Appraising Senator Albert’s Six Years of Devoted Representation
By Priscilla Christopher
Political representation according to Wikipedia is the activity of making citizens “present” in public policy-making processes which concern them. It is simply the process by which representatives act in the best interest of citizens, having been authorized to act on their behalf.
Since representatives are viewed as those who will be held to account by those they are representing, the onus over time has been on the need to deliver the trust reposed on them by the people through constitutional duties and humanitarian deeds.
While many of Nigeria’s representatives have failed woefully to do their families, friends, and constituencies proud, the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-East has given his people more than a sense of belonging, a need for recognition and a voice to be heard.
Towering high amongst his peers, Sen. Albert has in the last 6 years of his senatorial adventure proven to be a citizen of one and candidate of the 31 Local Government Areas of his State and beyond; pushing strongly the goodwill and striking the right cords for the cause of Akwa Ibom.
His Bills, Motions, and Petitions at the floor of the Senate have often showcased the people of Akwa Ibom as humane, environment-conscious, and selfless problem solvers who would not relent until their cause is well considered. One of these was a motion on the need to curb the soaring rate of unemployment in Nigeria as well as the urgent need to address the present economic state of the nation.
These motions called on the government at all levels to take decisive steps to address the unemployment situation in the country and drew the attention of the government to the nation’s economic scorecard, released by the National Bureau of Statistics which indicated that the economy had plunged into recession.
On the strength of this, the Senate invited the Finance Minister and the CBN governor to brief Nigerians on the monetary and fiscal policies adopted to salvage the situation. Related to this was his sterling contribution to the Economic Recession.
OBA’s motions on the urgent need to halt the dilapidated and disintegrated state of Ikot Ekpene-Itu-Calabar Federal Highway was the reason the Senate set up an ad-hoc committee to inspect all bad federal roads and made recommendations. The Senate also directed the Federal Government and the relevant ministries, agencies, and departments to undertake an urgent intervention on the road.
It was this directive that made the NDDC undertake remedial measures on the road.
The Senator was also instrumental to the Motion on Urgent need to investigate the granting of concession of the western and Eastern rail lines to General Electric of USA. The motion indicated that the Federal Ministry of Transport had violated the provisions of the Public Enterprises (privatization and Commercialization) Act, 1999 by unilaterally engaging the General Electric for the concession of the western and Eastern rail lines, had the Senate mandate the committee on privatization, land transport, finance, anti-corruption and financial crimes, special duties, trade and investment and judiciary to investigate the procedure adopted in the engagement of General Electric for the concession of the rail lines. Consequently, the minister of transportation, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was summoned by the committee to answer questions on the matter.
His Motion on the urgent need for effective implementation of the Joint Venture Cash Calls Obligations by NNPC was deliberated upon in the Senate on Wednesday, 13th April 2016, where it was observed that although the National Assembly has been appropriating for the NNPC Joint Venture cash calls obligations in the past, the current outstanding cash call obligations in the oil and gas sector stood at over $6billion. The Senate had thereafter adopted the motion and mandated its Committees on Gas, Petroleum Upstream, Finance, and Appropriation chaired by Senator Albert himself, to carry out a holistic investigation into the matter.
The committee had subsequently held its public hearing in November 2016 with major oil companies and the operator of NNPC Joint Venture stakeholders of the oil and gas industry and the general public in attendance and the report of the committee submitted to the Senate by the Chairman, Senate Joint Committee on Joint Venture Cash Calls Obligations, Senator Bassey Albert on Thursday, April 27, 2017.
In the same year, a Motion on the need to save the 215-megawatt Kaduna power plant was raised by Senator OBA which sought action to be taken on the protracted power shortages in the northern part of the country leading to the shutdown of the industrial sector in the region. This was quickly followed by his outstanding role in the settlement of the Escravos Gas To Liquid (EGTL) dispute which had plagued the oil and gas sector for almost a decade – a feat that greatly impressed the Federal Government and resulted in an award of excellence.
