By Fred Itua, Abuja

Yemi Adaramodu is the senator representing Ekiti South senatorial district in the 10th Senate on the ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC). He was chief of staff to the governor of Ekiti State and was later elected to the Federal House of Representatives. He is currently the spokesman of the Senate. In this interview, he spoke on a number of key national issues.

Are you satisfied with the legislative performances of the 10th Senate so far? Should we expect something different from what usually happens in the past?

The legislature performs three-pronged functions. It makes laws, carries out oversight, and at the same time, represents the people. Lawmakers ensure that they get across to their constituents always and give them feedback and advocate for them. So those are the three very major functions of the legislator.

On the issue of lawmaking within the chambers, the 10th National Assembly, especially the Senate, has done tremendously, very well because we have passed a lot of motions, life-changing, life-enhancing motions. We have passed motions on the economy, on infrastructure, and on security especially. We’ve done a lot.

In terms of bills on security, arms proliferation, matter, and trust funds, we have also legislated on the petroleum tax law, and several others like that.

On the issue of oversight, yes, we are doing great. The first budget that the 10th Assembly would pass was the 2024 budget. It will start running because the last budget of 2023, which was not passed by the 10th Assembly, is still running. By the month of May, so to say, the budget will cease being referred to, though only the residue of that budget is still being referred to now because the 2024 budget, is running simultaneously with the 2023 budget.

It is until 2024 budget start in full force, our oversight on the budget, provision and execution, it is then that we can start to find the milestones where we are, what we have done. We will look at what the MDAs are doing with it. Apart from that, the oversight functions of the National Assembly is not fully limited to the issue of budgetary performances of the MDAs. Outside that, public interest matters. Like when we talk of labour matters, when we talk of even electoral matters when we talk about inflationary matters, when we talk about security matters, when we talk about even at times, disasters.

So those are areas that we have been having oversight. And presently, today (last week Monday), the Committee on Power is sitting, calling the public and then the critical stakeholders to deliberate on the tariff hike especially the issue of the Band A, B, C, D and so on, that we talk about. So definitely that is an oversight. And then the issue of security, you will know that we have had very close door meetings with service chiefs with FCT management and leadership, when kidnapping was at its crescendo, sometimes ago. And today, we know that it’s coming down at least substantially that we can say, oh, there are some things, there are some works that have been done in that way. It’s due to the oversight of the National Assembly. We talk about even the gas and the petroleum sector. Just about two weeks ago, the committee on the petroleum and the gas, the upstream, the downstream, went to the refineries, especially the Port Harcourt refinery, to go and see for themselves what is happening.

Why are we not having the local production that can ameliorate the problem of supply into the local market of PMS, especially which Nigerians do use frequently and always. So, that is part of the functions of the National Assembly. Then even the UTME, the JAMB matter, we the committee on tertiary education going around to UTME centres where our young Nigerians are doing the exam, the entrance exam, which we call the JAMB UTME exam, to the various universities and Polytechnics and Monotechnics in Nigeria. So, that is the function of oversight. And even at the level of youth areas, NYSC camps, they have been there. I believe that the 10th Assembly, especially the 10th Senate, has done very well and is still doing very well on the issue of oversight.

And when you talk of representation at the grassroots, the inconsistencies, like when we had the break, I always say that it is not a holiday. It is just plenary break. We only had plenary holidays. It is not a holiday for legislators.

This is because during the plenary holiday, our committees have visited the MDAs to know what they are doing and then the works committee has also gone around even with the Minister for Works to look at the various contracted road projects of the Federal Government. So, during the period I would call the holiday, it is not a holiday, and then majority of us are always in our constituencies, sitting down with our people, asking questions from them, briefing them, and telling them to give us what they think they need and then what they want, their input and their say on major areas that the 10th Senate will be looking into when we now come in to resume a plenary.

Some committee chairmen have cited insecurity as reasons they can’t go on oversight. What’s your reaction?

I am not sure that is happening. Why I said I’m not sure that is happening is that, some kidnapping incidents occur in Nigeria today on the main road and the committee works, headed by Senator Barnada Mpigi was with the federal ministry of works staff. They went around to inspect the various road projects that the Federal Government has contracted. For example in Iquiti, they came to Ekiti, we saw them, we met them, and then we even welcomed them and we spoke with them.

