• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Akpabio-led Senate pointless probes cast doubt on institution’s credibility

Akpabio-led Senate pointless probes cast doubt on institution’s credibility

The lack of tangible outcomes from a series of high-profile probes launched by the Godswill Akpabio-led 10th Senate in the last year is eroding the institution’s credibility and raising questions as to the effectiveness of the 109 lawmakers elected to represent Nigerians at the red chambers.

These probes, often intended to address corruption, financial mismanagement, and inefficiencies within various arms of the government, have consistently fallen short of producing the expected outcomes, BusinessDay learnt.

It was also discovered that most of the several committees and ad-hoc committees set up to look into high-profile issues and given timelines to present their various reports to the Senate, are yet to submit their findings.

For several of them, the deadlines given for those probes have elapsed, leaving them inconclusive. The Upper Chamber has also passed 115 resolutions in one year, including on security, food security, economy, rule of law among others, which are yet to yield intended results.

For instance, in October 2023, the Senate constituted a committee chaired by Isah Jibrin, a lawmaker representing Kogi East, to investigate the N11.35 trillion spent on the maintenance of moribund refineries. The committee is to investigate all contracts awarded for the rehabilitation of the nation’s four refineries located in Port Harcourt, Warri, and Kaduna, which are still in disrepair and report back in four weeks. The committee is yet to conclude its investigation with the deadline passed since November, 2023.

Jibrin also chairs another ad-hoc committeee constituted by the Senate on February 28, 2024, to probe the contentious N30 trillion ways and means advanced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), including interest rates to the federal government, and report back in six weeks.

Though the committee reported some progress, disclosing 13 infractions in the approval of the loan by the CBN under its former governor, Godwin Emefiele, but the investigation stalled until the deadline given to the committee elapsed, without further report till date.

Also on February 27, 2024, the Senate set up a 10-member panel to probe the Ajaokuta Steel Company regarding the alleged payment of $496 million to revive the company which has remained moribund for decades.

That panel was given two weeks to submit its findings to the Senate for debate and adoption. However, nothing has been heard from the committee chaired by Adeniyi Adegbonmire, the senator representing Ondo Central Senatorial District, and no report was submitted.

These are part of the long list of several other probes pending at the Senate. Political analysts and many Nigerians believe that these efforts lack the necessary follow-through required to bring about meaningful change.

Speaking with BusinessDay, Chidi Omeje, a public affairs and security analyst, described the Senate’s actions as ‘symbolic theatrics’ that have been ineffectual for many decades. He believes the Senate has been serving its selfish interests rather than those of the public.

Read also: Exploits of the 10th Senate

Before the 10th Senate was officially inaugurated in July 2023, it ordered a probe into the payment of N9.3 trillion oil subsidy and under-recovery under former President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime from January 2021 to May 29, 2023. The upper chamber resolved that its standing committees on petroleum (downstream), petroleum (upstream), and finance would carry out a holistic investigation, but nothing has been heard from the committee nearly a year later.

In July 2023, the Senate mandated its Committee on Niger Delta to probe a N6.5 billion shoreline protection contract awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2006 and report back in four weeks, but the committee has yet to provide a report.

In November, 2023 the Upper Chamber mandated its Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters to investigate alleged lopsided recruitment into the Federal Civil Service. In the same month, the Senate launched an investigation into allegations of admission racketeering in universities across the country, following a motion by the senator representing Ebonyi North, Onyeka Nwebonyi.

Additionally, the Senate opened a probe into the N500 billion Abuja CCTV cameras project awarded to a private contractor during the administration of late President Umaru Yar’adua. This is not the first time the National Assembly is probing this issue, without results.

The upper chamber has also opened investigations into the N130.8 billion CBN’s Gas Intervention Funds Disbursement and resolved to investigate the printing of new Naira notes by Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Plc (NSPMC) in 2022. As at date, no reports have been presented on these investigations.

In March 2024, the Senate probed the killing of soldiers in Delta. It mandated its Committees on Army, Defence, Air Force, and Navy to unravel the circumstances surrounding the killings of 17 soldiers in Okuama community of Delta State.

