Penultimate week, the Senator Godswill Akpabio led 10th Senate elected Senator Patrick Abba Moro (Benue South) as its Minority Leader following his nomination by the opposition caucuses. This was sequel to the exit of Senator Simon Mwadkwon of Plateau State who was axed by the appeal court.
By this development, the Benue Senator who succeeded Senator David Mark in 2019 became a principal officer of the National Assembly.
Before his election as Minority Leader, Senator Moro, a ranking Senator has demonstrated capacity and competence in legislative assignments. He has provided leadership and quality representation for his constituents.
But Moro has an uphill task of stepping into the large shoes left behind by the 6th and 7th President of the Senate, Mark. It is on record that till date, Mark remains one of the longest Senators who served for 20 years, eight of which he was President of the Senate uninterrupted. This unarguably puts a heavy burden on Senator Moro to live up to his billings.
However, his election as Minority Leader seems to be trailing the trajectory of his predecessor; Mark who led the Senate to its glorious heights between 2007 and 2015.
In acknowledging the accomplishments of Moro last week, Mark praised him for his sterling leadership qualities. He said, “These remarkable achievements are testaments to your exceptional leadership skills, unwavering dedication and the trust and confidence your colleagues have in you.
“Your elevation to such a crucial position is a testament to the respect and admiration you have earned throughout your distinguished career.
“Your commitment to public service, tireless advocacy for your constituents and your ability to bridge divides make you an exemplary choice for the role of Minority Leader”
The former Senate helmsman added “As the minority leader, you will undoubtedly face numerous challenges and responsibilities. However, I have no doubt that your wealth of experience, sharp intellect, and unshakable principles will guide you in navigating these complexities with grace and resilience.
“Your ability to foster collaboration, encourage bipartisan dialogue and finding common ground will be instrumental in shaping thoughtful and impactful policies for the betterment of our nation.”
According to Mark “your election also serves as an inspiration to aspiring leaders who look up to you as a role model. Your dedication to public service and your unwavering commitments to the values that defines our great nation will undoubtably continue to inspire future generation of leaders.
Mark described Moro as a worthy successor saying “I have every confidence that you will excel in your new role as the Minority Leader of the Senate and continue to make significant difference in the lives of our people.”
Moro on his part left no one in doubt that he is prepared for the task ahead when he took to the floor of the Senate to move a motion calling for the abolition of Caretaker Committees running some Local Government Councils in the country.
In the motion that was unanimously endorsed, the Senate urged the Federal Government to henceforth withhold statutory monthly allocation to the Councils that are illegally run or administered by appointed Caretaker Committees set up by the State Governors.
It is instructive to note that in tandem with Section 7(1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), the administration of Local Government Councils in Nigeria should be by elected officers and not appointed.
The section states emphatically that “The system of local government by democratically elected local government councils is under this constitution guaranteed; and accordingly, the government of every State shall subject to section 8 of this constitution, ensure their existence under a Law which provides for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions of such councils”.
Expectedly, more than a few of the States, believed to be about 16, running the third tier of government through appointed Caretaker Committees took the gauntlet attacking Moro for bringing the matter to the fore but that motion enjoyed a popular mandate across the length and breadth of Nigeria to wit: nothing stops an idea whose time has come.
Moro’s motion was titled, “Urgent need to halt the erosion of democracy: The dissolution of elected Councils in Benue State.”
The Senators in their various contributions, adjusted the scope of the motion by extending the sanctions to other States in the country that had put in place, unelected council executives.
They condemned the arbitrary dissolution of democratically elected local government councils in Benue and other States in Nigeria. The lawmakers urged the State governors to adhere to their oath of office by obeying the rule of law and defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Moro, had in his motion noted that placing caretaker committees to replace elected councilors was an aberration and alien to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
He argued that the constitutional responsibility of every State was to ensure the existence of local government councils by law.
In his contribution, Senator Adams Oshiomhole (Edo North) said the Supreme Court had; pronounced that state governors do not have power to dissolve elected local government officials.
He said, he resisted pressure to dissolve elected officials of the local government when he was a governor.
In his contribution, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, (Borno South) described as misnomer, a situation whereby 16 States in the country run their local governments through the caretaker system.
He emphasized that the best the Senate could do was to prevail on the Ministry of Finance, using its oversight powers to stop the release of funds to local government areas operating caretaker committee.
He urged the Senate to prevail on the Minister of Finance not to release funds to any unelected local government officials.
Senator Abdulfatai Buhari (Oyo North) said the Electoral Act should be amended to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct local government elections.
Buhari’s suggestion was however amended by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, who presided over the plenary. Akpabio, frowned at the establishment of multiple federal agencies but advocated the creation of the National Electoral Commission for Local Governments so that governors would no longer have overlapping influence on council polls.
On this Issue, Moro is right on point. He deserves accolades and not otherwise.
In the 9th Senate, Moro demonstrated his commitment to nationalism when he sponsored about 12 bills and moved more than 10 motions that have direct impact on the welfare and wellbeing of citizens
The bills include but not limited to:
A Bill for an Act for the establishment of Families of Fallen Servicemen Support Fund.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Act 2007 (Amendment Bill, 2021).
A Bill for an Act to establish the Veteran Welfare Fund.
North Central Development Commission (NCDC) Establishment Bill.
A Bill for an Act seeking the establishment of Federal College of Agriculture in Opialu-Ojapo in Okpokwu LGA, Benue State.
Constitution Amendment Bill, 2022, for an Act to alter the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to provide for INDEPENDENT CANDIDACY in Presidential, Governorship, National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly and Local Government Council Elections.
A Bill for an Act to alter the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to provide for FINANCIAL and ADMINISTRATIVE AUTONOMY for Local Government System in Nigeria.
Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2019
Bill for an Act to Establish the Nigeria Agricultural Harvest and Processing Free Zone, Ataganyi, in Apa/Agatu, Benue State.
Motions moved by Moro so far but not limited to:
Motion on the devastating effects of windstorm disaster in Ogbadibo, Okpokwu and Otukpo communities.
Motion on the outbreak of yellow fever in Oye-Obi Local Government Area
Motion on the illegal and excessive charges on customers’ accounts by banks.
Motion on the killings in Ado and Oju LGAs, requesting for an end to the crises, one-minute silence in honour of those killed, and a call on NEMA to provide relief materials to those displaced.
Unarguably, Mark has left large shoes for Moro and as our nation’s political landscape continues to evolve, it is essential to honour those who have provided steadfast leadership and guidance.
Mark has exemplified unwavering commitment to the betterment of our society, tirelessly advocating for the welfare of our citizens and the preservation of our democratic values.
His legacy is one of integrity, compassion, and a profound understanding of the complexities of governance. His tenure was marked by a resolute dedication to bipartisanship, fostering a spirit of cooperation and unity that has been instrumental in advancing meaningful legislation for the benefits of all.
Stepping into the formidable role as Senate Minority Leader is no small task, and it requires a leader of exceptional wisdom, vision and determination.
It is expected that Moro will be guided by the wisdom of Mark as individual who is poised to assume this pivotal position bringing his wealth of experience, a deep understanding of the issues facing our nation and a profound commitment to serving the greater good.
Moro’s leadership capabilities have been honed through years of service in various capacities, and his record of accomplishment and unwavering dedication to the principles of democracy speaks volumes about his character and readiness to take on his momentous responsibility.
*@ Mumeh wrote from Abuja.