The Senate met Nigeria’s security chiefs last Wednesday in an executive session. Of course, the increased terror campaigns recorded in most parts of the country’s north as well as fresh terror threats in other regions topped the agenda. EDEGBE ODEMWINGIE and JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH report on the fallouts.

Nigeria presently grapples with increased terror campaigns evident from the destruction of lives and property which has increasingly become a daily occurrence in some northern states. Local intelligence outfits have reported fresh terror threats in other areas leading to the deportation of some illegal Nigerien immigrants from the country’s commercial nerve, Lagos. Prior to this, five explosions at a bus park in northern Nigeria’s main city of Kano, left scores dead and many maimed, witnesses said, in an area where Islamic sect, Boko Haram, is waging an insurgency against the government.

The coordinated blasts in Kano destroyed several buses in the Sabon Gari area, mostly inhabited by immigrants from Nigeria’s largely Christian south. Military and police have since cordoned off the area after the blasts.

It was against this backdrop that the Senate, last week, suspended plenary and went into a six-hour long closed door executive session with all security chiefs over terrorist incidents that have crippled most parts of the country’s north.

Service chiefs at the close-door meeting with the Senate included: The Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim; Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba; Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh; Director General, State Security Service (SSS), Ita Ekpeyong. The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar was represented by DIG Suleiman Fakai, at the meeting.

For a meeting which commenced at 10.40 am and ended 4.20pm, the Senate President, while giving a “progress report” at the end of the meeting, said the meeting was to receive “a briefing on the security problems of the country”.

?Meanwhile, Senate spokesman, Enyinnaya Abaribe, in a briefing with newsmen after the meeting, reiterated the Senate President’s disclosures. Abaribe refused to disclose details of the meeting, insisting that the meeting was simply interactive and no resolutions were reached.

Abaribe told newsmen, “The Senate today devoted the plenary session (six hours) to interact with service chiefs and other heads of security agencies in the country with a view to find out what the problems (security) are and work with the different security chiefs to bring it to the soonest possible resolution. We are satisfied with the level of commitment by the security chiefs to make Nigeria a safe place and we are calling on all Nigerians to cooperate with the security chiefs to resolve this issue as soon as possible. We promised to have regular meetings with the security chiefs and this is one of the interactions. We got briefing from different security chiefs and we are satisfied with what they gave us. Any other development is a policy decision that will be taken by the government; it’s not our duty to give instructions to the security chiefs.

Senators in unison, maintained a code of silence on details of the meeting. However, LEADERSHIP checks revealed that the briefing centred on inability of the security agencies to check the increased terror campaigns and recent local and cross border kidnappings primarily by Boko Haram and its reported offshoot, Ansaru.

Senators also sought confirmation or otherwise, that local terrorists were receiving backing from international terrorist cells.

In another shocking fallout, checks revealed that the service chiefs confirmed to Senators intelligence reports on terror threats on Nigeria’s commercial nerve, Lagos.

President Goodluck Jonathan has tagged Boko Haram ‘ghosts’ and refuses to grant the amnesty.


Death Penalty For Oil Thieves

The Senate President, David Mark, while inaugurating the Senate Joint Committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) last Wednesday, recommended death penalty for crude oil thieves in the country.

According to monitored reports, the perennial problem of crude oil pipeline vandalism and theft plaguing the country is currently weighing down on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) projected crude oil output, which reached an all-time low since October 2011. Supply in Nigeria has edged lower in the last few months following disruptions by oil spills, flood and theft.

The Senate President lamented that the frequent and brazen incidence of oil theft have given Nigeria a “bad name” internationally. Mark said he will back legislative proposal to provide death penalty for convicted oil thieves. He said the PIB must ensure a drastic reduction in incidence OF illegal bunkering.

“The PIB must also ensure that the current rate of oil theft in the country is minimised to the barest minimum. We are having a bad name internationally because of the rate of oil theft in the country. Oil theft deserves capital punishment. The law must have a huge punishment on those who steal our oil to serve as a deterrent to other people who plan to steal our oil. If it is the public wish, I will endorse death penalty for oil thieves if it will stop oil theft and bunkering. It is an unusual situation so it deserves an unusual remedy and drastic punishment.”

Senator Mark allayed fears of International Oil Companies (IOCs) on the workings of the PIB when passed into law. He said the legislation will bring about a “win win” arrangement for Nigeria and international investors in the oil sector. He said the PIB must ensure as a matter of necessity, to pursue new oil finds in other regions of the country aside the Niger Delta.

Mark said, “We are taking this Bill seriously. The world is changing so fast. This is not a new bill but a review of the bill to meet with international best practices. Nigerians are patriotic enough to know that what we are doing is in the best interest of all Nigerians. We have to update the Bill so that we can encourage investors. The Bill is a win- win situation for all the parties involved. We are aware of the competition involved in the oil industry in the world. I want to assure you that all the members of this committee are patriotic Nigerians and the report of this committee will be true reflections of the public views. No member of the committee has a fixed position. This is the first time we are putting four committees together to make a Bill that all Nigerians will be happy with.

