For the lawmakers, plenary session ends Thursday. This perhaps gives them room to hit the road to attend to constituency issues and problems. However, no sooner than Senate President David Mark called for the motion on the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) which was debated and successfully concluded when tempers rose between Senators Ayogu Eze and Ita Enang over the spread of FERMA rehabilitation work across the country.
After the Senate had confirmed Hon. Nnoli Nnaji as the board member representing the South -east on FERMA Governing Board, the Chairman Senate Committee on Works, Senator Ayogu Eze, stood up to deliver the good news that FERMA is poised to rehabilitate roads across the country hopefully before December.
"We have gathered all the data, what has been stopping them (FERMA) from work is the rain and now that the rains are beginning to subside you will see massive action and I want to do is assure that Nigerians will drive on smooth roads during the Christmas period," he said.
Senator Enang had waited patiently to take on his colleague over the alleged concentration of FERMA repair work in the South-east region to the disadvantage of other regions. Senator Enang was boiling. Like a charged lion, he stood to address his colleagues, saying "I want to say that, what the Chairman just said on the roads rehabilitation cannot be done because it is not in the budget; the budget of FERMA is not representative of this country, it starts almost in one state and ends in one state, I'm sorry that I have to raise this issue on the floor of the Senate because I saw the adverts that were placed in five newspapers by FERMA and it was not in their budget, and in fact none of those advertised roads are in South-south where I come and that should not be in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The roads that are earmarked for rehabilitation are all concentrated in the South-east, I'm sorry to say this Sir, what is bad is bad. I'm from Akwa Ibom and from South-south.
"I'm speaking from what is on the record; therefore, I pray this house that the budget of FERMA be stopped, bring it back and let this money be shared zone by zone and not one taking everything that is meant for the entire country. This is the purpose of federal character, my village is not there and even the village of the Senate President is not there. It is wrong Sir, it is wrong Sir.
It took the swift intervention of Senator Mark to calm the frayed nerves and rising tempers. He said: "I have not seen the budget of FERMA and I don't know what they have advertised, but if it is tilted in one direction then it is not correct, rehabilitation of roads by FERMA must be representative of the whole of this country."
Senator Ayogu Eze would not let this go without putting the records straight. His defence: "I think that this is completely mistaken and it is also good that he raised it on the floor of the House for all of us, so that we can address the situation once and for all. I'm going to go further by doing an analysis of FERMA budget and projects so that everybody can see it. What FERMA advertised during the long holiday was mainly some of the new road projects that came as constituency projects of individuals. "It is not the visitation of the entire projects of FERMA because they placed this last advert they had awarded about 90 percent of their ongoing contracts in different parts of the country, but a lot of people in the South misconstrue the constituency projects.
"Initially they were trying to see whether they can procure with no objection, but they went to the office of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and they requested that it must be advertised. Secondly, there is also a provision in the budget for FERMA which is the largest chunk of money that FERMA spends on a monthly basis which is about N20 billion out of the N40 billion that FERMA has and that is for maintenance of roads across the country.
"This road that you spoke about does not need to be reflected on the budget because there is a provision which is a bulk sum provided by FERMA to address roads and emergencies that arise but there are also other roads in other parts of the country.
"I will bring the budget here because we all passed the budget here and also by the committee on FERMA. Every part of this country is represented and I can assure you on my honour that the project was not skewed but when the last project was awarded, it seemed the constituency projects were in one direction.
No doubt, a cold war is the air for PDP Senators. Adding his voice to the raging debate, Senator Mark had said: "Every Senator is a Senator of the federal republic and if you were chairman of any committee you should also know that there are other Senators who are chairmen of other committees and we must ensure that there is justice and equity. "All the Senators here should be nationalistic enough. We must be fair to all sections of this country and not of one particular state.
Akin Odunsi Seeks Yewa Recognition
The people of Ogun West do not want to be called Egbado people any longer. Instead they would want to be called, addressed and referred to as Yewa. In a lead debate on the bill for an act to alter the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Senator Akin Odunsi said the people consider the name Egbado as inappropriate and a symbol of marginalization. "The name Egbado has been widely described as a misnomer by the people who are supposed to be its bearers.
The autonomous people that inhabit the eastern area of Ogun West Senatorial District, Ogun State in South-west Nigeria would like to be known, called and addressed as Yewa people," he said. Senator Odunsi noted that Egbado was a colonial creation who subsumed the Yewa people as an appendage of the Egbas when the people of Yewaland were put "under the Egba as "Egbado". It was made a division under Abeokuta Province under the British Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914. Egbado, for the colonialists, is to denote the tribe of people South of the Egba."
For the records, Sen. Odunsi said: "Yewa people are a unique people. The Yewa are a distinct sub-ethnic group in culture and orientation from the Egba people. They are entitled to a modicum of self-esteem and actualisation at this point in our democratic journey. After attaining independence and creation of Ogun State, they are still subsumed under the old Abeokuta Province and the name sticks like an undying phoenix"
He therefore called for an amendment to Section 3, Part 1 of the First Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to change the name of Egbado North and Egbado South Local Government Areas to Yewa North and Yewa South Local Government Areas respectively.
54-Year-Old Customs Act Set for Review
Senator Domingo Obende representing Edo North Senatorial District last week stated that the 54-year-old Customs Act is long overdue for review. Leading the debate for the Amendment of the act, he said the process to repeal the Customs and Excise Management Act, CAP. 45 started last year. Senator Domingo said the new Bill expected from ongoing amendment of the Customs and Excise Act 2004 would reposition the Customs service for greater service delivery to the nation. This is coming as the Upper chamber has declared 2004 Act antiquated and requires some legislation for strengthening for better efficiency.
Expressing optimism at the progress of work, Senator Mark said: "The service has certainly been improved, but a lot of people are still going through very difficult times at the ports. Goods get there and don't get cleared on time. These are the areas that need to be looked into and I hope the new legislation will look at this to make our customs service an excellent one."
According to him, the 2004 does not contain provisions to support the use of modern information technology. He said: "Another very important shortfall of CEMA is the fact that it does not legally provide for the establishment of the Nigeria Customs Service. As a result, the NSC does not have legal existence, and it does not provide a proper legal basis for applying important international agreements relating to Customs procedures."
He said: "In over 100 years of Nigeria Customs Service, various reform and re-organisation committees have come and gone emphasising only one style of operation and equipment with special focus on the paraphernalia of office and none has taken bold steps to critically look at the archaic laws that govern the Customs.
The bill successfully scaled second reading and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance for more legislative work.