President who will look at the report and take a decision on our recommendation. What happens in the next two three weeks will determine what we will do.”

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Cross River Finally Joins the Fray As Nigeria Records 575 New COVID-19 Cases

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has announced 575 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 29,286.

Nine deaths were recorded from the virus on Monday bringing the total number of confirmed deaths from the virus to 654.

There was an increase in the number of confirmed cases reported Monday compared to what was reported on Sunday (544).

The health agency in a tweet Monday night said the 575 new cases were reported in 20 states including Lagos, Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), Delta, Edo, Ogun, Katsina, Bayelsa, Rivers, Borno, Plateau, Ondo, Oyo, Kwara, Osun, Enugu, Nasarawa, Abia, Cross River, Kaduna and Ekiti.

All the reporting states already had at least a case of the virus.

As of the time of reporting, all 36 states and the FCT have recorded at least a case of the disease.

NCDC has officially recorded the confirmed cases reported in Cross River, after days of controversies on the cases.

Lagos remains the epicentre for the disease in the country while Zamfara has not reported any new confirmed case in the past 48 days.

“Till date, 29, 286 cases have been confirmed, 11, 828 cases have been discharged and 654 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory,” the NCDC stated.

The 575 new cases were reported from 20 states: Lagos – 123, FCT – 100, Delta – 58, Edo – 52, Ogun – 42, Katsina – 24, Bayelsa – 23, Rivers – 22, Borno – 19, Plateau – 18, Ondo – 18, Oyo – 17, Kwara – 15, Osun – 13, Enugu – 9, Nasarawa – 7, Abia – 6, Cross River – 5, Kaduna – 3 and Ekiti – 1.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Nigeria in February, NCDC said, 152,952 samples have been tested.

As of the time of reporting, there are 16,804 active cases of COVID-19 in the country, while 11,828 have recovered and have been discharged.

A breakdown of the 29,286 confirmed cases shows that Lagos State has so far reported 11, 367 cases, followed by FCT – 2,281, Oyo – 1,530, Edo – 1,435, Delta – 1,285, Kano – 1,268, Rivers – 1,205, Ogun – 1,047, Kaduna – 868, Katsina – 628, Borno – 574, Gombe – 520, Bauchi – 518, Ebonyi – 503, Ondo – 474, Plateau – 454, Abia – 391, Enugu – 381, Imo – 352, Jigawa – 318, Kwara – 284, Bayelsa – 268, Nasarawa – 232, Osun – 178, Sokoto – 153, Niger – 122, Akwa Ibom – 112, Adamawa – 99, Benue – 97, Kebbi – 84, Zamfara – 76, Anambra – 73, Yobe – 61, Ekiti – 45, Taraba- 22, Kogi – 5, and Cross River – 5.

While confirmed cases of the virus have continued to increase in the country, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said the government is trying to boost overall COVID-19 sample collection, by preparing all public and private hospitals nationwide to become collection hospitals sites.

This, he said will require working with state governments to identify the facilities and the space within them, to conduct training for the personnel selected and supply both PPEs and sample collection kits, as well as the logistics to go around to recover test samples.

“If logistics around sample collection and delivery to test sites are better organised, a lot more will be achieved.

“However, the more we test, the more confirmed cases we shall find, of which the vulnerable will have to be prioritised for admission to treatment centres, even if they are not yet showing symptoms,” he added.

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