“This Bill must show transparency in the oil industry so that investors will come and get a return on their investment. We also want to explore oil in some other parts of the country and not only in the Niger Delta as we are doing now. There is no reason why we can’t find oil in the northern part of the country… The PIB bill is a bill to unite the country and not divide it. It will open up the industry so that we can attract new investors.

Senate Joint Committees on Petroleum Resources Upstream; Downstream; Gas and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters are to carry out a Public Hearing on the PIB and report to Senate at plenary in six weeks. The Joint Committees is chaired by Senator Emmanuel Paulker (Upstream).


Football Positioning

Nigeria football has been on the decline for some years now due to the management of football administration in the country. The country’s football has been mired in different controversies leading to one court case to another. With a view to find solutions to the crisis in football management in the country and for Nigeria to maintain her status as the power house of football in Africa in some years to come, the Senate last week backed a Bill seeking to limit membership of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) board to ex -footballers.

This was contained in the Bill for an Act to Repeal the Nigerian Football Association Act Cap. N110 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and enact the Nigerian Football Federation Act, 2013 to provide for football administration in Nigeria.

The Bill which was passed for second reading was sponsored by Senator Ibrahim Gumba (Bauchi, PDP) and referred to the Senate Committee on Sports for further legislative inputs.

The Bill provides that only footballers who have been actually involved in competitive football can be members of the federation and not just organisations and establishment as it is contained in the extant act.

Also, the Bill seeks to ensure that provisions are made for the election of a president to lead the executive committee in contrast to the contents of the extant Act where the governing body of the organisation is a Board appointed from different organisations.

It will also establish modes of systematic development of football through institutional, age and gender competitions. The Bill seeks to achieve the grading and development of referees with the objective of ensuring that Nigerian referees continually get involved in international competitions.

Another fallout of the Bill is that government should be involved in funding but not in the organisation and day to day management of the Federations, a key requirement of FIFA.

Supporting the Bill, Senate leader, Abdul Ningi (Bauchi, PDP), said the Bill is in line with FIFA Statues which governs all football federations all over the world. He stated that: “NFA Act is a home-grown Act which was developed internally but it is not in consonance with FIFA status. It is almost impossible for government not to be running football in Nigeria. All the football teams in the states are more of parastatals of their state governments so government cannot fund football and remove its hand from the day-to-day running of football. So, we need a balance between government funding and private initiative so that football will not collapse in the country’’.

Sponsor of the Bill emphasised that its mandatory that football improves in Nigeria so that Nigeria can reclaim its enviable position as the number one team in Africa. He also stated that presently, Nigeria does not have top class referees who can officiate in major tournaments like the Nations Cup and World Cup as evident in the last Nations Cup held in South Africa in which no Nigerian referee officiated in the tournament.

Adding to debates, Senate President, David Mark, said the problem of football in Nigeria is that 90 per cent of people running football in the country do so for personal, selfish interests, adding that football is not growing because of the level of politics involved in the game.

Mark said, “It will be a major embarrassment if Nigeria fails to qualifier for the world cup. Football unites Nigerians and we have to do what it takes to save football in the country. Government cannot fund football and not be involved in its management and this is what FIFA doesn’t want. So we need to strike a delicate balance. This Bill needs to be accelerated so that we can remove the grey areas. Government alone cannot run football.”


Aero Crisis

The Senate Committee on Aviation, last Thursday got commitment from the management of Aero Contractors to reconsider the contentious mass sack of 655 staff of the airline following a restructuring exercise.

The meeting with the Senate committee was attended by the Managing Director, Aero Contractors, Obaro Ibru; President, National Association of Aircraft Pilot and Engineers, Balami Isaac David and acting? Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Joyce Nkemakolam.

In resolutions after the meeting, the Aero Contractors management agreed to recall all sacked staff and conduct an appraisal within two-three weeks. It was agreed that affected staff who do not meet the requirement as provided by Aero Contractors will be laid off and paid their severance entitlements.

LEADERSHIP recalls that Aero Contractors had recently distributed sack letters to staff in their homes while requesting that the staff handover all company’s documents, assets and items in their possession to the human resource department while other details of their outstanding indebtedness to the company (as applicable) will be communicated to the affected staff. Also, pension contributions till date, will be credited to the affected staff’s retirement savings account with their nominated pension fund administrator, it was stated in the letter. The affected staff had accused Aero Contractors management of being highhanded and anti staff.

According to the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Hope Uzodimma Nigerians were the end sufferers of the Aero Contractors crisis as many passengers have been left stranded since the crisis started. He urged all parties to sheath their swords so that the airline can resume flight operations.

Reading out the resolution at the end of the meeting, Senator Uzodimma stated: “We started this meeting with the aim of resolving this crisis and by the Grace of God, we have agreed on some issues. The management of Aero contractors has agreed to recall the staff who were dismissed. We in the Senate committee are not against the restructuring by the management of Aero Contractors but we are saying the restructuring should have a human face.

“The sacked staff should be recalled and an appraisal done within two to three weeks on the affected staff .Some will be recalled and those who will not make the cut, their severance entitlement should be paid to them. We have also mandated the NCAA to follow and monitor this development. As soon as this is done, Aero should start flying at the soonest possible time”.