By HENRY UMORU & INALEGWU SHAIBU
ABUJA—THE Senate Thursday drew the battle line with the presidency pledging to use constitutional powers to enforce its resolutions directed at the good governance of the nation.
Thursday’s charged session was upon recent comments made by administration officials on the powerlessness of legislative resolutions.
The legislative body in a retort to claims by Information Minister, Labaran Maku that the administration was forging ahead with the production of the N5,000 bank note drew his attention to the fact that he was a mere appointee unlike legislators who were in office on the mandate of the people.
For the first time since the advent of the present senate, the threat of impeachment against President Goodluck Jonathan was made when Senator Uche Chukwumerije, PDP, Abia North disclosed that some senators were already mobilizing signatures for an impeachment notice should the president continue to disregard the actions and counsels of the senate.
The outpouring of disaffection was in the course of a debate on a Bill for an act to amend the Public Enterprise (Privatization and Commercialization) Act 2004 to provide for inclusion of host communities in sales of shares. The bill sponsored by Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, PDP, Delta North, aims to reserve five per cent of the shares of any public enterprise earmarked for privatization for the host community.
Senator Okowa in his debate disclosed that the amendment would help the host community and other stakeholders to buy into the privatization programmes of government.
Among the senators that spoke were Senators Chukwumerije, Ahmad Lawan; ANPP Yobe North; George Akume, ACN Benue; Ibrahim Gobir, PDP Sokoto and Isa Galaudu, PDP Kebbi.
Senator Okowa explained that the Bill sought to ensure better accountability through an amendment of the functions of the National Council on Privatization, NCP, to remove contradictions.
“Section 5 (3) of the Act is proposed for amendment to provide for the inclusion of host communities. The amendment provides for not less than five per cent of the shares to be offered to Nigerians, to be reserved for the host communities of the public enterprises to be privatized, and also proposes not less than five per cent of such shares for sale to be reserved for the staff of the public enterprise”.
Against the background of mutterings by senators over the poor implementation of the resolutions of the senate, the Deputy President of the Senate, Chief Ike Ekweremadu who presided at the plenary cautioned Mr. Maku that unlike the legislators, he, Maku was not an elected official of government.
Ekweremadu said: “I do not think we need the Minister of Information, indeed any minister to remind us that our resolutions are not binding just as we do not need to remind him that he was not elected. So we know that our resolutions are not binding, but the decisions we take in this Senate, especially regarding the resolutions are all well thought of.
“They are borne out of patriotism, they are well researched and it is the amalgamation of the views of very responsible Nigerians. And to that extent, it is very persuasive and anybody who is ignoring the resolutions of this Senate is doing it at the expense of good governance and we cannot encourage such a thing.
“We believe that this is an opportunity for Mr. President to go and look for the resolutions of the Senate regarding the BPE investigation. If there are people sitting on it, I think he should use his executive powers and push them out and get the report and begin to implement them for the overall interest of this country.”
Senator Chukwumerije, who noted that impeachment of the President would be the last option if the resolutions were not implemented, said: “the Ahmad Lawan report is the highest moral ground of the Seventh Senate. It was that report that convinced everybody, the public that the hope for this country lies with the Senate; that there is still one body that is concerned with the nation which lies far above sectionalism.
“The pattern in this country all along has been one of siphoning of funds through all sorts of legal subtleties to private pockets and private companies.
“And for the first time, there was a bold report that exposed the rot and we called for a reversal of this pattern; unfortunately, it is business as usual. It is, therefore, in the interest of this Senate that in addition to what we are doing on this Act as we are doing now, we must pass a resolution calling the attention of Mr. President to the main body of that report.
Senate has started gathering signatures — Chukwumerije
“Two weeks ago, we started collecting signatures, and if we collect up to two-third of the Senate, we are going to get a motion that would give marching orders to Mr. President for the implementation of the report or else… We are getting to that stage. They are looting public funds with impunity and nobody is saying anything.
“If the President keeps on not implementing resolutions of the Senate, if it gets to the point of threatening impeachment, I, Uche Chukwumerije will move the motion.”
Co-sponsor of the bill, Senator Lawan said the bill was sequel to the investigation the senate carried out on the activities of the BPE from 1999 to 2011.
Lawan who chaired the Ad-hoc committee explained that during the investigation, it was discovered that the Public Enterprises Act of 1999 was flawed in about four ways.
According to Lawan, at the end of the investigations, it was discovered that BPE was spending its proceeds without reference to the National Assembly, adding, “In fact we recommended punishment and sanctions for two of the officers who did that because those actions were against section 80 of the constitution.”
Lawan who appealed to the President to implement the resolutions adopted by the Senate with regard to the BPE report that was submitted to him, said, “Mr President must ignore people who will always tell Nigerians that the resolutions we take here are only advisory and have no weight.
In his own contribution, Senator Galaudu noted that the amendments being sought to the act were in line with international best practices in privatization and stressed that it was only right that certain percentage of privatized companies be reserved to the host communities and the staff of the company.
The Bill was read for the second time and referred to the Senate Committe on Privatization.