By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Joseph Erunke
The Nigerian Senate severally barked when it pondered over issues of national concern such as the Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment scam. However, its barks such as that directed at the former interior affairs minister, Abba Moro in almost all cases turned to banter
How the Senate responded to the Immigration recruitment scam was typical of how the body responded to many issues of national concerns.
When the immigration recruitment fiasco ended in the death of tens of Nigerians in March 2013, the Senate as it often did on such issues raised indignation. It mandated its committee on interior to investigate the issue and gave the committee two weeks to conclude its report.
Unlike many other committees, the committee commenced work and concluded its deliberations within six weeks and submitted its report.
However, the report of the committee despite having been submitted to the Senate never saw the light of the day even up to the end of the Senate. Remarkably, the Senate Committee on Interior continued to relate with the minister, Comrade Abba Moro under whose watch the scandalous scam and sacrifice of jobless Nigerians were executed.
In fact, the Senate during the last four years, instituted many probe panels all aimed at not only unravelling controversial national issues dominating public discourse but also finding solutions to them. But some of the investigations were successfully concluded while others were not. Some probes even dragged on for months and had to be abandoned halfway to the consternation of those who put much hope on the investigations.
Some of the probes that were carried out by the Senate were the oil subsidy probe, the Rivers State House of Assembly crisis probe, investigation into the alleged killing of Christopher McManus, a Briton and Franco Lamolinara, an Italian in Sokoto by their captors, probe of alleged illegal 37 housing estates in FCT, Malabu Oil Field transaction probe, investigation of alleged $27 million Embassy funds and the probe of police pension funds.
Others were the investigations into Apo killings, Associated Airline crash, N255 million armoured cars purchase probe and the probe of oil subsidy expenditure.
Among the many probes that caught public attention was the oil subsidy probe, which came following a motion by Senator Bukola Saraki. The Kwara Central lawmaker had drawn the Senate’s attention to mind bugling expenditure made by the Presidency presumably as subsidy payment to oil marketers.
Senate Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources (downstream), Appropriation and Finance swung into action to unravel what went wrong. The Senator Magnus Abe chaired joint committee after months of investigation turned in its report. The crucial report has not seen the light of the day.
The collapse of some Federal Government privatized companies prompted the Senate to raise the Senator Ahmed Lawan probe committee to look into the matter.
Lawan, representing Yobe North, on July 19, 2011, brought a motion about the collapse of some privatised government companies.
On the strength of the motion which essentially considered the Privatization and Commercialization Act of 1988, the Bureau of Public Enterprises Act of 1993 and the Public Enterprises (Privatisation and Commercialisation) Act of 1999, the Senate resolved to raise a special committee to probe the ways and means the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) conducted the privatisation of the companies.
After months of investigation, which saw committee members traversing parts of the country in search of facts, the committee made 45 recommendations.
Apart from the recommendations, the committee also exposed shady deals perpetrated under the guise of privatisation exercise. Of importance to the upper chamber was a situation where most of the privatised companies became moribund after the exercise.
The Senate adopted the 45 recommendations wholesale apparently due to the weight of submissions made by the committee. The recommendations have, however, not been implemented.
The Senate also mandated its Committee on Aviation to investigate the circumstances surrounding the crash of Dana Airliner on June 3, 2011. The probe of the crash, which claimed the lives of over 153 persons, was touchy as it was emotional. To underscore the importance of the investigation, the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation also joined.
The joint committee, after its investigation, recommended that the operations of Dana Airline should be banned. It also recommended that the then Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Mr. Harold Demuren, should be relieved of his appointment.
If the probe of Dana Air crash was emotional and touchy, the investigation of the N273 billion alleged looted pension fund was mind boggling. The Senate Joint Committee on Public Service and Establishment and State and Local Government Administration conducted the investigation.
The Senate decided, among others, that the Pension Reform Task Force be dismantled while its chairman, Abdulrasheed Maina, should be sent packing. Maina, who refused to honour invitations by the committee, went to court to clear his name. The matter is still pending with other twist and turns introduced into the alleged scam.
The probe of the controversy surrounding the sale of the $1.092 billion OPL 245 oil bloc involving Malabu Oil and Gas Limited and Shell/Agip was sequel to a motion sponsored by Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi. After much debate, not much has been heard about the probe. Some observers have described the National Assembly investigations as mostly self-serving while others see the probes as avenues to intimidate, cajole, coax as well as to extort money from “recalcitrant and unwilling” government agencies that refuse to “play ball”.
Another probe the Senate instituted which never saw the light of the day was that on Ezzu River dead bodies.
The legislative House had mandated two of its committees to unravel the circumstances surrounding the appearance of over 35 strange dead bodies found floating on Ezzu River, Amansea, a town on the border between Anambra and Enugu States but the committee never released the probe report.
The unidentified dead bodies, mostly males, were discovered floating on the river in the early hours of Saturday, January 19, 2013, by some villagers of Amansea, in Awka North Local Government Area of Anambra State.
The situation generated panic across the state as people wondered where the bodies could have come from, given that no community had come up with claims of missing members. Two weeks after the incident, precisely on January 31, 2013, the upper legislative chamber, after an intense debate on a motion brought sequel to the development, by Senator Andy Ubah, PDP, Anambra South, mandated its Committees on Police Affairs as well as Security and Intelligence, to immediately carry out a thorough investigation into it and report the findings within two weeks. The joint committee, headed by Senators Matthew Nwagu, PDP, Imo North and Mohammed Magoro, PDP, Kebbi South respectively, which was mandated to carry out an indepth investigation into the matter and report findings to the Senate Committee within two weeks, failed to submit the report.