Abuja — The ninth National Assembly kicked off proceedings yesterday amid a reminder that unemployment remains a key challenge in the country.
An army of job seekers in the hundreds stormed the premises hoping to be employed as legislative aides by new members of the House of Representatives.
Some were former support staff of members who lost their seats in the 2019 general elections, others were new people anxious to try their luck.
The job hunters who were mostly women stood in groups, waiting to present their curricula vitae to the lawmakers after plenary.
As the legislators walked into the lobby, they rushed towards them explaining why they were the most suited for the positions.
Also, deliberations at the lower chamber presided over by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila quickly echoed the worrisome narrative on insecurity across the country. The lawmakers had earlier considered two matters of national importance moved by Ajibola Muraina and Benjamin Kalu before dissolving into an executive session at about 12:30 p.m. to discuss the allocation of offices, furniture and allowances.
While adopting the motion, the lawmakers urged Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu and other security agencies to deploy more personnel to combat criminal activities in Oyo State. They also enjoined the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide assistance to victims of violent attacks and kidnappings in the state.
At the Senate, lawmakers rejected a motion raised through a point of order by Istifanus Dung Giang, urging the chamber to debate the speech delivered by President Muhammadu Buhari during Wednesday's Democracy Day celebration.
The motion was shot down by the prevalent voices of dissenters.
The first plenary, which started at about 10:26 a.m., was chaired by Senate President Ahmed Lawan. Deputy President Ovie Omo-Agege acted in the capacity of Majority Leader pending the appointment of a substantive officer for the position.
The chamber resolved to write an official letter to Buhari informing him that a quorum of the Senate had assembled and its presiding officers had been elected. It also agreed to inform international parliamentary bodies.
The decision followed a motion by Omo-Agege who also urged the Senate to send a message to Gbajabiamila, and his deputy, Idris Wase, congratulating them on their election and informing them that the Senate had elected its presiding officers.
Omo-Agege listed the international parliamentary bodies as: African Union (AU), Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), ECOWAS Parliament, Pan African Parliament, and the Association of Senate, Shoora and Equivalent Council in Africa and the Arab World (ASSECAA).
The lawmaker further urged the Senate to direct Clerk of the National Assembly Muhammad Sani-Omolori "to advise the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that a quorum of the Senate has assembled and is ready to receive any communication from the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria."
After some contributions by the lawmakers, Omo-Agege moved a motion to go into a closed-door session for discussions on urgent matters.
Lawan meanwhile administered the oath of office on Senator Rochas Okorocha. The immediate past governor of Imo State had earlier been denied a certificate of return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) following an allegation that the Returning Officer declared the former governor winner under duress. A Federal High Court in Abuja last Friday however ordered INEC to issue him a certificate. The commission complied Tuesday.
Speaking with reporters yesterday, Okorocha said moves by INEC to appeal the ruling would amount to a wild goose chase, even as he reiterated his innocence.
"There is no basis for it at all. The accusation before me was that of duress. Duress means using mild or excessive force to compel somebody to do something he or she does not want to do. In my own person, as executive governor, coming in with a machete or gun, asking them to write a result in my favour? That never happened. Even if I were to be a spirit, someone would have seen me do that," he said.
In a related development, a former Abia State deputy governor, Enyinnaya Abaribe, emerged as Senate Minority Leader during a meeting of the PDP National Working Committee in Abuja yesterday night.
Abaribe was the chairman of the committee on power in the Eighth Senate.
Emmanuel Bwacha, who represents Taraba South Senatorial District emerged as Deputy Minority Leader. Also, Philip Aduda, who represents the Federal Capital Territory, became Minority Whip, while Senator Clifford Odia (PDP, Edo Central) is now Deputy Minority Whip.
The party will meet the House of Representatives caucus today to also pick its leaders.
But a civil society organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), described the election of Omo-Agege and Gbajabiamila as sacrilegious, saying the duo were yet to clear their names on allegations of wrongdoing.
In a statement yesterday in Abuja by the national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group said it was the peak of corruption that the lawmakers were elected despite questions on alleged fraud and aiding and abetting the criminal invasion of the Senate and the violent theft of the mace.
"This is comedy taken too far. It will water down the respect the rest of the world would have for our Senate. What this action conveys to Nigerian youngsters is that it pays to misbehave and disobey constituted authority. This election of both Senator Omo-Agege and the allegedly discredited lawyer, Femi Gbajabiamila, if allowed to remain, will amount to the canonisation of rascality and misconduct," the group said.