TEXT OF SPEECH DELIVERED BY SENATOR OLUREMI TINUBU, OON, DURING THE 10TH TOWN HALL MEETING WITH CONSTITUENTS OF LAGOS CENTRAL SENATORIAL DISTRICT AT ROCKVIEW HOTEL, 17B, PARK LANE, APAPA G.R.A. LAGOS, ON FRIDAY, 7TH MARCH, 2014.
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step towards the good or justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle, the timeless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals” – Martin Luther King Jnr.
Those words from Martin Luther King Jnr. are not mere words. They are words that resonate through time and inspire us all to work for the greater good of the greatest number. It is to these words that I rally us all today. As we strive to consolidate our gains, we must also commit to make sacrifices and work together towards the much-awaited victory and progress we all long for.
We have come this far, I must openly admit because God has been on our side, His provisions and protection have made our gains possible. To our party leaders, elders, party faithfuls and constituents, I say thank you again and again for always being there.
I am sure that you will agree with me that over the past few months, our populist party, All Progressives Congress (APC) has transformed into a MOVEMENT. By the grace of God and with your active support, APC will continue to gather momentum and lead Nigerians to a new democratic dawn. APC will usher in change and energize development across Nigeria in 2015.
As you are all aware, the wind of change from APC is also blowing through the National Assembly and indeed, the entire country. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) granted our collective request for registration of APC on 30th July, 2013. On September 17, 2013, a letter formally announcing the birth of APC and the status of Senators of merged parties was read on the floor of the Senate. Now, there is no looking back as we strive towards building a strong, viral and enduring democracy.
On my part, I have continued to represent you with total commitment to the welfarist ideology of our party.
The last meeting like the one we are having today was the 8th Town Hall meeting of Friday, 27th September 2013 at Banilux Event Centre in Yaba, Lagos. Our 9th Town Hall Meeting held simultaneously in all our 13 Local Government Areas and Local Community Development Areas during the yuletide season was solely devoted to our dear elderly citizens. Thus, today’s meeting is particularly different because we are giving a report of activities that will cover a span of 6 months.
Before I delve into the summary of activities of Committees that I belong to in the Senate, I need to state that the 2014 Federal Budget scaled the Second Reading stage on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 and was referred to the Committees on Appropriations and Finance. Our stand on the budget is summed up in the words of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that “the key challenge facing Nigeria is how to promote sustained inclusive growth, reduce poverty, inequity and unemployment”. These issues are not effectively addressed by the federal executive’s budgetary allocations and choice of priorities. For instance, the total amount budgeted for “National Job Creation Scheme” in 2014 is N8 billion while N7 billion was budgeted for the three-month National Dialogue. I am not against the idea of convening a Sovereign National Conference but the question is: why now?
As it is, the National Conference is too close to the 2015 general elections, with gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states just around the corner. To me, this is just a distraction and mere waste of time and resources.
Furthermore, our nation must get its priorities right in pursuing real economic growth. Nigeria must cure itself of waste and over-dependence on oil income by ensuring that government creates growth and millions of well-paying jobs through investments in manufacturing, agriculture, housing construction and so on.
Below is a brief summary of the activities in some of my committees:
Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity
Towards the end of last year, the prolonged industrial action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over the Federal Government’s non-implementation of their 2009 agreement was of great concern to us.
The Committee, along with the Senate Committee on Education, to which I also belonged, worked to help end the labour dispute.
Also, the Committee began looking into A Bill for an Act to Amend the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), with a view to provide minimal social security for eligible Nigerians.
Another initiative undertaken by the Committee is focussed on ensuring that corporate bodies give adequate regard to Nigeria’s labour laws and the welfare of employees. In this vein, we made oversight visits to some of these companies and interacted with both management and workers.
We dialogued with members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other unions in our tertiary institutions during the 169 days’ strike (July 1 – December 17, 2013). We thank God that reason eventually prevailed and our children remain on their university campuses. However, it must be noted that ad-hoc solutions are only effective for a while.
As a result of accumulated problems and complaints, academic and non-academic staffs in our polytechnics and Colleges of Education also have grievances that resulted into strike action in both sets of institutions of higher learning. To solve the problem of constant strikes in our tertiary institution, long-term solutions from the Federal Government are required.
With a view towards identifying all the critical issues that can facilitate genuine, long-term transformation of Nigeria’s educational sector, we held a joint conference with members of the Education Committee in the House of Representatives and twenty-four states’ House of Assembly. Other stakeholders, including representatives of ASUU, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), the Federal Ministry of Education and resource persons participated at a conference held on September 24-25, 2013 with the theme “Transforming Nigeria’s Education Sector: The Legislative Agenda”.
