The Senate on Wednesday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to hold his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, accountable for every amount of money spent by his administration on the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) as well as other poverty alleviation programmes.
The resolution to hold Jonathan accountable for SURE-P fund was predicated on a prayer introduced by Senator Babajide Omoworare (APC, Osun State) to the motion moved by Senator Albert Akpan (PDP, Akwa Ibom) in which he (Akpan) expressed grave concerns about the soaring unemployment rate in Nigeria, stressing that unemployment has become a time bomb that required prompt intervention of government.
But an earlier prayer by the Minority Whip, Senator Philip Aduda (PDP, FCT), requesting that Buhari administration should immediately fulfil its campaign promise that it would pay unemployed Nigerians a sum of N5,000 monthly stipend was however turned down by the Senate.
Aduda had after the approval of the initial recommendations of the motion, raised an additional prayer, saying “the federal government should immediately commence the payment of the N5,000 monthly stipend it promised during the pre-election campaign.”
The prayer was quickly seconded by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
But unsettled by the prayer, Omoworare raised a point of order to oppose the additional prayer.
The development led to a stand-off between APC senators and their opposition PDP counterparts for 22 minutes, prompting the intervention of the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki.
Saraki in his bid to bring the prolonged rowdy session to an end, asked Aduda to repeat his additional prayer. After doing so, Saraki put the additional prayer to a voice vote ruled in favour of its opponents, saying “the nays have it.”
Saraki thereafter allowed Omoworare to raise another additional prayer, saying “I want to move that the immediate past government be made to account for every penny spent on SURE-P and other poverty alleviation programmes. I so move, Mr. President.”
When Saraki put the prayer to a voice vote, APC senators chorused “ayes,” but PDP senators, who were apparently disenchanted by the handling of their own prayer, ignored the voice vote without a response. Consequently, Omoworare’s prayer was passed.
In his motion, Akpan had observed that the recent statistics on unemployment situation in Nigeria by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed how the unemployment rate had increased to 8.2 percent in the second quarter of 2015 from 7.5 percent recorded in the first quarter of the year and 6.4 percent in the last quarter of 2014.
He said: “The latest statistics as released by the Bureau reveals that economically active population or working age comprising Nigerians within the age range of 15 to 64, are now 103.5 million, increasing from 102.8 million in the last quarter of 2014, while the unemployed labour force now stands at 74 million Nigerian youths. This is truly a calamity,” he noted.
The Senate resolution on probing Jonathan came ahead of the unveiling of the chairmen and deputies of its 65 standing committees by the President of the Senate, Saraki.
A source on Monday exclusively reported that Saraki will jack the number of committees from the 56 it operated during the 7th Senate to 65 and unveiled their chairmen this week.
A breakdown of the committees’ composition showed that All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus secured the chairmanship of 41 committees while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will be heading 24 committees.
Some of the old committees have been split into two while a few new ones were also created.
Among those broken into units were the Senate Committee on Education out of which Senate Committee on Basic and Secondary Education as well as the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND Committees have sprung up. In the same vein, what was known as the Senate Committee on Health was divided into Health Committee and Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases Committee respectively.
Also split was Environment and Ecology Committee which has now been broken into the Environment and Ecology Committee and Climate Change Committee respectively while the former Information Committee, Media and Public Affairs has been split into Media and Public Affairs as well as Information and National Orientation Committees.
Also, Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes has been broken into Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes as well as Drugs and Narcotics committee respectively. On the other hand, the newly created committees are ICT and Cybercrime; Customs, Excise and Tariff as well as Diaspora and Civil Societies committees.
Ahead of the composition of the committees, the Senate Standing Orders had earlier been amended to include a provision that committees in eight Senate would be shared on the basis of geo-political zones and no longer on the basis of majority and minority statuses.
Against this background, PDP senators who got Grade A committees are Uche Ekwunife (Downstream Petroleum); John Eno (Finance); James Manager (Power); Bassey Albert (Gas); Joshua Dariye (Solid Minerals); Sam Egwu (Industries); Peter Nwaoboshi (Niger Delta); Hope Uzodinma (Aviation); Andy Uba (Public Account) and Gilbert Nnaji (Communications).
APC senators who secured the chairmanship of Grade A committees are Danjuma Goje (Appropriation); Ahmad Lawan (Defence); Abu Ibrahim (Police Affairs); George Akume (Army); Ajayi Borrofice (Science and Technology); Tayo Alasoadura (Petroleum Upstream); Ahmed Sani (Marine Transport); David Umaru (Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; Rafiu Ibrahim (Banking Insurance and Other Financial Institutions); Dino Melaye (Federal Capital Territory); Binta Garba Mashi (Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND); Kabir Gaya (Works) and Fatimat Raji Rasaki (Trade and Investment).
Anyanwu (Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions) and Shaaba Lafiagi (National Security and Intelligence).
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Mr. Ibrahim Abdulsalam, yesterday assured air travellers of adequate safety, explaining that necessary facilities were being installed to guarantee safety in the country.
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