UNITY IN DIVERSITY

Being Text of Speech delivered by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, OON at the 23rd Town Hall Meeting of the Lagos Central Senatorial District on Friday 15th September, 2017 at Arcade Hall, Eko Club, Surulere, Lagos.

‘Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization’ -Mahatma Gandhi

I am delighted to welcome you all to the 23rd edition of Lagos Central Senatorial District Town Hall Meeting. I must thank you all for your continuous support and commitment towards ensuring better representation, accessibility of governance and probity in our District.

I appreciate our Senatorial District Leader, Party Chieftains, Woman Leader, Youth Leader, Community Development Committee (CDC), Community Development Associations (CDA), Women Groups, Market Men and Women, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs), the Press and all who have contributed towards ensuring continuity of this vision.
The theme of this meeting ‘Embracing our Complexity and Diversity’ is apt in the face of alleged eviction notices purported to have been issued in certain quarters demanding that fellow Nigerians vacate their region as a result of ethnic disparity; and discussions about restructuring and the way forward for Nigeria.

Our identity as Nigerians is complex and dependent on the diversity of the different groups that form the whole. With this comes the potential to greatly benefit – inter-tribal marriages, opportunities to travel , positions and employment opportunities that will have been otherwise unobtainable, other traditions, cultures and languages abound and are accessible to us.

Comprising over two hundred and fifty (250) ethnic groups and over five hundred (500) indigenous languages, Nigeria came into being in 1914. Contrary to belief however, we were not alien to one another before the amalgamation. Historical accounts show that the various groups that currently make up Nigeria related through trade, commercial endeavours, and occasionally, inter-marriages. Thus, all notions of how different we are, that we cannot coexist must be entirely dispelled.

It is my opinion that there is nothing wrong with ethnicity. It can make and create avenues for healthy competition in economic development as exemplified by the period after independence that witnessed robust competition when the South-West led in cocoa production; the North in the production of groundnuts, cotton and cereals; and the production of palm products and root crops dominated the economy of the South-East; and where properly harnessed can be gainfully employed for the wellbeing of all.
Over the years, Nigeria has been faced with ethnocentrism, religious intolerance and allegations of marginalisation of minority groups. The result has been the absence of unity and a viable Nation. The situation has been increasingly stoked by the readiness of our political class to manipulate the people riding on tribal animosities, sentiments and differences to access political office, gain constituents support and fulfill personal political ambitions.
Amazing and perhaps amusing is the existence of dichotomy even among ethnic groups. I have heard certain Yoruba people discriminate or refuse to intra-marry with some other groups of Yoruba people. I have also heard of certain Ibo communities refusing to intra-marry and being weary of dealing with others due to certain preconceived notions. Would you buy a faulty car from your kinsman? Or would you rather buy a good car for good value from someone from an entirely different community or ethnic group?

That is the question.

In the words of President Muhammadu Buhari in a Presidential Broadcast on Monday 21st August, 2017 ‘Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable’. He further stated that ‘The National Consensus is that it is better to live together than to live apart’. And while it is impossible to erase our ethic origins and affiliations, focusing and obsessing over them will only serve to deepen ethnic rifts, differences and entrench parochial consciousness to the detriment of growth and development.

We must re-evaluate the perception of ourselves and others around us to adequately benefit from the diversity of ideas and experiences that are important for the development of our Nation. Thus diversity in all facets of our lives – education, sports, governance, economy etc. must be encouraged to ensure that all citizens participate, contribute and perform optimally.

We must be and raise a new generation of compatriots – Nigerians united in the need to embrace diversity while creating a blueprint for the younger generations to follow, educating our children and unlearning stereotypes.

Lagos State, with all the different ethnicities that make up Nigeria residing within her boundaries, has proven that indeed, it is possible to coexist peacefully. This is only possible because of the practise of all-inclusive governance by the Lagos State Government; and provision of opportunities for all regardless of ethnic groups, social standing or religion. Nigeria and other States have a lot to learn in this regard.

I also commend the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) on withdrawal of the quit notice earlier issued by the Coalition of Northern Groups. I appeal to others to follow suit and take back any statements capable of leading to hostilities and apprehension.
Thus, I leave you with a reminder that the ability to coexist is the beauty of our existence, and at the basis of it, we are all human.

AT THE SENATE.
Since the last Town Hall Meeting when I reported Senate activities, 34 bills were presented while 30 bills and 15 motions were considered. However, I will only mention the ones that are pertinent to this Town Hall Meeting.

