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the national (investigative) assembly

By Bisi Lawrence
The Senate and the House of Representatives are commonly identified as legislative bodies. In that wise, the mind glosses rather easily over the fact that they also have other functions that are not purely legislative, although such activities may invite the making of new laws or the amendment of existing ones.

Thus the Constitution empowers them to investigate, or cause to be investigated, any aspect of our national life over which they have a right to make laws. Undoubtedly, that covers a lot of territory inclusive, particularly, of the conduct of persons or institutions involved with the administration of laws enacted, or the disbursement of moneys appropriated, by the legislative bodies.

In the discharge of this function, the National Assembly is provided with powers to summon anyone within the country to give evidence under oath through, if necessary, the instrumentality of a subpoena, or warrant (if you please.)

The Constitution stipulates that the authority thus conferred on the National Assembly is within the focus of enabling the Senate and House of Representatives to make or correct laws within their competence, and “expose corruption, inefficiency or waste” in public administration.”

And so, the National Assembly indeed has the right to step into the mess and murk in which our banking system is mired at the moment, and that is what is soon going to happen. But while acknowledging that right, one recalls that this aspect of their function must be costing the National Assembly considerable man-hours, as it is embroiled in one investigation or the other perennially. One arm or the other is prone to getting itself involved with any matter be it of a merely social character or criminal nature.

Commendable as all that may be – and that stretches from probing the affairs of the Federal Capital, Abuja, to finding out why Nigeria is not winning at almost every football championship – it has elicited very little law-making, though a lot of unsavoury details have emerged about various transactions of national interest. But we do have proper institutions established and functional to deal professionally with such transactions.

There is the police force, as we are all aware. and specialized security and law-enforcement agencies like the EFCC and ICPC, which often are compelled to duplicate the National Assembly’s efforts. The attention of the public is thus divided between the course of one investigation and the flow of the other.

Could it be that there is really not enough for the legislators to do? Or are some of these sometimes-extraneous efforts conveyed on the barge of an ego trip? They don’t seem to be necessary all the time.

Dropping a good number of them might create more elbow room for the legislators to apply themselves to the duties for which they are named, and at which they best serve the nation… the full engagement of law-making.

*the prime crime

Social unrests from which new crimes arise have a way of leaving the crimes behind afterwards as a legacy of anguish. We rarely experienced an incident of armed robbery in this country before the civil war, but a groundswell of violent crime arose thereafter and has hardly abated till today.

The same is the case with kidnapping. The unrest in the Niger Delta, by which it was spawned, now appears to have a path to its solution better perceived than that of the crime.

The rapidity of its spread is truly alarming. It seems there is no State or regional boundary to this heinous pursuit.

It exerts an awful pressure that may become unbearable on the loved ones of the victim. The anxiety is, of course, a part of the weapon of coercion that the kidnapper employs to break the will of those who have to pay the ransom for the rescue of the victim.

In the early days of this crime in the country, you may recall, the only child of an expatriate married to a Nigerian lady was snatched from school.

The man was shattered. With a history of poor health, he eventually succumbed to the ordeal, even after the child was recovered. On every occasion, there is that fear that the victim might end up losing his life.

In that manner, kidnapping combines all the callous elements of robbery, blackmail, threat to life and actual murder in rich proportions.

We have it here with us now. It is what truly makes the rich cry. The law-enforcement agencies have been able to tackle the problem to some commendable extent. Only on rare occasions – one or two so far – has any victim’s life been lost. It is in fact a record about which the police can justifiably boast. All the same, this problem does not seem to have said goodbye to its future.

The police now have to aim for its eradication with the nascent amnesty which should usher in a new order. This is an exercise that readily offers the ex-militants some meaningful role to play. Apart from foreswearing any participation in the perpetration of the crime, their experience should help in setting up barriers of deterrence against its continuation. We must tackle this one head-on.

Echoes:

Your suggestion about enhancing the value of our currency by moving it forward by two decimals, in line with the proposals of Charles Soludo when he was still the Governor of the Apex Bank, makes a lot of sense.

It will be timely as it would re-introduce coins into use again. There is nothing of value that you can buy for less than fifty naira these days, and yet they are wasting effort and time producing these new notes, which they gleefully claim, will not easily stain, or tear or get wet. Does a coin tear or get stained at all, not to talk of getting wet?

