For Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, 2019 brought a harvest of garlands in his legislative engagements and service to his constituents and the nation.
Apparently, his name may invoke different imageries and perceptions among keen and casual observers of the country’s fluid political environment. Like every other politician across climes, there is always a burden to bear; a burden cast on the player by prevailing circumstances or necessity of the time. Many a politician take loyalty to the crest when issues get around one they consider an alter ego, particularly when such a one leads the way in a collective journey. That, in brief, appears to be the political parable of the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege and President Muhammadu Buhari. Not a few believe that the right lessons may have been learnt by all sides. And for the senator representing the Delta Central senatorial district, agitations of the past have given way to a cascade of laurels. Like a man in a hurry to define his political direction, Omo-Agege, since his emergence as Deputy President of the Senate in June 2019, has continued to leap in fast paces.
Legislative imprints and interventions
Within six months into the life of the Ninth Senate, Omo-Agege has to his credit a number of bills that touch on the fundamentals. One of such is a bill for an Act to Establish the Federal Polytechnic Orogun, in Delta State. The bill sought to provide full-time courses in technology, applied science, management among others. The bill, which he introduced in August 2019, had already been passed by the Senate in December. Excited by the prospects of having a polytechnic sited in their area, members of his constituency have say they can now boast quality representation in Omo-Agege. Many of the constituents consider the approved polytechnic as “Christmas gift”, saying that the district will continue to look up to their senator for leadership. According to some of them, his leadership holds much promise for the development and transformation of the social and economic development of their communities.
Also in August, he introduced the Dormant Account Funds Management ( Establishment etc,) Bill, 2019 which is still in the works in the upper legislative chamber. He also championed the bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions, which the lawmaker introduced also in August. While introducing the bill, Omo-Agege had deplored the rising cases of sexual harassment of female students by randy lecturers in higher institutions of learning. He had spoken strongly against luring, coercing and intimidating female students into giving in to the antics of unscrupulous lecturers in the obnoxious sex-for-marks trap. The Deputy President of the Senate also encouraged victims not to allow the shameful act go unchallenged by seeking redress through available legal means. The bill seeks stiffer punishment, including a five-year jail term for offenders. Also tabled was the National Industrial Court Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which he similarly introduced in October 2019 and the Court of Appeal Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019, also introduced in October.
Omo-Agege has also introduced the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in which he identified and outlined 13 items and various sections of the Electoral Act for amendment. The items listed for amendment are- Conditions for INEC staffing, charges on nominees by political parties, national register of voters and voters’ registration, procedure of displaying voters’ register and death of a candidate before declaration of result. Also included are inspection of electoral materials on election day, smart card reader for accreditation, electronic transmission of voter accreditation and electronic voting. Others are national electronic register of election results, period to shut down INEC database, issuance of false result, court order on disqualification of winner and breach of court orders by INEC.
By virtue of his position as Deputy President of the Senate, Omo-Agege will be coordinating the constitution amendment process to be embarked upon by the two chambers of parliament. The lawmaker regretted the protracted adversarial relationship between the parliament and the executive in the life of the eighth National Assembly. He attributed the refusal of President Buhari to assent to the Electoral Reform Bill passed by the last assembly to the frosty relationship between the two arms at the time. The President had also cited time constraint as reason for withholding assent. Of course Omo-Agege is not oblivious of strident calls by Nigerians for reforms that would evolve electronic voting. Reacting to demands for far reaching electoral reforms, the lawmaker has assured that the amendment process will start in the first quarter of year 2020.
The Deputy President of the Senate has been consistent in his interventions to ensure that investment in technology and invasions are harnessed to boost education, productivity and national development. He demonstrated this passion while speaking at a recent luncheon of the Lagos branch of Government College Ughelli Old Boys Association (GCUOBA). He holds the strong view that the nexus of political, economic, social, diplomatic, cultural and intellectual power is the efficient application of technology for national development. Speaking further at the event, Omo-Agege said emphasis should be placed on how Nigeria could leapfrog into the future through the utilisation of technology as the fulcrum of nation-building. He words, “Technology has become the soul of many businesses, including small and large-scale corporations. Though the dialogue on the all-important setting of technology in our development process seems to resonate perfectly with the broad spectrum of our society, not many have taken time to critically examine the subject matter and its overall implications for national development”. In his intervention, he highlighted the goal of the Buhari administration to harness technology for national development. “There is need to key into the Buhari-led Next Level Agenda, which includes empowering the Ministry of Science and Technology and other relevant agencies of government to harness the untapped skills of our young men and women in the technology sector for national development. The task of ensuring availability of competent manpower to drive innovation and technology will also entail greater synergy between various research and development institutes to avoid duplication”, he had stated.