During the last quarter of 2013, the Committee also conducted oversight visits to higher institutions in the North-West geo-political zone. The report from that round of visits is no different from that of institutions previously visited. Some institutions are still making use of laboratory equipment and other machines installed about thirty years ago, which have long become obsolete for teaching and research purposes. Dilapidated infrastructures, inadequate facilities, including hostels, were prevalent.
More than ever before, it has become clearer that much needs to be done to redress the long years of rot in Nigeria’s educational system. During our recent budget defence sessions, the common trend in the submission of all stakeholders, including Vice Chancellors, is the expression of grave concerns over these problems and inadequate federal budgetary allocations to education. In some cases, only a fraction of what was budgeted by the National Assembly is released for the stated purposes.
These handicaps emphasize the need to think out of the box and explore other means of enabling our educational institutions meet the needs of the 21st century.
Millennium Development Goals
The MDG Committee aims to facilitate projects and initiatives that can help fast track development in various communities.
As you are aware, through the MDG Committee, the construction of a N222.3 million Drug Rehabilitation and Counselling Centre and a N43 million Community Building/Skill Acquisition Centre began in Gedegede under the 2012 budget. Work on the project is still going on.
Under the 2013 national budget, a N223 million ultra-modern market project was initiated at Oke-Ira Nla to enhance the socio-economic empowerment of our women. Work has begun at the project site.
Concerned about slow pace of work at several sites across the country, the Committee has been meeting Federal Government officials, including those from the Budget Office and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. During one of the meetings held on October 23, 2013, the Committee sought explanations over the delays in a bid to ensure that the situation improves.
Some measure of progress has now been achieved at the project sites in our Senatorial District and we are hopefully looking forward to more positive change, to enable our effort for the provision of more developmental amenities become a reality in various areas.
On Tuesday, February 25 this year, members of the National Assembly Joint Committee on the MDGs met with representatives of the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC), Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the MDGs (OSSAP-MDGs) for a parliametary briefing on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. As the MDG campaign is coming to a close in 2015, the United Nations and its member nations are already discussing the adoption of a successor framework, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to replace the MDGs.
On October 10, 2014, the Committee organized a public hearing on the Companies and Allied Matters Act Cap. 20, LFN 2011, Amendment Bill 2013. Prior to the public hearing, the Committee had met major stakeholders to explain the need to ensure that parastatals’ revenue and expenditure profiles are subjected to the National Assembly’s scrutiny, especially during the annual budgeting process.
The Committee’s meeting with the Hon. Minister, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment on November 26 last year, focussed on how we can effectively transform the Nigerian automotive industry, promote industrial growth and ensure job creation, local value addition and technology acquisition. The Committee supports the new Automotive Industrial Policy Development Plan unveiled by the Federal Government on October 2, 2013, with hopes that it will be effectively implemented to create employment and boost the economy.
On February 18 this year, the Committee concluded its budget defence sessions with heads of the Ministry and agencies under it. The need for real economic growth through the development of trade resources was emphasized during the interaction.
A budget defence session held with officials of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on Wednesday, February 26, this year. It was observed that the CAC does not remit its internally-generated revenue into the Consolidated Revenue Fund as mandated under Sections 80 and 162 of the nation’s constitution.
The Committee held a two-day retreat on the Amendment of the Electoral Act 2010 in December 2013. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), civil society organisations and other stakeholders made presentations on the proposed amendments during the retreat.
It is envisaged that the amendment proposed to the Electoral Act would necessitate further amendment to the Constitution.
The Committee has held more meetings on suggested amendments and its work is on-going.
Lagos state has a great stake in the growth and development of maritime shipping, development of ports, docks, harbours and other areas covered by the oversight functions of the Senate Marine Transport Committee.
Between Monday, 10th February and Sunday, 23rd February 2014, the Committee visited various places, including Baro Port in Niger State and marine transport facilities in Lagos. At the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), it was sad that what was supposed to be Nigeria’s second Maritime Academy after the one at Oron could not be established at a temporary site at the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) in Badagry. The Committee was informed that NIMASA is discussing with the Lagos State Government about a new site where the proposed Maritime Academy can be located.
Our interactions with various marine agencies’ management indicates that NIMASA has earmarked funds for the establishment of maritime institutes including one such institute budgeted at N957, 049, 410, to be built at the University of Lagos.
The Committee also visited the sites of Lekki Deep Seaport that was conceived to relieve the pressure at Apapa port. Major construction work is expected to begin at the seaport this year and new jobs along with various economic opportunities will be created.
With good infrastructure, enabling legislations and a business environment that is attractive to other nations, our ports can transform Nigeria into Africa’s Singapore.
The Committee aims to follow up on the development of infrastructures in our ports towards facilitating economic growth.
