As in line with the Legislative Agenda of the Eighth Senath, which is forging a people oriented relationship and identifying with the people at the grassroots on all issues that affect them, the Senate under the leadership of the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki last week lived up that expectation. In the first instance, when it had audience with the 8th senate, the Saraki led senate was able to broker a deal that eventually saw the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) that led to the removal of the N700 mandatory fee charged all electricity consumers.
Last week, when the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) declared a protest rally and picketing of some government offices, that included the Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOS) and the Generation Companies (GENCOS), the Senate President led Senate was able to broker a deal with the protesting NLC and TUC officials to the extending that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing were able to meet with the protesting labour leaders.
Though the meeting with the labour leaders was impromptu because the Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki was billed to attend the opening ceremony of the Made in Aba Trade Fair holding in Area Eleven, Garki, he still finds it very expedient to attend the NLC and TUC rallies that have already picketed the National Assembly.
Addressing the rally comprising of the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other electricity consumers who besieged the National Assembly Complex, Abuja to protest the recent increment in electricity charges across the country, Saraki reiterated the commitment of the 8th National Assembly to collaborate with the executive arm of government in entrenching policies that are people-friendly.
The Senate President said that the Senate believes in the struggle to ensure that the right thing is done and therefore, it will do everything within the shortest possible time to resolve the impasse between the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), electricity Distribution Companies (Discos) and electricity consumers in order to avert any further unrest.
According to Senator Saraki while addressing the tension soaked rally with members chanting war songs, he said, “I welcome you to this place because it belongs to you. We are only tenants for four years. We are here to serve the Nigerian people. I want to assure you that the 8th National Assembly is for the people.
“Even before now, we have observed that this issue of tariff increase and some of the policies were not palatable. We have summoned the NERC even before now. We are with you, we will stand with you and ensure that no policy will in any way exist that is not palatable to the Nigerian people.
“Yes, we all want power, yes, we want improvement, but not at the detriment of the masses. There must be consultations because we are here at your instance. You cannot make laws and policies without the people.
“I want to assure you this afternoon that the 8th National Assembly will always stand for what will ensure the survival of the masses. We are not blind, we are not deaf, we can see the problem. Give us time and we will engage with the Executive and ensure that the right thing is done.
“We will do the right thing and consult with you and we will agree where we have to agree and where we don’t agree, we will find the best solution. At the end of the day, whatever we do must be in the interest of the people of Nigeria,” he said.
In their separate remarks, the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and his TUC counterpart, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, argued that the Labour Unions resorted to protest having exhausted other legitimate dispute resolution framework and dialogue to stop the NERC and Discos from increasing the electricity tariff.
The labour leaders however urged the National Assembly to rescue the Nigerian consumers from what they described as “extortion and over-billing of consumers” who are not metered in accordance with the signed privatization Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that provides that all electricity consumers be metered.
It was a follow up to this that a meeting was organized between the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Labour leaders comprising the TUC and NLC and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola on the way forward on the 45 percent tariff increase on the billings.
What is more important is the speed with which the Senate President moved and ensured that all warring parties met in a closed door atmosphere to discuss within 72 hours.
One important lesson need to be drawn from all these about the leadership of the Senate under Dr. Saraki. One is that this is a senate that has the interest of the people at heart. And this is a unique selling point of Saraki.
The other time, the Senate engaged the Central Bank of Nigeria ((CBN) in series of dialogue on how to ensure that the value of the Naria is improved and it was followed by attending the Made in Aba (Nigeria) Trade fair with the common message to there is the need to patronize the made in Nigeria goods, as this is the only way out of the present economic woes we found ourselves.
As if that is not enough, there are scheduled talks with indigenous auto manufacturers like the Innoson Motors. No doubt, all these are positive thoughts on how to make the 8th Senate a people oriented upper legislative chambers, after all, they are the peoples representatives. There are no better ways to represent the people than to take to heart issues that concern them. This indeed is a new chapter in the Senate, NLC, TUC and People relationship.
Okocha is the Special Assistant to the Senate President on Print Media.