In his invite to the Distinguished Senator, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari had stated categorically that “the peace achieved through the efforts of OBA will contribute immensely towards the stability of the oil industry, and further boost investors’ confidence”.
It would be recalled that in December 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari had mandated the NNPC to conclude the settlement with Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), which a suit of the agreement was brought to the fore, signaling the final settlement of the EGTL cost dispute. The investigation and negotiations that led to the signing of the deal, anchored by Senator Albert, dates back to 2015 and have yielded a 60/40 Joint Venture (JV) sharing ratio, as against the 75/25 JV between Chevron and the Federal Government in the $11billion EGTL project. The deal also factors in a settlement cost of over $6 Billion.
Stakeholders in the Oil and Gas Sector observe that the deal will enhance the energy security via domestication of EGTL diesel and further enable adequate utilization of gas, which in turn will earn the country’s Foreign Exchange of greater proportion.
More so, the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan Bill which seeks to establish a legal and institutional framework for the implementation of the industrial revolution plan and the National Enterprise Development Programme of the Federal Government to provide for their implementation, continuity, and sustainability was sponsored by the Distinguished Senator. The main objectives of the Bill are to accelerate the build-up of industrial capacity within Nigeria, increase manufacturing contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product and drive the process of intense industrialization based on sectors where Nigeria has comparative and competitive advantages.
If implemented, the Bill among other things will facilitate job and wealth creation, provide for economic and revenue diversification, ensure import substitution and export diversification as well as broaden the government’s tax base.
Similarly, the Gas Flaring (Prohibition and Punishment) Bill he sponsored which seeks to ensure that natural gas will not be flared or vented in any oil and gas production operation, block or field, onshore or offshore, or gas facility; seeks to ensure that no operator shall establish an oil and gas facility in Nigeria without obtaining authorization from the Minister under the Act for the design phase, the commissioning and the production phases.
Notably, the outcome of the law now binding the Industry will revolutionalise the country’s oil and gas sector to attract the much needed and desired foreign direct investment into the sector for the good of both our investors and country.
In addition to these, the National Youth Employment and Development Bill which seeks to repeal the National Directorate of Employment Act 2004, and in its place, establish the National Youth Employment and Development Agency Act to provide for the promotion, coordination, and employment of youths in Nigeria; as well as the Bill to amend the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract to end the payment of royalties in Nigeria’s deep offshore for the improvement of revenue; were sponsored by Senator Albert.
As a result of the sincerity of purpose of the said Bill, President Buhari had as a matter of urgency signed the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Amendment Act into law, seeing its utmost benefit.
After the Lockdown occasioned by COVID-19, the Akwa Ibom North-East Senator sponsored a Bill Seeking to Enhance Nigeria’s Saving Culture. The Bill which passed its Second Reading in September 2020 was first read in May. The bill seeks to amend the Allocation of Revenue (Federation Account, Etc.) Act CAP A 15 LFN 2004 to make the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) a first-line charge beneficiary of the Federation Account to enable the country to save for the rainy days.
It also seeks to amend section 1 of the principal Act to provide for additional funding for the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) by including the NSIA as a first-line charge beneficiary of the monthly distributable funds from the Federation Account.
Furthermore, it proposes an amount (equivalent to 20% of the amount standing to the credit of the Federation Account, less the statutory 13 percent of the revenue accruing to the Federation Account directly from natural resources) to be allocated to Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, on monthly basis.
According to Senator Albert, the need for Nigeria to develop a culture of saving to douse panic each time there is a potential threat of economic crisis cannot be ruled out, given the COVID-19 aftermath.
“Following lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, imbibing a saving culture is inevitable, as we look forward to making a remarkable process that will enable us to compete favorably with other developing nations”, he said.
On the 4th of May, 2021, Sen. Bassey Albert spoke in support of a Bill for an Act to Establish the Chartered Institute of Directors of Nigeria. The Institute, if established, is expected to bridge the gap by serving as a regulatory body for persons serving as Directors in both the public and private sectors. It will further set standards, optimize operations, enhance professionalism and promote corporate governance values in Nigeria.
