The Senate has become popular for carrying out investigations into issues it feels are not done right or it suspects corruption. CHUKWU DAVID reports that the apex chamber’s resolve last week to probe into three worrisome developments in the polity, with a view to proffering solutions
Senate investigates SARS of alleged human rights abuses
One of the critical issues the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria considered before it embarked on a two-week working recess was the perturbing issue of human rights abuses and sundry unconstitutional actions of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police Force.
Over the years, the activities of this special unit of the Police have attracted public outcry and stern criticism. The operatives of the unit have been accused of leaving their core mandate of dealing with the menace of armed robbery across the country, and instead reduced themselves to being used by politicians as tools for hunting down political enemies and settling inter-personal scores among citizens in the country.
Victims of their inhuman treatments attest to the fact that SARS stations have been reduced to torturing and execution camps as many people who entered there, never returned in good health while it has also been widely reported that others who visited there were not lucky to come back alive, even if maimed.
This menace has been on for a long time, without anybody giving official attention to it while Nigerians across the country, continued to murmur, groan and grumble in pains as a result of the brutality, torture and torments being meted out on them by those who should have, as a matter of constitutional mandate, protected them from the agonising activities of armed bandits.
However, the situation finally attracted the attention of the Senate last Tuesday, when a former Retired Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), and member representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District, Senator Isa Hamma Misau, raised it on the floor of the Chamber through a point of order.
Presenting his point of order, which was anchored on Order 42 of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015 (as amended), Misau decried the worrisome trend, whereby the SARS members were acting as though they were above the laws of the land.
He noted that, according to the Police Act and regulation, the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, (Force CID) is the highest investigative arm of the Nigerian Police, and that the SARS falls under the Department.
The politician lamented that there was so much violence and brutality being meted to Nigerians by the operatives of SARS, noting that individual politicians used to employ them to deal with their political opponents while other Nigerians also employ their illegal services to oppress and subdue their enemies.
He said, “for effective and efficient administration, the department is divided into 14 sections for which the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) is one of them. The squad is supposed to be a section in each state command CID with sole responsibility of handling armed robbery cases and answerable to the state commissioner for police.
“I have in the last few months received several petitions from my constituency both online and physically against SARS on violence from extra judicial killing, brutality, torture, arrest and other menacing conducts by the men of the unit.”
The lawmaker further said that findings had shown that these incidences were not isolated as many people had been sharing their experiences online, regretting that the activities of SARS had become damaging to the image and integrity of the Police, which he said, was made up of civilised men and women of integrity and discipline.
“He called on the Senate to make a drastic decision to end SARS’ lawlessness in order to make way for a more civilised unit that would be built around the rule of law and respect for human rights and dignity of man in general.
“I’m aware that in 2015, the then IGP of Police, Solomon Arase had due to incessant reports of abuses by the force, split SARS into two units with a view to checking human rights abuses. This indeed was by ensuring that officers cannot make arrest and investigate the same case”, he said.
Misau, however, regretted that these measures notwithstanding, the human rights abuses and all manner of indecorous attitude and conduct of the officers had continued unabated, stressing that the Nigerian Police had a major obligation to ensure protection of human rights in all the states of the federation, and not abuse them as SARS operatives were currently doing.
The Senate, after a comprehensive debate on the issue, mandated its ad hoc Committee on Review of Security Infrastructure in the country, to investigate the allegation of SARS’ brutality against Nigerians and report back to plenary in three weeks.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, said that something was wrong with the way SARS was carrying out its functions, asking the committee to critically do its investigation as assigned by the Senate.
Investigation of cost variations of Egina Oil Field Project
Another investigation the Senate resolved to conduct last week Tuesday, was the issue of the local content elements and cost variations pertaining to the Egina Oil Field Project and two related Bonga South-West and ZabZaba projects.
While deliberating on the matter, the Senate resolved to set up an ad hoc Committee to investigate the local content elements and cost variations of the Egina Oil Field Project and two related Bonga South-West and ZabZaba projects.
The resolution was made sequel t a motion sponsored by Senator Solomon Adeola (APC, Lagos) and co-sponsored by 18 others.
The ad hoc Committee is headed by Senator Solomon Adeola, while members include Senators Godswill Akpabio, Tayo Alasoadura, Gershom Bassey, Kabiru Marafa, Philip Aduda, Albert Akpan, Ahmadu Abubakar, David Umaru, Chukwuka Utazi, and Stella Oduah.
The Senate also mandated the ad hoc committee to conduct a public hearing on the project and ensure that there were no subsequent developments necessitating further variations of the project cost.
The resolutions were unanimously adopted by the members when the President of the Senate put the decisions to a voice vote. Senator Adeola, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Local Content, noted that various contracts were awarded to the various components of the Egina project.
He expressed concerns that many of the contractors handling the project reportedly engaged sub-contractors to provide various aspects of the project components; pointing out that the Egina project was expected to comply with the provisions of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act of 2010.
The lawmaker stressed that Egina was expected to award required equivalent contracts to indigenous Nigerian companies, engage local power and provide adequate manpower training and development programmes for Nigerian Workforce.
In their separate contributions, the lawmakers expressed concerns about infractions in contracts entered into by the Federal Government and International Oil Companies (IOCs).
They lamented that several billions of dollars had been lost to such contracts, impoverishing Nigerians and enriching the IOCs.
They called for a thorough investigation into the allegations brought forward by Senator Adeola, stressing that the fight against corruption ought to extend to IOCs because they had been defrauding the country in their oil exploration activities.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, commended Senator Adeola for the motion, saying that the issue of cost variations and lack of adherence to the local content law were paramount.
Saraki therefore, tasked the committee to take the investigation seriously, pointing out that the allegations were enormous and should not be treated with levity. He also urged members of the committee to ensure utmost transparency in order to unravel the truth in the transactions.
“I find it difficult to understand why cost variation will move from $6 billion to $16 billion in 10 years. Why such variations and when will the Federal Government ever get revenue on these fields.
“If we allow this to go with the Egina project, other deep offshore will follow the same model and government will never get the revenue. The second issue is to ensure compliance with the local content law. The committee has the responsibility to turn in the report as soon as possible. We do not want the report to linger on”, Saraki stated.
Senate probes fuel scarcity; summons NNPC GMD
Following the unprecedented queues that surfaced at the feeling stations across the country in the last two weeks, the nation’s highest lawmaking Chamber, through its Committee on Petroleum Downstream, on last week Tuesday, went into an investigative hearing to gather information on the facts behind the fuel scarcity.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Kabiru Marafa, stated this in Abuja while briefing newsmen after the investigative hearing on the matter. This was even as the Senate through the Committee resolved to embark on a nationwide inspection of filling stations, with a view to ascertaining the remote and immediate cause of fuel scarcity in the country.
He said that the Senate would not watch some unpatriotic persons subject Nigerians through any form of hardship, particularly in this period of yuletide, noting that though the Senate had adjourned to commence budget defence, the members of the committee would take time out to embark on the oversight.
He warned filling stations in the habit of hoarding fuel to inflict untold pains on Nigerians to desist as it would not be business as usual, assuring that the Senate would work with relevant agencies of government to severely punish any filling station found wanting.
Marafa further assured Nigerians that the Senate would do everything possible to break the jinx of unnecessary fuel scarcity in the country during festivities, urging Nigerians to avoid panic buying and go about their daily activities.