On Wednesday 17th June, 2017 a Motion sponsored by one hundred and eight (108) Senators on ‘The need for National Unity and Peaceful Co-existence in Nigeria’ was moved. It urged amongst others that we embrace patriotism and nationalism while shunning divisive comments. In contributing to the motion, I stressed on my ties to different ethnic communities, the importance of the different parts that make up the whole, and how we all have something to contribute to the development of Nigeria.

I also sponsored the Police Act Amendment Bill (SB 453) which was first read on Thursday 15th June 2017 and subsequently debated on Tuesday 11th July 2017. The bill amongst other things aims to bring in line with the current realities, the punishments and fines contained in the act; and to eliminate institutionalisation of bias against women who seek to serve our great Nation via the Nigeria Police Force.

Pursuant to a Motion moved by my colleague, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, on the dire implications of Suspension of Nigeria from the Egmont group of Financial Intelligence Units, a Bill to establish a Financial Independent unit, independent of the Electoral and Financial Crimes Commission was read for the first time on the floor of Senate on Thursday 19th July, 2017. The Bill was read a second time on Thursday, 27th July, 2017 and referred to the relevant Committee. The suspension of the Country from the Egmont group will affect rating of Nigerian Financial Institutions, prevent Nigeria from benefiting from financial intelligence enjoyed by all one hundred and fifty three (153) member countries and hamper recovery of looted funds abroad.

The Report of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on Whistle Blowers Protection Bill (SB 158) was considered and passed. This Bill if assented to, will protect witnesses particularly those giving evidence in respect of organized crime.
Most important is the ongoing attempt to amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended). At 57 years old, it is sad that Nigeria is still grappling with her Constitution. However, until we achieve a system that caters to the most unlikely situations and allows for strong institutions, the work must continue.

There were thirty three (33) Amendment Bills including:

i. Composition of members of Council of State, to allow for inclusion of former heads of the National Assembly in the Council of State. This was overwhelmingly supported.
ii. Authorisation of expenditure, reducing time frame within which a President or Governor may authorise expenditure pending appropriation from six (6) months to three (3) months. This was voted for by the majority.
iii. Devolution of powers, to move certain items to the concurrent list, thus enhancing Federalism and strengthening the States. Unfortunately this did not get the required two-thirds majority votes.
iv. Financial autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary to allow for increased independence was overwhelmingly supported.
v. Distributable pool account, to abrogate State Joint Local Government Accounts and empower each Local Government Council to maintain its own special account. The votes were in favour of this.
vi. Local Government, to provide for its democratic existence, tenure and funding. The votes were also in favour of this.
vii. State creation and boundary adjustment, to limit participation to elected Local Government Councils only. This was overwhelmingly supported.
viii. Immunity for Legislature, to prevent civil or criminal proceedings in respect of words spoken or written before the house or committee. This, contrary to public commentary, is similar to immunity of judges and the Executive for acts done in the course of duty. This was also overwhelmingly supported.
ix. Political Parties and Electoral matters, to provide time frame for conduct of bye-elections and grounds for de-registration of political parties. The two-thirds requirement was met.
x. Presidential assent, to provide for procedure for a Bill to become law where a President withholds assent. The votes were in favour of this.
xi. Time frame for submission of names of nominees for appointment to the office of Commissioner or Minister, inclusion of portfolio and 35% Affirmative Action for women. These were all voted for except the 35% Affirmative Action for Women. We will however not stop advocating for increased women representation in public office.
xii. Appointment of Ministers from FCT, to ensure that like other States of the Federation, there is a Minister who is an indigene of the FCT. The two-thirds requirement was met.
xiii. Change of Names of some Local Government Councils. The two-thirds requirement was met.
xiv. Independent Candidature, to allow individuals contest for political office without party affiliation. The two-thirds requirement was met.
xv. The Nigeria Police Force, to change its name to Nigerian Police to reflect its core mandate. The two-thirds requirement was met.
xvi. Restriction of tenure of President and Governor to allow a person who completes the remainder of another’s tenure to only be eligible to be elected for a single term. This will ensure that in accordance with the maximum term already provided for, no one can hold such office beyond eight (8) years, regardless of the circumstance. The votes were in favour of this amendment.
xvii. Separation of office of the Accountant-General of the Federation from the office of Accountant-General of the Federal Government to ensure independence of both accounts and funds. The votes were in favour of this.
xviii. Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation and State, to ensure financial independence and probity by placing them on the Consolidated Revenue of the Federation and State. This amendment was overwhelmingly supported.
xix. Separation of office of the Attorney-General from the Office of the Minister or Commissioner of Justice at Federal and State level to ensure independence and depoliticisation of the office of Attorney-General. Having been long overdue, this amendment drew overwhelming support of Senators present.
xx. Judiciary, to further strengthen her and promote quicker dispensation of justice. The votes were in favour of this.
xxi. Determination of pre-election disputes, provision of a timeline, to ensure quicker dispensation of justice. The votes in favour of this were unanimous.
xxii. Inclusion of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in the Constitution. The two-thirds requirement was met.
xxiii. Citizenship and Indigeneship, to allow women claim their State of Origin or their husbands’ State of Origin for election or appointment purposes. Unfortunately, this amendment failed to get the required number of votes.
xxiv. Procedure for overriding Presidential Veto in Constitution Amendment. The votes were in favour of this.
xxv. Removal of Certain acts to wit: the law making power of the Executive arm of Government. The votes were in favour of this.
xxvi. Investment and Securities Tribunal, to provide for its establishment, and matters pertaining thereto. The two-thirds requirement was met.
xxvii. Reduction of age for eligibility to contest election. This also received overwhelming support.
xxviii. Authorisation of expenditure, timeframe for laying the Appropriation Bill, passage etc. This received unanimous support.
xxix. Deletion of the National Youth Service Decree from the Constitution, thus subjecting it to amendments like any other Law. The two-thirds requirement was met.
xxx. Deletion of the Public Complaints Commission Act from the Constitution, thus subjecting it to amendments like any other Law. The two-thirds requirement was met.
xxxi. Deletion of the National Security Agencies from the Constitution. This received overwhelming support.
xxxii. Deletion of the Land Use Act from the Constitution, thus subjecting it to amendments like any other Law. This however, failed to meet the requirement of two-thirds majority votes.
xxxiii. Deletion of States Independent Electoral Commission from the Constitution. The two-thirds requirement was met.

