Asks FG to rebuild vandalised infrastructure in Lagos, Calabar, others
Seeks 1% VAT to repair Lagos, others affected by violence
By Henry Umoru
THE Senate Tuesday asked the Federal Government to urgently establish special economic assistance to Lagos state, other states, individuals, and organisations affected by the violence that trailed the #EndSARS protests that led to massive looting and wanton destruction of property.
Consequently, the senate asked the government to make available a financial grant-in-aid of not less than one percent of its Value Added Tax, VAT, as a grant for the affected states.
According to the Senate, the succour from the federal government will be extended to other cities and states such as Calabar, Benin, Uyo, Niger, among others, where incidents of equally large scale destruction and looting took place during the protests targeted at scrapping the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.
Urging the Federal Government to set up a visitation panel to assess the level of destruction of public and private assets in all the affected states, the Senate mandated its Committees on National Security and Intelligence, Defence, Police Affairs, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to investigate the invasion of the ancient city of Calabar on October 24, 2020, and report back at plenary.
Resolutions of the Senate were sequel to the consideration of two separate motions sponsored by Senators Biodun Olujimi, PDP, Ekiti South and Gershom Bassey, PDP, Cross River South.
Coming under Order 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, Senator Olujimi noted that the #EndSARS protest, began on October 3, 2020, and assumed a global dimension, following the alleged shooting of a young Nigerian in Ughelli, Delta State, and drew the attention of the Senate to the level of destruction to public and private property in Lagos.
Following the similar nature of the two motions, the Senate resolved to consider them together as well as merge the prayers.
There was, however, a mild drama at the hallowed Chamber of the Senate soon after the presentation of the motion by the former Senate Minority Leader when it was time for contributions by lawmakers, especially with regard to debate on compensation for states affected by the #EndSARS protests across the country.
It was, however, observed that while the debate was raging, the senators representing Lagos State did not make any contribution, especially considering the fact that Senator Olujimi’s motion and prayers were centred around Lagos State in view of its strategic socio-economic significance.
Trouble started when the Chairman, Senate Services Committee, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, APC, Niger East, was called to second the motion by Senator Olujimi on whether compensation for states affected by the #EndSars violence should include states in the Northeast suffering from banditry and Boko Haram crises.
Senator Musa, who asked that the grant be extended to victims of bandit attacks in his constituency and other parts of the North, said: “We have seen the destruction in my constituency and on my constituents and nothing like compensation has come up.
“I support the idea of compensation to all victims. As the #EndSARS are being compensated, victims of banditry should also be compensated. If we should just limit it to Lagos or Cross River, it will be unfair to other parts of the country. It should be extended to other parts. Any intervention by the government should be holistic and not restricted to Lagos State or Calabar.”
In their different presentations, both Olujimi and Gershom Bassey disclosed that there was large scale destruction of public and private property, including police stations and other public facilities, and the residence of a serving and former lawmaker in Lagos and Cross River states.
Senator Biodun Olujimi lamented the extent of destruction suffered by the South West and Lagos State in particular, even as she listed the damage to include the destruction of Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Secretariat, Palace of the Oba of Lagos; Lagos High Court, Igbosere; ‘Oyingbo-BRT terminus; Ojodu Berger BRT terminus; Vehicle Inspection Office, Ojodu Berger; among others.
She also itemised Lagos State Public Works Corporation, Ojodu Berger; Lagos City Hall and Circle Mall, Lekki; numerous luxury shops in Surulere, The Nation newspaper, TVC and Shoprite Lekki including 27 BRT vehicles estimated to cost $200,000 each and another 57 BRT vehicles estimated to cost $100,000 each, all totalling about N3.9 billion, as other properties affected by the violence.
According to her, the state lost N1 trillion as more than 27 BRT buses were vandalised in the crises.
In his argument, Senator Gershom Bassey lamented the crisis in Cross River State, saying “it is unfortunate that what started as a peaceful protest was hijacked by hoodlums, who unleashed terror on innocent citizens.”
According to him, “government must do what is necessary to ensure that the situation does not happen again.”
In his contribution, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, APC, Nasarawa West, condemned the violent protest, describing it as one of the worst in Nigeria’s political history.
He, however, cautioned the Senate not to be prejudicial to the judicial panel of inquiry set up in most of the affected states.
“It will be prejudicial to the tribunal set up, so we have to tread with some caution. Let’s wait for a while and see the outcome,” he said.
Also in his contribution, Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South, urged law enforcement agencies to work extra length to recover all the arms and ammunition looted by hoodlums.
He said the government should take proactive steps to ensure that the nation’s employable youths were employed by making provision for that in the 2021 budget.
Also in his Senator Ike Ekweremadu, PDP Enugu, Enugu West, said he would rather dwell on the lessons of the #EndSARS protest, adding that the leadership has failed Nigerian youths and should quickly retrace its steps by providing jobs for the army of jobless youths.
Ekweremadu, who reiterated his call for the decentralization of police and creation of state police, said: “I’d rather think about the lessons that we learned from #EndSARS problem. We have heard the analysis from those who presented the motion and I will just completely look at what I consider to be the lessons.
“While I will believe that we have not done enough to protect the interest of the young people in this country, we still owe them the responsibility to provide them jobs and a secured future..’’
On his part, Senator Christopher Ekpenyong, PDP, Akwa Ibom North West, said politicians, especially those in the executive and the legislators, fond of using the youths during the electioneering period and abandoning them after the election, created the situation that led to the #ENDSARS problem.
Senator Ekpenyong said: “When we debated #EndSARS in this hallowed chamber, we never knew that the #EndSARS that was packaged by whosoever – was raising the eyes of the government of today.
“The youth have nothing to do, the youths have been utilised by most people in this hallowed chamber and by the executive during political events and at the end of the day, they feel abandoned.
“The #EndSARS problem is not as Boko Haram, it is a desire of the youth that they felt abandoned and want to show us that they are there and in existence, so we can begin to learn a lesson and make provision for them.’’
In his remarks, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who presided over the plenary, said there was an urgent need to do more to improve the economic conditions of the youths in the country.
Lawan also said the Senate should give security agencies the needed support to ensure proper policing, adding that National Assembly was working on the same page with the executive to address the problems.