By Emmanuel Aziken

It is remarkable that as the Senate basks in accolades of commendation over its seeming positive role in stabilizing the polity that mention is today being made of its equally very efficient “mortuary”. That is the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.

The leadership of the Senate Committee on Ethics is one of those committee chairs traditionally reserved for the minority party members in the Senate.

The first chairman of the committee Senate pundits remember is Senator Ayo Lawrence, from Ondo State. He is remembered for the steadfastness with which he worked on articulating a code of ethics that nearly all his colleagues including some committee members never desired.

He was followed by Senator Olurunnimbe Mamora in 2003. Senator Mamora followed in Senator Lawrence footsteps in enunciating a code of ethics but was equally frustrated by his colleagues.

Cannily, Mamora moderated several of the stringent conditions including provisions against sponsored travels and gifts before the immediate past Senate grudgingly adopted it.

Mamora’s tenure as committee chairman was remarkable for two major assignments. It was Mamora’s lot as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics to investigate the alleged N54 million bribe request allegation made against erstwhile Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ibrahim Mantu and a former friend of his, Senator Jonathan Zwingina.

It was also Mamora’s lot to investigate the N54 million bribe for budget allegation made against some members of the then Senate Committee on Education.

What is most remembered about Mamora’s assignments was the failure by his committee to indict and apportion blame.

Mamora was followed by Senator Titus Olupitan. Nothing phenomenal was recorded under the Ondo born Senator.
Senator Olupitan was followed by Senator Omar Hambagda, a former university lecturer who became the first Senator from outside the Southwest to head the committee in the fourth republic.

Interestingly, Hambagda is assisted by another distinguished Senator with an academic background, Senator Adegho Eferekaya, a former lecturer in the University of Benin.

Hambagda’s time as chairman of the Senate committee on Ethics has also witnessed a gradual increase in the number of unresolved cases arising from the flooding of many controversial issues to the committee.
Indeed under Hambagda, a number of journalists have been summoned over some otherwise irrelevance that Senators decided to engage themselves in.

Your correspondent was last year summoned by the Hambagda committee in its quest to determine the source of information contained in news publications authored by him.

Only last Monday, the correspondent of Thisday Newspaper, Mr. Sufuyan Ojeifo was also summoned over the source of information published by the newspaper earlier this year.

Just like your correspondent, Mr. Ojeifo was adamant in not disclosing the source of his information in line with journalism practice. The report of the Ethics committee into that investigation concerning your correspondent is yet hanging like many, many other assignments given to the Committee on Ethics.

The committee’s failure to submit its report on so many assignments given it is the reason why the committee is presently termed by many in today’s Senate as the Senate’s hardworking mortuary, a place where issues are sent to before burial!

It was as such not surprising that when last Tuesday a Senator raised issues concerning some newspaper publications that the Senate President, Senator David Mark and many Senators decided not to send the issue to the Committee on Ethics!

This week the Senate shied away from accomplishing what could have been a milestone in the affairs of the fourth republic Senate.

A vote to alter the provisions of the constitution was deferred to next week by the Senate leadership following the insistence of many Senators on contributing to the debate on the bill to amend section 145 of the constitution.

The Senate vote which is expected to come up next week if favourable as envisaged would be the first time that the Senate would successfully pass a bill to alter the provisions of the 1999 constitution.


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