The Senate adjourned on Thursday 27th of July, 2017 for its annual recess. Resumption is scheduled for Tuesday 19th September, 2017.

ACTIVITIES AT COMMITTEE LEVEL
Environment
The report of the committee on the Erosion Control and Prevention Commission Bill (SB 32) was considered on Thursday 6th of July, 2017. It was subsequently approved and read a third time.
On Tuesday 18th of July, 2017, the Director General and Management team of the Nigerian Environmental Standards Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) appeared before the Committee to defend the agency’s projection and proposed expenditure of its 2017 Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). The Committee has since concluded its report and is awaiting presentation before the Senate.

Employment, Labour and Productivity
The Committee met jointly with the Committee on Power, Steel and Metallurgy in respect of a Motion on ‘the Hike in Electricity Tariff by the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing; Nigerian Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC) and Distribution Companies (DISCOs)’. The report of the Committee was considered on Wednesday 19th July, 2017.

Tertiary Education and Tetfund
The Committee laid its report on the National Open University Act Amendment Bill (SB 066) which was subsequently considered on Thursday 6th of July, 2017. The report was approved and the Bill passed its third reading. The Bill, if assented to, will allow students of the Institution attend the Nigeria Law School and participate in the National Youth Service Corps.
In addition, the Committee’s report on the Compulsory Universal Basic Education Act Amendment Bill (SB 307 & 374), to ensure compulsory, free and accessible Basic Education was considered on Thursday 27th July, 2017.

Constitution Review
The Special Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution comprising members of Senate, House of Representatives and all State Houses of Assembly met in Lagos between Friday 14th of July and Saturday 15th of July 2017 for a joint working retreat to deliberate the draft bills proposing amendments to the Constitution. After two (2) days of grueling debates, the report of the Committee was laid before the Senate and deliberated upon. Details and voting pattern are as contained above.

AT THE CONSTITUENCY
We reported earlier that the District was included in the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) programme requiring the submission of two hundred (200) names. We are yet to receive word from the organisers. However, the District was included in Small Scale Business Enterprise Management Skills Training Programme organized by the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) at Balikisu Iyede Street, Onike-Yaba from Monday 17th July – Friday 21st July, 2017 (5 days). The training was targeted towards artisans and ensuring sustainability of business practices. The names of those nominated to attend are:

  1. Adeniyi Omotayo Lagos Mainland
  2. Agbomabini Azeez Lagos Mainland
  3. Aje Shakiru Lagos Island
  4. Amono Funsho Apapa
  5. Awoyemi Funmi Surulere (Itire-Ikate)
  6. Falodun Femi Lagos Mainland (Yaba)
  7. Lawal Monsurat Gbemileke Mrs Apapa
  8. Shoneye Segun Eti-Osa
  9. Yekini Kafayat Eti-Osa

