Inadequate funding stalls public hearing at Senate

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja.

Some standing committees of the Senate have decried their inability to act on bills referred to them for consideration due to a paucity of funds.

The committee chairmen, who made this known at plenary on Wednesday, said they could not conduct public hearings on bills referred to them because they had not been funded.

Recent developments on the floor of the upper legislative chamber show that some bills, which passed second reading in the Senate about 24 weeks ago, are yet to pass third reading because they are pending with the various committees.

For instance, the Chairman Senate Committee on Transport, Senator Gbenga Ashafa  said the  Nigeria Railway Repeal and Amendment Bill that was referred to the committee had not gone through third reading for lack of funds.

“We have not up till now had our public hearing because we have not been funded by the administration. We appeal to your Excellency to assist us.’’

He assured the Senate leadership that a public hearing would be conducted as soon as funds were made available, adding that the report on the bill would presented in the next two weeks if the committee was funded.

Also, the Chairman, Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Abu Ibrahim, noted that the committee could not act on the Crime and Criminal Tracking System Bill referred to the committee weeks ago for lack of funds.

According to him, “we applied  for funds for the last four weeks and up till now we have not got the funds to proceed,’’ he said, expressing optimism that the report on the bill would be presented as soon as the committee received the needed funds.

However, the Vice Chairman Committee on Health, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, said the  Joint Committee on Narcotics and Health had conducted a public hearing on the Counterfeit and Fake Drugs Bill and would present the report in two weeks.

In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, promised that funds would be made available to the committees that had not been funded. He urged the committee chairmen to expedite action on the bills as soon as funds were provided to present them for third reading and passage.

“We will address that immediately and for others that have no problems with funding should take their jobs seriously for us to take the bills for third reading,” he said.

Insurgency alarm

Meanwhile, the Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha on Wednesday raised the alarm that some suspected insurgents were gradually rebuilding a new base in Taraba state, under the guise of herding cattle.

Senator Bwacha, who represents Taraba south senatorial district in the North East Nigerian state, raised the alarm in a point of order on the floor of the Senate during Wednesday’s plenary session.

He argued that the defeat of the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, had led to their regrouping in neighbouring Taraba.

He advised the Federal Government to devise new strategies to combat the menace, stressing that most of the insurgents now pose as Fulani herdsmen in order to perpetrate their crime.

“We believe these are insurgents and if you say they not insurgents but Fulani herdsmen, what message are they trying to pass to Nigerians. Is it President Buhari who is one of them (a Fulani man) that they want to blackmail or what? That is a dangerous development.”