Sanusi Lamido has been doing a good job with the banks. He must do something meaningful now with the coins’ situation. – Omo Alabi (07078812256)

I am not sure you have got Soludo’s proposition correct. I am not sure either that it would have in fact, “enhanced the value of our currency”, but it would definitely have made it more compact and easy to manage and, yes, would be ideal for the rehabilitation of our coins.

Lamido, though he apparently has his hands full at the moment, might spare some time to attend to this very important issue.

Dear Pa Bisi Lawrence, I am a bit disappointed over your comment on Dr. Samson Isibor ‘s generalization of all the members of Edo State Exco, including the Comrade Governor, as cultists, and that they are responsible for the spate of kidnapping in Edo State.

To remain silent to this kind of grave misinformation and defamation of character amounts to consent; hence the State ‘sAG acted professionally and in good faith by using the law to respond to, and caution Dr Isibor making unguarded statements.

Dr. Isibor also has all the opportunity in the world to use the law to substantiate his claims. How tolerant do you want the Governor or the AG to be? Obeki Obeki Stephen, Benin. 0805.787.2822

– Well, the Holy Bible elevates the level of tolerance to the lofty heights of “seventy times seven”, with regard to the number of recurrence before any reaction.

With a name like Stephen you, I’m sure, will subscribe to that. But, seriously, scurrilous remarks by politicians even about other politicians deserve to be repudiated in very serious terms, and I agree that Dr. Isibor kicked over the traces with the alleged remarks. But do you seriously believe that anyone in his right senses, including Dr. Isibor himself, would put much store by such purely “political” statements? They were very foolish allegations – if they were indeed made -   and you ask how tolerant should the Governor and the AG be? Well, you know the best answer for a fool, don’t you?

Dr. Isibor should know better. The appellation, “Dr. “ suggests he is well educated. If such accusations had come from, say, an “okada “rider” he may have been excused. Sometimes I think the problem with this country lies with the elites; they act and talk with impunity. I’m not impressed with your stance on this. – (0803.625.2207)

Firstly, there is no need to insult any innocent “okada” rider going about his legitimate business, over this matter. He does not necessarily typify a mindless citizen prone to making irresponsible remarks. That in fact, approximates the attitude of the “elites”, which you very rightly criticized above, though it also makes me suspect that you may be one of them yourself. Some of us sometimes find it difficult to distinguish between our position and our posture, in our eagerness to join issues with others. Anyway, my “stance” is that the attempt to prosecute Dr. Isibor over what he was reported to have said may be a little heavy-handed- not that he was right in saying so.

Uncle Bisi, what you described in your column is Open Ballot. Open/Secret involves accreditation, queuing up for the counting of the total number of people accredited, marking your candidate in secret and casting of ballot in the open.

The resultant votes are then counted, recorded, signed and announced before everybody disperses. That was how (MKO) Abiola ‘s results were known even before formal release. – Dr. Nduka (08052745718).

Thank you so much, doc. With a nephew like you, who needs even a brother? Well, that is the system I believe would suit us most, at least for a beginning, before we are ready to attain “the next level”, as they say.

my friend, sunny badru

Sunny Badru is my friend. If you know him at all, it would probably be as the most successful, and the most celebrated football referee Nigeria has ever produced. I know him that way too, but also as a warm-hearted, sympathetic and sincere human being. He has the capacity of retaining his good humour in the most trying circumstances, and you would wonder if he ever loses his temper.

Even on the football field while he is officiating, he imparts that pleasant attribute of his persona to the proceedings, thus retaining the respect of the entire stadium on every occasion. In keeping with that Sunny Badru is so respectful that many people who have heard so much about his prowess on the field of play, are somewhat abashed when they meet him for the first time.

They are taken aback by his politeness and transparent modesty and wonder if they are really in the presence of Nigeria’s “Referee No. 1.” And yet, standing at well over six-foot-four in his socks, he presents an imposing figure in any crowd. That helped to establish good behaviour in his conduct of the game on the pitch.

He was, of course, on many pitches as the arbitrator through African countries and other parts of the world, and has been one of the few African referees to win the highest accolade of his line -the FIFA Gold Whistle. Sunny is now over eighty years old.

But you would hardly notice the fact -if you kindly let him off climbing stairs. But his sunny smile is ageless. This is a man I am glad I to know and respect.
Time out.


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