• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Senator Natasha: Game changer in the Legislative matrix

Senator Natasha: Game changer in the Legislative matrix

“It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided. – Hillary Clinton

She says it as it is- point blank- and musters the political will to walk the talk. That is based of course, on well-thought out, articulated and unimpeachable facts and figures on the subject at hand, far above base or primordial sentiments. Good enough, she has placed her personal philosophy above self-serving antics. Characteristically, she is compelled more so, if the critical issue at hand, which she is concerned about is to advance the democratic ethic of people’s interest, not minding whose ox is gored. But why, you might ask?

Put simply, all these factors fall in sync with the typical attributes of the well-bred Ihima-born icons of morality; weaned on the milk ingredients of courage, character, candour and compassion. Unlike many members of the political elite, her driving passion is that of the national interest; to put a smile on the faces of the long-suffering Nigerian masses; still stewing in the pitiable paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty natural resources.

One is talking about Senator Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, who within months of being sworn in as the Senator representing Kogi State Central Senatorial District and the first female senator from the Confluence State, has started to make her mark in the ever-challenging legislative process.

For instance, she hit the nail on its head, with the clarion call for the host communities of solid mineral mining to maximally benefit from the revenue accruing from the operations. And this is because they are vulnerable to the vagaries of environmental degradation, the attendant diseases and sometimes the challenge of insecurity.

Furthermore, as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Local Content, Natasha has also urged the Federal Government to allow 100 percent of local manufacturing of military kits to generate revenue for the country. This comes a year after the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission hinted that the country would start local production of uniforms for its military and paramilitary personnel from January 2023.

Put in her words: “My question is, where do you acquire the uniforms? Are they locally produced or imported? Kindly draw my attention to the budgetary provision for that; how much is being budgeted and whether they are manufactured hundred percent in Nigeria.

“I am speaking as the Chairman of the Local Content Committee. It’s my greatest desire to see that our local industries are being utilised in the manufacturing of boots and uniforms.”

Without mincing words, she urged the Federal Government to situate the manufacturing industries in Kogi Central, adding that Ebiras are well known for their cloth-weaving skills, which in turn will help keep jobs local and also generate revenue for the country in the long run. She also recommended situating a barrack facility in Kogi Central to improve the security situation in the region and its environs. Indeed, these are commendable contributions to the lawmaking matrix in the country. But there has been more to come.

Recently, she, along with the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio; Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu; Senator Asuquo Ekpenyong and some others attended the 148th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) at the International Conference Centre in Geneva. This year’s edition held from March 23 to March 27, 2024.

The IPU, global organisation of national parliaments, was founded in 1889, and dedicated to promoting peace through parliamentary diplomacy and dialogue. It has grown into a truly global organization with 179-member countries out of 193 countries of the world.

The piece of heart-warming news was the historic meeting between Nigeria’s two women of substance- the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; and the Senate Chairman on Local Content, Senator Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan on boosting Nigeria’s trade and export potentials. They met during the 148th IPU.

Latching in on the golden opportunity of the Conference, Senator Natasha as a die-hard advocate of export opportunities for Nigeria urged Dr Okonjo-Iweala to help facilitate access to global markets that would boost Nigerian businesses, and enhance export capabilities as catalyst to galvanise local economic growth and diversification.

In addition, she expressed serious concerns about her desire to see Nigeria take advantage of the opportunities that African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) offer, respectively.

“It is my earnest expectation under the President Bola Tinubu-led administration to see Nigeria take advantage of these export opportunities through your support and by working closely with my office as the Senate Chairman on Local Contents,” she aptly stated.

Her firm belief is that Nigeria, especially amid the acute dollar shortages can tap the opportunities to boost its non-oil exports under AGOA to earn the much-needed foreign exchange for its economy.

On her part, the WTO Director-General, Okonjo-Iweala lauded Senator Natasha for her valuable contributions and promised to look into her recommendations. In addition, she assured of her readiness to collaborate with the Kogi lawmaker for the greater good of Nigeria, especially in the area of trade and commerce.

Worthy of note is that AGOA, a US trade initiative established in 2000, allows African nations to export various products, especially non-oil goods, to the United States on favourable terms, thereby promoting economic development and trade on the continent. It has been a crucial lifeline for many African economies, offering opportunities to access the vast American market.

It would however, be recalled that South Africa, Kenya, Madagascar, Lesotho, and Ghana dominated the 2022 non-oil AGOA exports, accounting for 90 percent of the total non-oil AGOA exports in 2022, with Nigeria missing on the list.

But with the presence of Nigeria at this year’s edition, the story is about to change for the country’ economic advancement. But again, there is need for follow-up moves to enhance the sustainability of the partnerships.

With Senator Natasha’s ever soaring socio-economic and political influence on the global stage, one cannot but urge her to keep the flag of patriotism, total commitment to service to humanity and selfless leadership flying higher. As Melinda Gates rightly noted, “A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.”

All said, we thank God and the good people of Kogi Central Senatorial District to have found such a rare gem in Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan. We wish her all the best.