So, if committee that is saddled to do oversight functions on the road projects, building of road, maintenance of roads in Nigeria could just go out there to the roads because the kidnappers are on the roads, they are not in the air. They are hardly sitting on the sea. So definitely, if the committee that is charged that is doing oversight function on road construction, can be on the roads, so I don’t think the Committee on aviation will now give us the excuse of a worse security situation than that of the road where it now do take place. So that’s why I said I’m not going to aptly agree that any committee chairman could have given that one as an excuse. Like me, I’m in the Committee on Youth Development and we visited the orientation camps of corps members; all over Nigeria, we visit.

We have been to East, we have been to the West, and to the North. And then we are not endangered to the extent that we will not be able to perform our duty and our function as legislators; who will do oversight functions on the MDAs. So, if those two critical committees could go ahead and then do the oversight and then when the committee on the petroleum matters, when they visited the Port Harcourt refinery, so there was never an excuse of maybe the road is dangerous. So, they got there and then we saw what they did. And then they gave us support that the refinery, that of Port Harcourt was 90 per cent complete and that within a few weeks or months, we start running petroleum products out of the refinery.

Two senators have been quoted in the media to have supported the opinion of the Minister of Education that the minimum age requirement for admission into tertiary institutions should be pegged at 18 years. Is that the position of the Senate?

That is a comment. It is not a law. So it is just a comment. It’s not a law. By the time the Senate resumes, whoever wants to bring that one out to make it a law, will now bring it and then the procedures will take place because you can bring whatever to the floor in form of a bill. When you bring it, there’s going to be public hearing. All the stakeholders will sit down and talk about parents, teachers, legislators, civil society organizations, even foreign organisations. So we will sit down and we talk. Then even if they say that the minimum wage should be 30 or 12 we will all discuss it at an open forum. So it’s still a comment which cannot be taken to be the law.

We also learnt that the minister had instructed that the JAMB should not release the result of those who are not up to 16 years

There is nothing like that. When the prospective student bought their forms, there were no such conditions. So when you have bought your forms under one condition, that condition cannot be initiated along the line until the current set of candidates have been successfully attended to.

When the next engagement is to take place, then if it is brought even as an executive bill or personal or private bill or the public brings it as a bill, then the National Assembly will now sit down and then allow it to go to the crucible of lawmaking.

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This is a country, this is Nigeria. So, all of us will sit down and deliberate, oh, this is what we want, this is what we don’t want. So, so far it is just a mere comment, it’s just a comment. So, it is not law yet. So, once something is not law, then there’s the level of jaw jaw that we can do. It’s not.

Is the National Assembly thinking of coming up with ways of doing things differently such that the executive arm of government will always be up and doing?

It depends on the way we look at it; when you are in government, when you are into politics, when you are into management, when you are into administration, there must be challenges. Because there will be challenges, that’s why we have three tiers of government, or three arms of government. That is why the legislature is there. That even if today the executive says something will happen tomorrow, the circumstances that will prevail tomorrow might initiate it. Once it initiates it, before the executive goes to the other side, they have to come back to the legislature. If they don’t come back to the legislature, the legislature will go back to them. That interaction can be read in some quarters as breathing down on the neck of the MDAs or engaging the MDAs to do the needful. So for us, the legislature has been there because it is the representative of the people. There can never be any democracy without the parliament. It is the parliament that the people themselves put there, who are not appointed. In the executive, only the president or the governor were elected by the public. But in the legislature, everybody, like in the House of Representatives, all 360 of them there were elected by the public. All the 109 senators in the Senate, are all there courtesy of the public. So we represent the public.

And so that is why we have to be the nose, the ears, and the eyes of the public. And that is why it is very pertinent for us to be politically mobile and agile and be more responsive to issues that concern Nigerians than any other arm of government. And that is why when the only elected person in the executive, especially at the federal level, the president, when he puts up his team on through appointments, he cannot be everywhere. He cannot see everything. But we, in the legislature, 360 House of Representatives members. 109 senators, then we have the constituencies to inform us what is happening there, what they have seen.