On Tuesday, June 8, 2021, a bill seeking to amend some aspects of the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) Act of 2004 was read the second time in the Upper Legislative Chamber of the National Assembly (Senate), after it was first read in April 2020.
Leading the debate during plenary, Sen. Albert said the amended bill when passed into law will recalibrate the legal powers of the PCC, enhance its operational effectiveness, and build public trust.
Senator Albert noted that the provisions of the Act as currently obtainable are no longer in tune with present economic realities, hence the need to review some sections of the Act to ensure compliance with the Commission’s recommendations by respondents, create the needed awareness and precision on the Commission’s functions, outline restrictions and the powers of the National Assembly.
He said the recent #ENDSARS experience has proven that there is a need to guarantee unhindered access for the PCC to inquire and investigate complaints that concern the Nigeria Police Force, the Armed Forces Act, or the Police Act, especially where it involves a non-member of the forces or a civilian in line with democratic norms.
According to him, the current Act, which dates back to 1975, provides for a fine of N500 or six months imprisonment, if an individual fails to honour the Commission’s invitation. The new proposal places a fine of five hundred thousand naira (N500,000) for individuals and five million naira (N5,000,000) for corporate bodies and or 7 years imprisonment, as punishment for refusing to honour the Commission’s summons.
“The extant Act puts the PCC at liberty to investigate and review administrative injustice even after the courts have given judgments (i.e. legal procedures have been exhausted), this is practically impossible. Where there is a court judgment (even from the lowest courts, like Magistrate Courts), no administrative panel or government commission, like the PCC, an attempt to revisit the same. This, apart from being inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution, obviously creates confusion on the relevance of the PCC which calls for a legislative amendment of the extant Act to address this ambiguity”, he explained.
With all these and others not mentioned, Senator Bassey has remained one of the leading voices at the Red Chambers of Nigeria, if not the first. His singular voice has led to cooperative moves, bringing about communal and national denouement on several pressing developmental issues time and again without tiring. Moreso, the Senator has not ceased to better the lives and lots of his people within and outside his constituency. Everyone who knows will attest that like the Biblical ark of the covenant, wherever OBA goes becomes fertile automatically, while the people he meets have their stories rewritten positively for life.
OBA had in one of his petitions, for instance, requested the reinstatement of a dismissed police officer, Celestine Williams who was laid off from the in Force in 1996 for an undisclosed offense without trial. 21 years later (in 2006), the said officer was re-instated consequent upon a petition presented to the Senate by Senator Albert via a letter dated April 13, 2016. The petition was referred to the committee on ethics, privileges, and public petition, which recommended his reinstatement, payment of his entitlements, and promotion to the rank of ASP. Mr. Williams had since resumed duties.
The Senator had also opposed the illegal conversion and diversion of salaries and allowances of Sgt. Peter John by the Nigerian Police Force as well as the victimization of Mr. Aniekan Umoh by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, not excluding his frown at the Wrongful dismissal of Debongs Ndem Anietum from the services of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Port Harcourt.
Notably, the Directorate of Technical Cooperation Africa (DTCA) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will not forget the quick intervention of the Senator when they tried to victimize and prematurely retire one of their staff, Ntia Thompson from service, for exposing the corruption and rot within the Directorate. The committee on ethics, privileges, and public petitions investigated the matter, and thereafter recommended his reinstatement courtesy of OBA’s advocacy.
Even the wrongful dismissals of one Mr. Peter Solomon Archibong by the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and Ex Cpl Imo Sunday by the Nigerian Police Force did not go unnoticed as the Senator had ensured that their cases were revisited and justice administered appropriately.
Recently, he forwarded a petition to the Senate on behalf of one Mr. Igantius Udom, against the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) over the unlawful termination of his employment. According to trusted sources, Udom was allegedly dismissed from the NMRC under the most spurious excuse that suggested his employment was embedded in the appointment of an erstwhile MD/CEO of the establishment, who retired in 2018.
