Five senators from the South-East distinguished themselves in the Eighth Senate. Of the five, three returned. One of them is Chukwuka Utazi. He represents Enugu North and has thus far etched his name deep in the annals of the Senate of the Federal Republic as a senator who is unassuming but very essential to Igboland and Nigeria. He does not come across as a classic showman neither is he loquacious. But in so far as the people of Enugu North and his colleagues in the Ninth Senate are concerned, Utazi has proved that his people did not waste the votes they cast in his favour in 2015 and again in 2019. Given another chance, there is no doubting the fact that Enugu North may pick him again or send him on a different errand.
These conclusions follow a careful review of Utazi’s sojourn in the Senate, between 2015 and today. A review of his activism as incumbent chairman of the Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases as well as deputy chairman, Committee on National Security and Intelligence, led to this. He has also been chairman of the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes; member, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; member, Senate Committee on Water Resources and also, member of the Committee on Marine Transport.
These assignments afforded Utazi the opportunity to positively impact on Nigeria through bills and motions that aim at altering the status quo and delivering the good for the citizens. For instance, since coming to the Senate in 2015, Utazi has worked out and sponsored such bills as ‘Bill for an Act to Establish the Chartered Polymer Institute of Nigeria and for Other Matters Connected Thereto, 2016’. The bills aimed at promoting the application of polymer science engineering and technology in the polymer and allied industries in Nigeria as well as act as a professional body to promote the professional integrity and status of all persons engaged in polymer science, engineering and technology, among others.
He sponsored the ‘Bill for An Act to Control the Keeping and Movement of Cattle In Nigeria and for Other Matters Related Thereto, 2016’, which seeks to ensure that no person or group of persons, association of individuals or corporate body or bodies shall permit the movement of cattle, from one location to another within Nigeria except by vehicular means. It also aimed to make sure that the keeping, preservation, management, feeding and sale of cattle shall be carried out only at designated places as may be determined by the governor of a state.
That bill ought to have radically addressed the perennial issue of herders-farmers’ clashes, which have left several Nigerians either dead or maimed.
His Judicial Officers (Administration of Pensions) Bill, 2018, sought to provide an answer to the issue of the payment of the pension of all retired judicial officers in Nigeria and save them from the heartaches associated with the same. Utazi’s proposal was that such a matter would be better handled by the National Judicial Council, which oversees the appointment, promotion and welfare of judicial officers.
Other bills sponsored by Utazi include the Bill for an Act to Amend the University Teaching Hospitals (Reconstitution of Boards, etc) Act and for other Matters Related Thereto; Bill for an Act to Amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015; Rural Areas Development Agency (Establishment, etc) Bill; University Teaching Hospitals (Reconstitution of Boards, Etc.) Act Of 2004 (Amendment) Bill; Dietitians Council of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill; Cattle Movement (Control) Bill; Bill for an Act to Provide the Chartered Polymer Institute of Nigeria and for matters connected thereto; the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Agency Bill; EFCC Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill; and the National Security Agencies (Amendment) Bill.
To further underscore his interest in the protection of the health of Nigerians during a pandemic, Utazi made a bold move to have the Quarantine Act amended and updated such that every Nigerian would be constitutionally entitled to vaccination during a major pandemic at the expense of the Federal Government. That bill is still standing before the Senate, just like his bill on the management of the proceeds of crime, which was passed by the Senate but could not be assented to by the end of the life of the last administration.
To further underscore the importance of the bill, it has now been re-introduced by President Muhammadu Buhari as an executive bill. Utazi could not have been frivolous with his time at the Senate.
Besides the bills, Utazi proves his mettle with the sponsorship of motions seeking to entrench peace and democracy in Nigeria. For instance, he hit the Senate with a motion titled “Resolving the Controversy Surrounding the Ownership of the Acreage Area of OPL 915 & 916” seeking to preserve the peace of boundary communities in Kogi, Anambra and Enugu states over an oil field. He also co-sponsored the motion titled “The Need for Urgent Renovation of the Facilities and Infrastructure of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu,” which led to the closure and upgrading of the airport.
His other motions include: Motion On the Plight of Retired Judges of State High Courts and the Need To Harmonies the Process of Paying the Retirement Benefits of All Judges of Superior Courts of Record In Nigeria; Need To Increase the Funding of Uncompleted Dams Across Nigeria for Optimum Performance and Service Delivery; the Gory Massacre of the People of Nimbo Community of Uzo-Uwani LGA of Enugu State; Motion On the Need for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation To Substantially Increase the Allocation of Refined and Imported Petroleum Products To Warri, Port-Harcourt and Calabar Depots; Tackling the Perennial Conflicts Between Settled Farmers and Cattle Herdsmen; Motion On the Dire Implications of the Suspension of Nigeria From The Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units; Motion On the Undue Dramatization of the Fight Against Corruption In Nigeria, in which he drew attention to the need to seriously refocus the anti-corruption fight and ensure that the anti-corruption agencies improve on their investigation skills and charge drafting, among others.
Utazi has so far used his time at the Senate creditably. However, his life is not about bills and motions. He applies himself to his people such that he has remained a reference point in constituency outreach and empowerment in the South-East region; and, it takes the shine off a lot of other politicians. His empowerment programmes are designed to touch even the most vulnerable. That way, he fulfills the mandate of his Christian faith where it said “whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do unto me”.
Perhaps, that is why he is now in the eye of the storm. But he is not deterred. He is fully conscious of the fact that tomorrow belongs to God. While man owns the moment, God determines what happens next.
In an environment where selfishness and clannishness rule, Utazi goes to show that the best a man could do is to be of service to others and to joyously serve with whatever God has blessed him with. So, when the political tide turns and he is put up for negative bashing, he smiles and looks to the cross of Jesus Christ with submission to the fact that, if the master himself suffered humiliation and indignation at the hands of mortals, why would his followers cry when they suffer the same?
The Christian faith teaches followers of Jesus Christ to be ready to pick their cross and follow suit. Utazi has not lost sight of that teaching, and, he is carrying whatever crosses his venture into the service of the people places on his shoulders. That is the forte of generals. They don’t run from battles. They face them with level-headedness because they know that only those who are prepared win.