So we are the ones who can now take it back to the executive and ask questions from them about what is happening. And then we now go to the books, what has been provided, especially if it is about appropriation, then if it is about rules and regulations or the constitution. So we now tell them this is how it should be done before the judiciary comes in, in their disagreement. So that’s where the judiciary comes in. That we now do the interpretation; that we now tell both the executive and the legislature that yes, this is how it should be. So that is where we come in. So, it is not breathing down on their neck. And so far, like I said, we have just done the appropriation because that is where the real governance is. That is what makes a government thick. That is what makes a country thick because that is where the development comes in.

When you build roads, when you do hospitals, when you give education and all sorts and then revenue generation, how we generate the revenue that it is not at the risk of the lives of the people, the revenue so generated that it’s used for the benefit of the people, that is where the biggest oversight function comes in. And that is why I said that so far, the 2024 budget will start running and then we have to be on our feet from the legislature and ensure that what is provided for in the appropriation law is followed to the letter.

And that whatever a naira is supposed to go for, that naira goes to it accordingly. And not only that, we have to be looking forward to that one, we have to ensure that the revenue that the executive told us that they are going to generate, that that revenue is generated and that loopholes are seriously blocked through legislation.

For us in the Senate, we believe that the 10th Senate, like we always say, is very uncommon, since we have an uncommon leader and uncommon leadership under the senate presidency of Senator Godswill Akpabio that we are going to make a difference. We have to be there for the masses of Nigeria, because without them, we would not be.

We will still have to go back to them to give them a feedback of what they have sent us to do. And so we cannot just afford to fail in that very serious assignment. Or above the issue of law making, especially in Nigeria today, it’s not that we don’t have laws, we have so many laws. But what seriously concerns us now, is about that oversight and that of advocacy in our various constituencies and districts. So, when we will make laws, we will make laws; then we believe the judiciary, we hold it down that enforcement is done, but we will surely have to ensure that our oversight function is sharpened to the extent that the results are got by Nigerians because Nigerians cannot continue to wait for positive results. Yes, the present government is seriously doing very well. Why I said doing very well is that, like the journey of 1,000 kilometers, will start from this time, that’s why. And another thing is that the problem known is half solved.

The government of today knows the problem, and the president keeps on telling us the problems, and that he is very open to tell us how he is going to tackle the problems and whatever step he’s taking is very open with it. He tells us, he opens the steps to us. It’s not a government that is done through Abracadabra, or using economic Abracadabra. No, no, no, no, no. It’s not a government that is dwelling on all this kind of economic staccato. No, no, no, no, no, It’s not. So with this, and then we can see security, we are getting it. We are getting it substantially okay now. And we believe that the government, the executive, will keep on the tempo. The security chiefs, they are doing their best. And then we are, every day, because I always look at our media when they give us the reminiscence to tell us that so, so number of captives are still held for so number of years. But when I now see the scroll now, the things are seriously reduced.

So, it’s just few that are now being outstanding to be retrieved by the government. And I know within a short while, those ones will be retrieved. So, when we get that security, and then instill that kind of confidence in people that are coming from outside Nigeria, even Nigerians, to do business and general business in Nigeria. And then the corruption, the fight against corruption is intensified. And the fight is not discriminatory and everyone is held accountable for his or her deeds or misdeeds in office or out of office. And so once we can get those areas very aptly in order, then definitely the development of Nigeria, we can say that is seriously guaranteed. And for the government to have spent just about one year in office, and then we too, about one year too, and then so far, and we say so far, so fair, so far so fair, because like I said, when the child is born, the child will start to crawl; after crawling, start to learn how to stand up. And when the child is standing up, there’s no way the child will not fall, because we fall and rise up again. And so until the child gets strengthened by circumstances, by the environment, by the diet he takes, and then here he goes to become an adult; so that’s the way we look at it.

What is the National Assembly doing about the issue of food security?

