VICTOR Ochei, speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly performed an involuntary assignment last weekend. He personally supervised the rescue and evacuation of accident victims of a 25-seater high cabin bus conveying a wedding party from Ehor in Edo State to Amai, which capsized along the Obiaruku-Amai road in Ukwuani Local Government Area of Delta. Ochei, who was on his way to a function, stopped his convoy at the scene, and personally joined in the supervision and evacuation of victims. He also deployed his official back-up escort vehicle to convey victims to the Obiaruku General Hospital for prompt medical attention, before continuing on his journey.
Survivors at the scene of the mishap attributed the accident to the driver’s inability to control the vehicle at a sharp corner while also speeding excessively on a road he was not conversant with. The speaker has, however, admonished drivers against excessive speeding and reckless driving warning that indulgence in those acts could result in fatal consequences.
Mark Okays National Conference
THE agitation for the national conference got a boost on Tuesday, September 17 when David Mark, president of the Senate, said the call for a national conference by some Nigerians was in order in view of the discontent in the polity. Addressing his colleagues who had just returned from their seven-week vacation, Mark said every matter about the union of ethnic nationalities that made up the country should be opened to discussion, but the dismemberment of the country should be a no-go area.
He admitted that the country could not continue to shy away from discussing national issues in view of the discontent in the polity and present global realities. “We live in very precarious times, and in a world increasingly made fluid and toxic by strange ideologies and violent tendencies, all of which presently conspire to question the very idea of the nation state. But that is not to say that the nation should, like the proverbial ostrich, continue to bury its head in the sand and refuse to confront the perceived or alleged structural distortions which have bred discontentment and alienation in some quarters,” Mark said. Hence, he said a conference of Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities, called to foster frank and open discussions on the nation’s unity could help resolve all the major problems confronting the country as a nation. He said Nigerians could use the of freedom expression and association as guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution to resolve all the questions on ethnic nationalities.
Besides supporting a national conference, Mark said it should premise on existing governance structure and not sovereign, because doing otherwise would be “too risky a gamble and may ultimately do great disservice to the idea of one Nigeria.”
Suntai in Court to Reclaim Power
THE crisis in Taraba State is getting deeper. On Tuesday, September 17, Haruna Tsokwa, speaker of the House of Assembly, told a high court in the state that the signature on the letter purportedly written by Governor Danbaba Suntai to the legislature, signifying his intention to resume duties, was forged. Tsokwa, who spoke through Yusufu Akirikwen, his lawyer, said that Suntai was neither fit to write, nor sign any letter as at the time he purportedly wrote the letter to the House. The assertion was supported by Yusuf Ali, counsel to the Taraba House of Assembly, who also told the court presided over by Ali Ibrahim Andeyangsto that he doubted the authenticity of the letter said to have been written by the governor because he was not fit to do so.
Besides, both counsel also argued that Suntai was not supposed to file his case through an originating summons and therefore, asked that the case be referred to the Appeal Court on the grounds that the case was a novelty and therefore, needed constitutional interpretation. Indeed, Alex Izinyon, SAN, counsel to the governor, in his originating summons, is praying the court to interpret Section 190(2) of the 1999 Constitution, with regards to the letter. He wants the court to determine whether the lawmakers have the right to deliberate on the letter before the governor can resume work.
In response to the two counsel’s argument, Izinyon said that since his pleadings and the two issues brought by the defendants had not been resolved, there was no need heading to the appeal court, adding, “We can’t do things piecemeal; it has to be one way.” Izinyon said the respondent’s argument was premature and grossly misconceived and urged the court to dismiss both applications. He also urged the court to look at the processes and facts of the matter to determine whether the plaintiff has any case at all, submitting that the court should be swayed by anything but law and its decision based on facts. Andeyangsto adjourned the case to September 30, to determine whether the court would hear the case or refer it to the Court of Appeal.
Barely 24 hours after returning from a 10-month treatment abroad, Suntai had on August 26, transmitted a letter to the Assembly that he was ready to resume his office. The governor, who had been away to Germany and United States to treat injuries sustained when the small aircraft he piloted crashed in Adamawa State last year, had quoted Section 190, sub-section II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to support his willingness and fitness to resume duties.
But the House of Assembly said the governor was not fit yet to run the affairs of the state. Instead, the lawmakers asked the governor to go back to the US to continue with his treatment while Garba Umar, his deputy, would still continue directing the affairs of the state in an acting capacity.
This prompted Suntai to file a legal action against the House and the 16 members who opposed his resumption of duty.