The haphazard nature of conducting investigations at the National Assembly is not peculiar to the 10th Assembly. Recall that the previous Senate administrations had been equally knocked for inconclusive probes or failure to hold government accountable, a trend that is now being repeated in the 10th Senate just in the last one year. There are also allegations that committees use those serial probe threats to negotiate funds from ministries, departments and agencies(MDAs).

During the 8th Senate, presided over by Bukola Saraki, it was disclosed that in 2018, up to 14 ad-hoc committees abandoned their investigations and failed to submit reports on resolutions made on matters of urgent national importance.

Likewise, the Ahmed Lawan- led Senate named about 14 ad-hoc committees that failed to meet deadlines for their report in 2019, yet there was neither compliance nor punishment for failing on the important assignments.

Beside probes, the 10th Senate has equally taken several resolutions, especially on security, which have not been produced any result. Insecurity is perhaps one of the most discussed matters before the Senate and they often summon service chiefs to closed-door meetings.

Abba Morro, Senate minority leader, admitted during one of the plenary sessions in March 2024 that the Senate has deliberated on several motions on insecurity with resolutions that have not been effective. He expressed concerns that the Senate has not effectively followed up on compliance to its resolutions, a point Akpabio also acknowledged.

Consequently, the Senate resolved to meet with President Bola Tinubu alongside the leadership of the House of Representatives over insecurity in the country.

The leadership of both the upper and lower chambers are expected to present a summary of committee’s reports and resolutions on insecurity. The service chiefs and other heads of security agencies are expected to attend the meeting.

The National Assembly has been silent on this significant resolution it took three months ago.

Read also: Nigerian Senate passes 25 bills, 115 resolutions in one year

Yemi Adaramodu, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, did not confirm to BusinessDay whether the meeting has held, but he stated that such meetings would be held behind closed doors. He however argued that the meetings with Senate security chiefs are yielding results, evidenced by the number of hostages released and insurgents arrested.

“If there is any area Nigerians are not seeing results, they should let us know and we would look into it,” Adaramodu responded to the concerns of unfruitful probes and resolutions.

He cited naira devaluation and electricity tariff as some instances where the Senate’s intervention yielded results, after interactions with critical stakeholders.

However, some political analysts believe that a major setback for most of the probes is that the National Assembly lacks the constitutional power to prosecute erring officials. After investigations, the parliament often sends resolutions and recommendations to the executive, in whose discretion it then lies to implement such recommendations.

Abdulrazaq Saheed, a Nigerian writer, recently expressed his disappointment with the 10th Senate, stating, “The NASS under Akpabio is the definition of how the current government has failed its people.”

According to him, the Senate has done nothing positive to impact the lives of citizens.

Similarly, Collin Okapra, an Abuja-based businessman, said he is not surprised at the “disappointment the Senate has served Nigerians over the last year.”

He added, “They (lawmakers) only argue about money sharing or positions. I don’t feel their impact in any way. Both Senators and Representatives do nothing but enrich themselves and their masters. Akpabio is rubber-stamped, period!”

A netizen with the handle @manofthemoment on X wrote, “There’s no way Akpabio can twist it. This 10th NASS is Akpabio’s Senate. The reckless, talkative Senate President has failed woefully. May I remind Mr. Akpabio that Bukola Saraki led the most successful Senate in Nigeria’s history?”

Renowned political and civil rights activist, Aisha Yesufu, recently called for the scrapping of the Senate, describing it as a joke.

“They do nothing special, and at the end of the day, they are paid humongous amounts of our money and receive huge allowances for doing nothing different. The Nigerian Senate has been the most useless there is, and they continue to reinforce that assembly after assembly.”

A civil rights activist, Ezuma Andre, decried that the Senate has repeatedly shown that “they are our major problem.” He further described the Senate as a retirement place for greedy politicians, stating, “Eight years as Governor, without any reasonable achievements, and still the same failure will go to the Senate.”