Fred Itua, Abuja
The Senate, yesterday, asked the Federal Government to assist in the reconstruction of damaged property in states that experienced violence during the EndSARS protests by giving them 1% of Value-Added Task (VAT) collected.
The move by senators from the South West to secure special compensation packages for the region, specifically Lagos State, following the destruction and looting that greeted the #EndSARS protests had sparked an uproar on the floor of the upper legislative chamber.
Former Senate minority leader, Biodun Olujimi, had in her motion on behalf of South West senators, urged the Federal Government to set up a visitation panel to assess the level of destruction of public and private assets in Lagos State.
She had also urged the Federal Government to establish a special economic assistance for Lagos in recognition of its strategic socio-economic significance by paying a financial grant-in-aid of not less than 1% of the share of revenue allocated to the Federal Government in the Federation Account each year.
Her prayers were, however, opposed by senators from the South South and North.
Sani Musa from Niger State, who fired the first salvo, said if the Federal Government must compensate Lagos, other states that have suffered similar loses in the past must be treated the same way.
He said many states in the North have been ravaged by Boko Haram and bandits’ activities but have not been compensated by the Federal Government. He wondered why Lagos State and the South West should be singled out for any special compensation.
Former Nasarawa State Governor, Adamu Abdullahi, warned that compensating any state in the South West would be prejudicial. He said there were already established tribunals and panels looking at the issues.
He said the National Assembly should defer the matter until the issues raised in various states were exhausted. He said it will also help government understand the level of damage.
Former deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, said the looting was a clear sign that our security agencies were overwhelmed. He said it was a perfect time for Nigeria to overhaul the security apparachik and create state police. He said it was the only way to guide against any future occurrence of what happened. He said while the looting by hoodlums lasted, security agents openly admitted that they did not have the capacity to restore order.
During the consideration and adoption of prayers sought by the motion, a senator from the South South, Bassey Akpan, said every state in Nigeria affected by the #EndSARS protests should benefit from the compensation, instead of restricting it to Lagos State and the South West.
While the exchange lasted, the two senators from Lagos State, namely, Oluremi Tinubu and Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, kept mum. They did not contribute or support the compensations advanced by the motion.
In a similar motion, Gershom Bassey, from Cross River State, urged the Senate to prevail on the Federal Government to assist his state in reconstructing facilities destroyed by hoodlums. Like the other motion, his prayer was not entirely adopted.
In his concluding remarks, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, urged the government to provide jobs for Nigerian youths. He also called for the funding of security agencies, while warning against brutality against Nigerians.
He said: “The outcome of the judicial panels of inquiry set up will go a long in helping the government know how they will intervene. The government needs to provide jobs for our youths. We need to equip the police and other security agencies. We must resist any attempt by any security agencies to do the wrong thing.”