Oshiomhole in Labour Garb
ADAMS Oshiomhole seems to forget that he is no longer a labour leader but governor of Edo State. On Wednesday, September 18, he dropped the garb of his governorship in order to lead organised labour on protest march to the National Assembly to demand a reversal of the transfer of labour matters from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List. Oshiomhole pleaded with the National Assembly leadership to revisit the issue as the matter of minimum wage for Nigerian workers was settled as far back as the Second Republic during the administration of former President Shehu Shagari.
The governor stressed that minimum wage was an electoral issue promised workers by his colleagues and they intend to fulfill their own part of the bargain. “The consequences of removing labour issues from the Exclusive Legislative List to the Concurrent List goes beyond rhetorics. For example, the National Assembly is obliged to make laws on health and safety issues; if you remove these to the concurrent list, every state can go and remove those basic protections on health and safety, on social security, on working hours, on pensions, on those kinds of things that go beyond naira and kobo.“
Oshiomhole said the idea of a national minimum wage was not entertained to fix a national salary scale, but rather for the government to protect the weak from those with enormous economic powers. “In the absence of a national minimum wage, some employers would go and pay as low as N5,000. National governments fix a minimum wage to protect the weakest workers who have no voice; it is not meant to be a living wage, it is not an average wage, it is the minimum, exactly the same way the National Assembly will legislate on road traffic. These are the rules, that is why we have a Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC. If we do not want anything to set national standards, then, we would not need a national parliament. We believe in moving Nigeria as one united indivisible entity and the National Assembly is our most outstanding national democratic, people-driven, people-responsive institution,” the governor said.
Nigeria Mourns Agagu’s Exit
THE Ondo State House of Assembly suspended its sittings for a week in honour of Olusegun Agagu, former governor of the state, who died on Friday, September 13. It would resume its legislative business on Tuesday, September 24.
According to Oyebo Aladetan, chairman, House committee on information, the break would allow the lawmakers to join the rest of the state in mourning Agagu’s death. Aladetan, later said the suspension of legislative business was in line with the seven days of mourning declared by the state government in honour of the former governor. “We are mourning the death of our former governor, Olusegun Agagu, and we have the intention of paying his family a condolence visit on Wednesday in Lagos. It will not be good enough for the state to be mourning and we will be in the chambers deliberating,” he said.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan, who said he received the news of his death with sadness, has condoled the Agagu family, saying that the former governor was an exemplary leader who would be greatly missed.
In a statement by Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Jonathan, on behalf of himself, the federal government and the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, extended sincere condolences to the former governor’s family, the government and people of Ondo State, as well as Agagu’s friends, political associates and colleagues in Ondo State and other parts of the country.
“As they mourn, however, President Jonathan believes that they can take solace in the knowledge that Dr. Agagu has left behind a legacy of notable achievements in his illustrious public service career at the state and federal levels which will stand to his eternal credit and honour,” the statement said. The President also prayed that God Almighty would comfort all who mourn Agagu and grant his soul peaceful repose.
In a similar message, David Mark, president of the Senate, lamented the death of Agagu whom he described as a dependable ally. Mark, noted that Agagu had served in various capacities and had distinguished himself as a trustworthy politician and a forthright leader who stood to be counted when it mattered. In a statement signed by Kola Ologbondiyan, his special adviser, Media and Publicity, Mark said: “As a minister, Agagu distinguished himself as a goal-getter. As the then executive governor of Ondo State, he recorded impressive outing as a performing governor. As a political leader, he gave his people a sense of belonging.”
Respect for National Symbol
| By Vincent Nzemeke |
THE national orientation agency, NOA, has proposed to the National Assembly an amendment to the Ordinance Act that will allow stiffer penalties, including jail terms for abusers of Nigeria’s national symbols. Mike Omeri, director general of NOA, made this known in Abuja on Monday September 16, 2013, during the second National Symbols Day celebration.
Omeri said the proposal was aimed at reducing the level of abuses on the Nigerian national symbols. He added that national symbols were unique features of different countries across the globe. He revealed that the bill for amendment of the Act had passed its first reading in the House of Representatives, adding that as soon as the National Assembly returns from recess, the bill would proceed to the second reading.
“The NOA is seeking amendment of the Ordinance Act to make wrong display of the national symbols, defacing of same and other treatments of our National Symbols attract greater sanctions.”
Omeri also said that the agency had written to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, requesting that September 16, every year be declared a ‘National Symbols Day.’
He said many nations across the globe have dedicated one day every year for national symbols as a way of bringing attention to bear on the things that unite them. “We believe that the positive values embodied by our national symbols can naturally evoke certain attitudes and emotions towards our nation. We believe our national core values as enumerated in Section 2, sub-section 23 of the 1999 Constitution are expressed in our national symbols and should further find practical expression in the manifestation of those values by Nigerians through the inspiration they draw from our national symbols.”
— Sep. 30, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT