THE TRUE NARRATIVE OF THE 8TH SENATE THUS FAR
The 8th National Assembly resumed plenary on Tuesday 28th July after weeks of recess – an adjournment that was prompted by the leadership crisis of the June 9th, 2015 inauguration of the legislature. So far, the Senate, having sat at plenary for a total of 14 days, has achieved a lot in a little time.
The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has led the Senate to begin making crucial, but often, difficult decisions that aim to live up to the mantra of 'Change' that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) campaigned on. Saraki, after his emergence as the Senate President on June 9th, promised his colleagues in the red chamber, and Nigerians as a whole, that the 8th National Assembly – specifically, the Senate – would be different from the legislatures of the past. This promise is gradually being fulfilled.
In line with the departure from business as usual, the 8th Senate has pledged their commitment to the #OpenNASS campaign being spearheaded by civil society groups, and social media titans on the Twitter platform. Additionally, in a bid to align Nigeria's legislative practices with the technological trends of the 21st century, Dr. Saraki has inaugurated a committee to develop a system to introduce e-Parliamentary processes into the activities of the Senate
The e-Parliament system is aimed at fostering transparency, and is meant to aid everyday Nigerians' demands to be kept apprised of happenings in the Upper Legislative Chambers. Many believe that once the e-Parliament system is put in place, it will satisfy the calls for a more open National Assembly.
Additionally, in what has been hailed in many quarters as a signal that truly, the 8th Senate is pursuing a policy of 'Change,' prior to the resumption of plenary activities, on Monday, August 3rd, 2015, in a bid to understand the impacts of the Boko Haram insurgency on the North East, Dr. Saraki, embarked on a high-powered Senate investigative visit to assess the situation on the ground. Visiting camps of internally displaced peoples (IDPs) in Borno State, the Senate delegation to 'ground zero' of Nigeria's insurgency – the first in 6 years – promised to pass rehabilitation legislation to restore normalcy in the region.
In a bid to ensure that Nigerian products are received with fair trade policies in the international markets, on Thursday, August 6th, the Senate discussed a motion on the Ban of Nigerian Agricultural Exports Products by the European Union (EU). The Motion, which was brought to the floor by Senator Francis Alimikhena (The Deputy Chief Whip), was aimed at reinforcing the fact that the recent ban on Nigerian
Agricultural Exports by the EU is totally unacceptable.
The Senate President, in his remarks during debate, reiterated that moving forward, Nigeria must ensure that all our produce in the international market are up to standard – particularly in the EU. Saraki then delegated that as soon as the Committee on Agriculture and Health was constituted, it should attend to the EU export ban affair.
Finally, less than 100 days since its inauguration, in the biggest victory of the 8th Senate thus far, the body has successfully used its oversight function to abolish the practice of bulk billing of consumers. In a motion brought to the floor by Senator Sam Egwu, the Senate put pressure on the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to explain the basis of Distribution Companies (DISCOs) estimating the electricity billing of customers, while still making payments for meter installation in their homes.
In line with this motion, NERC, at a press briefing in Abuja on Monday 17, 2015, agreed with the Senate and said that consumers who do not receive power supply will henceforth be exempted from paying the fixed charges; adding that power distribution companies have come into consensus to review the fixed charge policy. Furthermore, to ensure more accountability due to the Senate's query, NERC released a report stating that it supports the Senate's decision to investigate the various projects and funding in the power sector since 1999.
As electricity generation and distribution is a crucial development determinant, the Senate has helped start a pivotal journey that many believe will help meet the high expectations of Nigerians in this regard. Despite the agreement of NERC to abolish the practice of bulk billing, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure that Nigerians enjoy stable electricity. Because of this, the Senate President has vowed not to relent until changes are seen and effected in the power sector.
Moving forward, with only 14 major sittings under its belt, we have seen the power of an effective legislature that truly wants to work for the benefit of the Nigerian people. Many hope that this momentum will continue as the 'Change' that Nigerians voted for, cannot come too soon. As Nigerians from all corners and quarters of this country watch and wait to see the actualization of the 'Nigeria of Our Dreams', we can only commend the Senate thus far, and pray that they continue running the race at this pace for the next four years.
Written by Abang Dove.