One of his major interventions was the campaign for major oil and gas producing companies to relocate their head offices to the Niger Delta where core activities of their operations take place. Embracing the relocation campaign, which was initiated by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senatoe Omo-Agege has continued to drum the necessity for the companies to heed the call. Apparently, his involvement in the campaign may have been informed by prospects of increased investment, employment, capacity building and business opportunities the relocation would throw up in his Niger Delta region. The lawmaker has also the message to oil and gas companies that left in the wake of the crisis in the region about a decade ago. At every given opportunity, he has continued to impress it on the companies that to prevailing peace in the region has engendered confidence in investments, enough to accelerate development.
Justifying the call for relocation of the companies, Omo-Agege had said, “What I am saying now is not really news; even the Vice President, not too long ago, I believe, enjoined all those companies that left the Niger Delta, to relocate back. So, what I am saying now is just following suit”.
The campaign paid off a few weeks ago with an indigenous oil producing company, Belema Oil Limited signifying its interest in moving to the Niger Delta region. Key management officials of the company had already met with major stakeholders in the company’s preferred communities, with a view to straightening out grey areas in compensation payment and company-host community relationship.
In a letter of commendation promptly forwarded to Belema Oil, Omo-Agege had stated that by heeding the Federal Government’s call on indigenous and foreign oil and gas companies to relocate their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta, the had set a great example worth emulating.
A bonafide homeboy
Omo-Agege has refused to join the league of federal lawmakers who stay away from their constituencies after winning elections, only to go back home with cosmetic “gifts” when the next election cycle draws nigh. Those close to him attested to the fact that he has been consistent in staying in touch with members of his constituents right from the time he was first elected into the Senate in 2015. Documents gleaned at his media office indicated that the lawmaker has a string of beneficiaries of scholarship programmes, healthcare, professional training, skill acquisition among other gestures. These gestures have continued to endear him to the youth population among constituents and other youth organisations far and near. Perhaps, it was in the realisation of what technology holds for the future of the country that informed his decision to mobilise his colleagues in the Senate to agree with the establishment of a federal polytechnic in Orogun, one of the communities in his senatorial district. There is little doubt that he is going to mobilise and encourage his constituents to make use of the opportunities in technology and education that the newly approved polytechnic may offer when it eventually takes off. It’s obvious to many that getting a polytechnic established in his senatorial district was a pragmatic way of ensuring that his constituents reaped the benefits therefrom. Also, championing the campaign for relocation of headquarters of oil and gas companies to the Niger Delta cannot be divorced from the quest by Omo-Agege to ensure that his people ultimately harvest the gains, such as employment opportunities, increased business activities and prospects of human capacity development.
And shortly before the Senate proceeded on its end of year recess, various youth groups thronged the his office at the National Assembly to identify with what many of them described as his people oriented strides. The groups included the Isoko National Youth Assembly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) North West Forum, Niger Delta National Leaders and Stakeholders Forum. Others were the National Association of Northern State Students’ Union (NANSSU). As a token of appreciation, NANSSU conferred on him an award of “Icon of Integrity and Exemplary Leadership”. The Isoko National Youth Assembly, led by Prince Solomon Akpotu presented an award in recognition of what they called the senator’s effective representation for the Niger Delta. According to the group, the lawmaker has projected the region’s development issues. Within the same period, the Northern Youth Assembly of Nigeria recognised him with an award for “Exemplary Leadership”.
Speaking during a courtesy visit, leader of the APC North West Forum, Aliyu Hussain, said the group came to represent many of the youth population in northern Nigeria. According to him, the northern youth deeply appreciate the patriotism and nationalistic disposition of Senator Omo-Agege and other committed APC leaders who have ensured timely passage of the national budget and who have demonstrated regard for due process and populist leadership.
“Senator Omo-Agege, we are supporting you 100 percent; come rain, come shine, we shall continue to appreciate your genuine efforts and we now regard you as Sardaunan North West”, Hussain said.