When the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) embarked on a strike action in April 2018, the nation’s health institutions, and Nigerians, bore the brunt for weeks.
The union embarked on the strike to press home its demands over allowances and welfare which the Federal Government had promised it in 2017.
Several talks between the union and the FG broke down as both parties could not come to an agreement. This eventually led to an intervention by the Senate with concerns surrounding the consequences of the strike on Nigerians.
Senate President Bukola Saraki met with the union to address its grievances and demands. Saraki convinced the union’s leadership that it was not in the interest of the country to have its hospitals closed, and he pledged that the Senate would work with all stakeholders to ensure that the strike was called off.
The former Kwara governor also met with the then Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, and the then Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, to act as a bridge between the two parties.
When JOHESU eventually called off the strike in May 2018, the union credited Saraki’s intervention as being pivotal to its decision.
“Saraki has put machinery in place with a view to permanently resolve the issues in contention,” JOHESU chairman, Josiah Biobelemoye, said.
Saraki, in his capacity as the leader of the 8th Senate, had similarly intervened in the strike actions of lecturers of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) in 2017, as well as siding with Nigerian students at home and abroad on issues relating to school fees hike and failure to pay them scholarships allowances.
The upper legislative chamber has also been the calming voice several times when the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) embarked on strike actions, especially regarding the national minimum wage which was eventually increased to N30,000 this year.
The storied achievements of the 8th Nigerian Senate would be incomplete without mention of its commendable interventions to alleviate the suffering of the Nigerian people.
In response to reports about a drug abuse epidemic sweeping the nation and endangering the future of its youthful population, the 8th Senate deemed it important to organise meetings with relevant stakeholders to combat the problem.
The Senate Joint Committees on Drugs and Narcotics and Health organised a public hearing on “The Need to Check the Rising Menace of Pharmaceutical Drug Abuse among Youth in Nigeria” in March 2018 to address the problem.
While speaking at the event, Saraki expressed concern that the increasing dependence on narcotics, drugs and other controlled substances by members of the public was disturbing.
“Unfortunately, some of our youths who could become the leaders of tomorrow are caught in the quagmire of substance-abuse. This is a threat to their health and well-being and a threat to their families so we must stem this tide,” he said.
The Senate had also organised a similar round-table discussion in Kano in December 2017 due to the concerns regarding drug abuse in the country, a problem that eventually led to the initiation of the National Drug Control Bill, and the National Mental Health Bill.
The 8th Senate also passed the National Disability Bill, a fulfillment of Saraki’s promise to the Center for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) that the upper legislative chamber would work on examining ways to strengthen Nigeria’s laws to accommodate at least 20 million Nigerians with disabilities.
The Senate made a lot of other important interventions on behalf of the Nigerian people, including repeated calls for the removal of estimated billing which was considered a rip-off of helpless Nigerians; several reviews of the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to empower regular Nigerians and business owners; round-table discussions on improving the Nigerian economy; as well as several deliberations on ending insecurity in the country.
One of the more pressing interventions of the 8th Senate has to be its reaction to the rise in cases of Police brutality that has gained prominence in the country since 2017.
The 8th Senate deliberated a lot on the issue and, earlier this year, invited the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to explain why law enforcement officers were turning on the people they are meant to protect. This collaboration with the Force led to the acceleration of the passage of two important bills.
The 8th Senate passed the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Bill in April 2019 to provide a legal framework for the management and control of the special intervention funds for the training of personnel of the Force.
The trust fund, if signed into law by the president, would also be utilised to enhance the skills of the personnel of the Police in order to ensure efficiency, overall performance, and constant improvement. The Senate also passed a Police Reform Bill in April to make the Force more efficient and accountable to the Nigerian people.
The reign of the 8th Senate is finally over, and Nigerians can only hope that the upper chamber of the National Assembly can build on its legacy of showing concern for the well-being of the Nigerian people and working hard to make their lives better.