“Relevant supporting documents have been enclosed with the petition for perusal. The petition has been referred to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges, and Public Petitions. As promised during my electioneering campaign, I will always protect the people of Akwa Ibom North-East within the ambit of the law”, the peculiar representative had said.
In his resolve to get across other areas of the State, OBA had launched a scholarship scheme for his constituents in 2016 but changed its terms to accommodate indigenes of other local government areas across the State in 2019. A whopping 10% allocation was given to each LGA of Akwa Ibom State, while all physically challenged students irrespective of tribe and origin who applied were also enlisted into the scheme, courtesy of the distinguished Senator’s waiver to ensure that they do not go through the qualifying examinations.
It would be recalled that the scholarship offers full payment of tuition to the scholars as well as stipends for their upkeep every semester. Moreso, the transparency for which the scheme has earmarked has remained superb with positive improvements added daily. As at the last check, more than 300 undergraduates in higher institutions are beneficiaries of his scholarship scheme. These, not excluding numerous constituency projects, are again, testaments of great imprints on the sands of time.
The message put out by Senator Bassey Albert therefore, is that which gives hope to the helpless, downtrodden, and voiceless members of society. Reactions trailing this magnanimous act already have received a high-sounding commendation from quarters with good prayers for the Oil and Gas Senator.
In a clime as ours where political leaders are primarily aimed at amassing wealth for themselves without looking back to the needs of their followers, let alone their constituencies; Senator Bassey remains one with the rarest portfolio of empowerment programmes cutting across different age grades and gender. An appraisal of his recent empowerment schemes revealed that no fewer than 5,000 Youths and Women have been trained on several skill acquisition programmes and given start-up grants since his re-election to the Senate in 2019.
Despite his clogged schedule, the Senator still avails his presence at his constituents’ events, clothed with humility, meekness, and empathy irrespective of location and time, to give them that sense of friendship and belonging. Call him the people’s Senator and you would not be making a mistake.
For his proactiveness and pragmatic approach to humanitarian services, the intelligent representative has a compendium of local, national, and international awards, some of which are: Prestigious Award of the South-South Senator of the Year 2017 by Senate Press; Ibom Pride Award of Excellence by Akwa Ibom State Association of Nigeria, USA, INC; the Golden Award by Lions Club International for Service to Humanity; Patriotic Service Award of Excellence for Scholarship Achievement by Patriotic Service Platform (November 2016); Award of Excellence, the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) Uyo and District Society; Fellowship Award in Recognition of Meritorious Service to Humanity and Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic by the Governing Council and Management of Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic (May 2019) and recently, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) Award as well as the Senate Press Corps Constituency Development Award.
On Wednesday, October 14, 2020, the five-star Senator was honoured by the Federal Government as the Most Outstanding Senator in Nigeria at the 2020 Democracy Heroes Award (DHA). The Democracy Heroes Award is an initiative to recognize, honour and celebrate men and women who have contributed to the development of Nigeria and have manifested a leadership style that has distinguished them from ordinary citizens and politicians.
So, in recognition of his courageous actions and exemplary leadership, Senator Albert who won the most votes of Nigerians for the Award was honoured alongside other eminent, notable, and performing personalities across key sectors in Nigeria, who have used their public offices as a key instrument to better the lives of many.
The Most Outstanding Senator of the Year Award won by Senator Bassey Albert, according to the organizers, was anchored on the exemplary role he played in resolving the age-long cost dispute between the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and Chevron Nigeria Limited leading to the signing of the Escravos Gas to Liquid (EGTL) Agreement in favour of Nigeria as well as his pivotal role in sponsoring the Bill to Amend the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act D3 LFN 2004, which was passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, an action believed to have saved Nigeria several billions of dollars.
With these high-sounding records of excellence and optimal performance in 6 years, one can aver that the trust reposed in the Akwa Ibom North-East Senator has North-East leaps and bounds with many dividends to show for it. The people of Akwa Ibom can therefore beat their chest with pride and nod their heads in agreement that they have a veritable commodity for sale at any intellectual market in the person of Sen. Bassey Albert.