However, only four (4) of the nominated persons attended the training programme. The following are those who attended:

  1. Aje Shakiru
  2. Falodun Femi
  3. Lawal Monsurat Gbemileke
  4. Shoneye Segun.

We contacted the other five who failed to attend and they proffered various reasons. Thus, I implore that if you are unavailable or uninterested in participating in such events, you should indicate to enable others utilize such available slots. By failing to do so, you will be denying others the opportunities that could have made a difference in their lives.
In addition, Names of ten (10) of our Constituents were forwarded to be included in the Implementation of Solar Energy Training Scheme (SETS) for technically based graduates and unemployed youth. Nominees for the training include:

  1. Amona Omotayo Jane Apapa
  2. Anafi Babatunde Yusuf Lagos Mainland
  3. Ayomide Bolaji Surulere
  4. Fakolade Taiwo Abimbola Yaba
  5. Fatona Ralph Abiodun Eti-Osa
  6. Ogunbadeniyi Shola Lagos Island
  7. Sodiq Tobi Ayisat Surulere
  8. Talabi Bunmi Lagos Island
  9. Tijani Mariam Surulere
  10. Yusuf Faidat Lagos Mainland

Recently, we contacted the Youth and Woman Leaders to submit names of forty (40) persons who are desirous of participating in the N-Power Programme and have registered on the portal. However, the list forwarded did not include the applicants’ reference numbers and was thus rejected. I want to use this medium to urge you all, especially our youth, to be willing to move with the trend and changing times. We must be internet savvy, taking advantage of opportunities as they come up. Those who are still interested in being part of the initiative are to register at www.npower.gov.ng and forward their details to both leaders. We will keep the collated details in our database for when the need arises.

Under our Petty Traders Empowerment Capital Scheme (PETECS), two (2) members of the District were presented with Lagos State Central Business District Metal Kiosks and the sum of fifty thousand (N50, 000) Naira each to empower and boost their trade. The presentation which was performed by an APC Party Chieftain, Alhaji Mutiu Are, took place at the Lagos Central Senatorial District Office on Saturday 5th August, 2017. These items were facilitated by Honourable Agboola Dabiri, Special Adviser to the Governor on Central Business District (CBD). The beneficiaries are:

  1. Mrs Taibat Okunola – Lagos Island
  2. Mrs Shitta Basirat – Surulere.

The finals of the 7th Edition of the Muniru Muse u-12/u-15 Boys and Girls Soccer Competition took place on Sunday 20th August, 2017 inside the Campos Mini Stadium, Ajele, Lagos Island and was successfully hosted with product support from the Honeywell Group. In attendance were the Deputy Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Honourable Wasiu Sanni Eshinlokun who was the Special Guest of Honour; the Honourable Commissioner for Youth & Social Development, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, who was the Chairman of the occasion; Mother of the Day, Chief (Alhaja) Bintu-Fatima Tinubu and His Royal Highness Oba Rilwan Akiolu, Oba of Lagos was the Royal Father of the Day. Our distinguished guests were received by our Senatorial District Leader and Chief Host, Prince Tajudeen Oluyole Olusi.

In keeping up with the pace with which we started over six (6) years ago, under our four (4) years Post-Secondary School Scholarship Scheme (PSSS), twenty six (26) students were to receive a Hundred Thousand (100,000) Naira each on Friday 25th of August, 2017 towards their education and school supplies for the 2017 academic year. This is in furtherance of my commitment to enabling access to education and skills acquisition for all our constituents.
Twenty five (25) of them have received theirs. We discovered that one of them is not in school and he has ceased forthwith to be a beneficiary under the scheme.

Because of the overwhelming financial commitments that accompany the celebration of Eid-el-Kabir, we will not be engaging in any empowerment activities today. However, we hope to receive the items for which we applied under the 2017 Budget and commence distribution in earnest.

Conclusion
In conclusion, I implore us to be tolerant of the divergent views, beliefs and practices of those around us. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

I urge you all to continue in your support for the initiatives of the Lagos State Government and the Governor Akinwumi Ambode Administration. The Lagos of our dreams is closer than ever.
Once again, I thank our Senatorial District Leader, Party Chieftains and all Party faithful for their staunch commitment to our great Party’s objectives and for making this meeting a reality.

Thank you for your kind attention.

God bless APC!
God bless Lagos Central Senatorial District!
God bless Lagos State!
God Bless Nigeria!
Itesiwaju Ipinle Eko l’oje wa l’ogun!