Yes, from the National Assembly, the first that we did to do what will ameliorate the problems posed by food insecurity is that when we look at the appropriation law, agriculture takes a very high portion. Outside that of Defence that took the lion’s share and took the elephant’s share and that one, that means that we are very conscious of the fact that we have to boost food production at the national, sub-national and local. And then, the state government, as we could see, the president has been with them to go and do same the way we have been, and putting it on at the national level through the 2024 appropriation. So, and I’m very sure that by the time, you know, when you put in anything, any input in agriculture, it is not the day that you put the input that you start harvesting.

So, and I’m very sure that by the time the harvest period comes, sequel to what had been provided for in the 2024 appropriation, I’m sure of the impact and the effect of what the government would have done with the fight. And again, it’s another clarion call on all of us, Nigerians that, one, from the local area, I’m a local person, at times, when you want to bring your vegetable to the market, you talk about dollar, and I don’t know whether we take the vegetable or the tomato for foreign exchange.

We talk about dollar when we want to sell garri and like I have always been saying, we Nigerians too, we have to be our brothers keepers. We have to love ourselves and don’t see Nigeria as a platform. Let us see Nigeria as our home, the only home that we have. Now, the government and the governed have roles to play. And what are the roles that each has to play; that even when the government does everything to assist and to help, if we Nigerians, if we don’t want to help ourselves, then the result will not be very desirable. When we get to the market at times and we say we want to buy vegetables, it will be 50 percent vegetable, 50 percent weed. Then Nigerians too, we have to be alive to this and realise that whatever we do too, will now have the multiplier effect on the general; either progress or debilitation of that country that we have, the only country that we have, which is Nigeria. Like I usually say, yes, we even talk about fuel at times.

Everywhere you buy fuel at any price, you still go to some fuel stations that the meters are so manipulated that when you are buying N2000 fuel, you are actually buying 1100 naira fuel. So I don’t think we should because when you ask from a motorist when you see a queue in one fuel station and they are joining the fuel station, you don’t see any queue. You will now ask from the motorist why is it? He will tell you that one, this one that we are queuing we get. So, I think that by and large, we have realised that in Nigeria today, all of us, any of us, the legislator, teacher, civil servant, any other profession, let us take agriculture seriously. It’s very primary duty that we can have a vegetable garden here, little garden there and then by the time we do that, one definitely is going to rub in on what will be demanded for in the market but with what the Senate has done or the National Assembly has done with the 2024 appropriation law and then giving that lion share to agriculture and food supply, there is going to be more bumper and then it’s going to give succour to the issue of food scarcity and then the skyrocketed prices. But we Nigerians too must take a cue and then ensure that either way you are a market man or a market woman, don’t shortchange Nigerians. Don’t let us shortchange Nigerians.

At a recent session with the lawmakers, President Bola Tinubu asked them to reduce their frequent summons to his appointees. Will that hamper your oversight functions?

The president was once a senator. And the thing is the ministers, the MDAs, and from my own understanding, no minister, no MDA, either DG or director or MD will be summoned by the National Assembly without a reason. And then, even when we were being inaugurated, the president gave a directive and executive order to ministers and anybody that is managing any MDA to act and attend promptly to any summon and to any question that might be raised or arise from the National Assembly.

So, that’s why I said in the context, it’s not a negative comment passed by Mr. President. It’s only saying that when and while any MDA head will be summoned, that person will be summoned based on substantial and substantive reasons and matters and nobody, nobody in the National Assembly, no committee will stand for or call any head frivolously; nobody and no one. And in fact, it is just a standing rule in the National Assembly that you cannot call an MDA head without prior notice to them stating the reasons. It’s not going to be a phone call. It’s not going to be a text message. It has to be stated. The reasons must be stated. It’s not going to be a chairman of a committee’s matter. It’s going to be the whole committee’s matter.

It must be on policy matter. It must be on delivery matter. It must not be about internal affairs of that ministry or that agency. If it is going to be internal matter of that ministry or that agency, whoever has any complaint against them must bring it in form of public complaint and through a petition. And then that one will be led by the concerned legislator at the open chamber for all senators to hear and then for it to be referred to the necessary committee to sit on it. So with this, Mr. President is only trying to tell the two, that is, the MDAs and the legislature to find a coordinated nexus of meeting when and where is necessary and that result will be got to enhance governance and development. So it’s not an indictment. So, it’s only that we are trying to misread the semantics of Mr. President’s words.