Women Affairs and Youth Development
The Committee on Women Affairs and Youth Development has jurisdiction over the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), youth and child development issues and women affairs. The donations gathered by the Committee on behalf of a tw0-year old rape victim was released to cater for the child’s school fees and empower the mother. The entire family has since been relocated for their safety.
The Committee conducted budget defence sessions February 11 – 12, 2014, to evaluate the implementation of 2013 budget and look at proposals under the 2014 national budget.
The Federal Ministry of Youth Development, NYSC, the Citizenship, Leadership Training Centre, and the National Centre for Women Development all emphasized the need for increased budgetary allocations.
During budget-defence, the Committee expressed concern that even though ongoing projects of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development were not completed, requests are being made for new ones. Similarly, concerns were expressed about the Ministry’s failure to report its quarterly cash releases and it was requested to forward a breakdown of its internally generated revenue.
ACTIVITIES AT OUR SENATORIAL DISTRICT
During our eighth Town Hall Meeting on 27th September 2013, pioneer trainees under the Youth Empowerment and Skills Acquisition Scheme (YESAS) graduated after learning various skills to enhance their independence and economic productivity.
A business start-up kit and a sum of N20, 000 was given to each graduand of YESAS to begin a business. In January, this year, the balance of N20, 000 was paid to 160 beneficiaries and four more persons were added and given the sum of N40, 000 each. Altogether, a total of 164 youth benefitted from the scheme.
Also, the bank account of each of the 26 beneficiaries under our ongoing Post-Secondary School Scholarship Scheme (PSSS) was credited with the annual sum of N100, 000 on November 1, 2013.
You must have noticed that we had a free health screening at this venue before the commencement of our meeting today. This is a new addition, to contribute towards the sustenance of healthy living among our constituents and it will remain a regular feature during our future Town Hall meetings.
Under our Good Boys’ program, my intention was to empower 80 of our young men who are at the crossroads of life. On Monday, 22nd July 2013, we empowered 43 of the Good Boys in Lagos Central Senatorial District with N100, 000 grant each, to enable them have a steady source of income through various commercial activities.
Today, 37 of the Good Boys and Girls in Lagos Central Senatorial District are to receive financial assistance under our Good Boys and Good Girls’ Empowerment Scheme (GBGES) towards starting a new lease of life as gainfully self-employed persons.
These beneficiaries will be able to start commercial ventures in other areas such as tailoring, photography, building materials supply, block-making, ice-block production, aluminium fabrication, sales of new and used clothing, printing, recharge card sales, fish-farming and other businesses. Empowering them will yield further benefits for society when they grow their businesses to employ others and take adequate care of their dependants.
I have seen the positive transformation that such effort makes in the lives of young people; I am calling on other well-meaning people who can do something to contribute towards the upliftment of this group of people in our various communities.
In addition, constituency projects that I attracted to this Senatorial District are on-going although I have drawn attention to the delays at the Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Gedegede and the ultra-modern market project in Oke – Ira.
Last year, we got constituency projects ranging from N15 million to N21 million, in education. The schools that benefitted are:
– Jibowu High School (N21 million);
– Banjo Primary School, Otumara-Ilogbo in Ebute Metta (N20 million);
– Ansar Ud Deen Primary School, Oke Popo in Lagos Island (N15 million).
The Holy Trinity Primary School, Ebute Ero in Lagos Island’s N15 million project was transferred later to Teslim Elias Primary School, Oja-Oba in Isale Eko due to space constraints at the former.
The construction and furnishing of one block of three classrooms and VIP toilet at Ire-Akari Primary School in Orile, Apapa Iganmu and Christ Cathedral Church Primary School, CMS, Lagos Island have been completed and we expect that work should be concluded at other project sites, in due course.
These are part of what I have been able to do, as your representative at the Senate. We are doing our best towards improving education, social welfare, youth empowerment and other areas of development. However, contractors chosen by the federal executive have indicated that delays in releasing funds slow the pace of work on various projects. A Senator does not decide the choice of contractors and neither do we disburse funds as those in the executive arm; still, my commitment to developmental initiatives remain firm.
We all have to play our part towards achieving genuine change and consolidating our democratic gains. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We need men who can dream of things that never were, and ask why not”.
Finally, I sum up with the words of Colin Powell, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work”. The only way is for all of us to move forward with resolute determination and unity of purpose towards achieving genuine change – a society that is free from ethnic and religious clashes, terrorism, poverty, mass unemployment and other ills. We can make it. We have to. The fate of coming generations of Nigerians depends upon how firmly we stand today. We all need to mobilize others for participation in the change that is about to happen.
I thank you for listening. God bless you all.
God bless APC!
God bless Lagos State!
God bless Nigeria!
Eko ‘o ni baje o.