Senator (Barr.) Neda Imasuen is the Senator representing Edo South Senatorial District in the National Assembly. The Senator, who was elected on the platform of the Labour Party and serves as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition, speaks with The Nigerian Observer correspondents in the National Assembly on some issues bordering on his plans for his senatorial district, the work of the committee he heads, the forthcoming Edo State governorship election in 2024, among other issues. Excerpt:

Your senatorial district, Edo South, happens to house the Edo State capital, Benin City. What will you do differently for the people in your constituency outside what the state government is doing?

Well, you are correct that Benin City is part of my senatorial district. However, my senatorial district encompasses seven local government areas and one-third of these local government areas are rural areas. They all have their rural components. And yes, Benin City is relatively developed, but it’s still not developed to what we would like it to be. It will also surprise you to know that even within Benin City metropolis, we have other areas that are contiguous to Benin City, yet they appear to be rural. I don’t know if you know those areas they call Iyekogba, for instance; they’re not Benin City, they might be contiguous to it as it is, but they are still very rural. There are places that are rural even within Oredo. So, there’s a lot to be done.

And if you ask me what I am going to do in these areas, well, they all have their different needs. As I have said in many other fora, I am not going to be paternalistic as to tell them what they need, they are the ones to tell me what they need, and as I speak to you, I am compiling some list, district to district, of exactly what it is that they need. The needs of one area are different from the needs of the others. Some areas need water, some areas don’t, others need access roads, schools, etc. The needs are of various types and, by the grace of God, we will begin to address them as we carry on.

Will you be forming a synergy with the State House of Assembly to ensure seamless execution of all this, especially the developmental aspects?

Not with the House of Assembly, but with the councillors. As a matter of fact, there is something that I am already working on with all the councillors in my constituency. Even if there are no Labour Party councillors, it doesn’t matter to me. We are all striving to bring about development to Edo South and that’s what is important to me and that’s what we need to do. We have to erase party lines completely in order to advance this interest.

Talking about party lines, you are the only Labour Party Senator in the whole of Edo State, isn’t that so?

In fact, I am the only Labour Party Senator in the whole of South-South and I am happy about that.

Are you going to remain in the party even when people are saying the party doesn’t have structure?

Of course, I will, by God’s grace. And talking about structure, to a large extent, the structure you’re talking is the human beings; the people are our structure and we’re actually going around now trying to consolidate on this structure. Where we had lapses in the last election we are ready to firm up. We’re already working on those areas to make sure that we close those gaps and we are doing all these to make sure that Labour Party has a more solid footing in the South-South. Remember that in the last election, Labour Party in Edo State produced a senator and a House of Representatives member. That of the House of Assembly, the jury is still out as to whether or not we have only one seat, but in my opinion, we have more than one seat. But whatever happened has happened and in the next election, we are hopeful that what happened will never happen again.

You are the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions. There have been concerns raised by some Nigerians that they’ve sent petitions to the committee in the past, especially on the plight of workers in some foreign companies operating in the country, and nothing serious was done about some of the petitions. What will you do differently to ensure Nigerians that, indeed, this committee is out to help them seek redress where necessary?

This committee was set up with a view to helping Nigerians, because if you look at the court processes, it could be rigorous and expensive and could take a longer time for justice to be obtained. That is why this committee was set up to address these gaps and we are doing that by the grace of God. What am I going to do differently? We just have to step up the tempo to make sure that we are able to address as many of the complaints as we can within the limits of human capacity.

We receive reports on a daily basis and we put them on calendar as they come, as they are laid before the Senate and are referred to our committee, and then we seat to resolve them. Just like any other resolution panel, everything is not done in one day. In most cases, it is either one party is present or the other party is not present or when both parties are present, they don’t have what we need from them to reach a resolution, and so we adjourn. But we don’t tolerate incessant adjournment and we also don’t adhere to these strict court procedures. This is an open thing, more or less like conflict resolution, and we ensure we bring justice to both parties. We had one recently, a final year University of Abuja student who was rusticated for whatever reason. Both parties were present and we had everything that we needed to come to a resolution and, by the grace of God, we were able to resolve it and the student is going back to school to finish. In other instances, we do our best to make sure that we bring justice, fairness to both parties and resolve the matters as they should be resolved.

The Public Complaints Commission (PCC) is one of the agencies that your committee oversights and, recently, there was a call that it should be overhauled because it’s not living up to its mandate. What is your take?

I had a meeting with the Chairman of PCC a few days ago and I told him to appear before the entire committee so that we can ask questions to know exactly what is happening and what we can do to make the Commission work as it should. Hopefully, I believe we should be able to do something before the budget cycle elapses. We are ready to do everything to assist him because this is the agency where the ordinary Nigerians go to for redress; we need to really strengthen it to ensure it works at optimal level.

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What piece of legislation will you bring to the fore that would touch the lives of the ordinary Nigerians, that posterity will remember you for?

There are so many pieces of legislation that cross the mind. I have spoken about the Diaspora Bill, for instance, and, luckily, the leadership of the Senate is also very much interested in that and so, it has come on board and we are all co-sponsoring it. We are also looking at how we can expand it because the angle from which I look at it has not been fully captured.

Does the angle you are looking at include the Diaspora voting right, that is, electronic voting?

Yes, their voting rights. For me, the Diasporans should be able to vote in our general elections, especially the presidential. I say so because we need to make them feel part of us totally because they contribute tremendously towards the economy of this country. If not for the funds that we get from the Diaspora, which run into billions of dollars, you can imagine what the economy would have been like. Many of them pay school fees for their little ones, their wards back in Nigeria, hospital bills for their parents, building houses, etc. In fact, most development you see today, if you trace it very well, most of the income is coming from abroad. So, we must make them feel at home. We must also try to woo them to come back, especially those professionals. You know, if you go to an average hospital in Bronx or Brooklyn or Manhattan where I’m very familiar with, if you look at the roster of the doctors, 60 per cent are Nigerians, just by their names. The same is applicable to the nurses. So, if we can look for a way to attract many of them to come and invest in same areas here in Nigeria, part of that is making them feel part of the electoral process. Let them be able to vote and determine who becomes our president, just like every other Nigerian.

Do you think this Bill will be passed before 2027, the next electioneering year?

It is my hope. We’ll do everything we can to ensure the Bill is passed and assented to.

What other issue is of interest to you?

I am also looking at the issue of children’s rights, which is also something that most senators are very much interested in. I say so because when we talk about Nigeria, we talk about the future of the country, and the future hinges on the young ones who must be prepared to take over from us. That is why in all aspects of legislation, I look at anything that will affect the children, whether they are students in tertiary institutions or those at the younger level. For instance, the Bill that came up with a child who was neglected and fell from a storey building and all that. We all were very touched by it and this happened in a school and we are looking at how we can put the right legislation in place to make sure that before you open any school, certain standards must be met, especially that of security and safety. Not just about people coming in to kill, but at least to prevent the students from bringing harm to themselves. Also, putting things in place that will stop students or pupils from falling off or anything of such, or where they play.

A whole lot of things are going to come up, but the Senate is so concerned now about the economy, and that seems to be taking the front burner in all that we’re doing -because, regardless of what we do, we must make sure we have a good economy where it affects everyone of us. And so, how to reduce inflation, how to address the free fall of the naira, how to create employment, these are the things that the Senate, and, in fact, the whole National Assembly, is very much concerned about.

Your state, Edo, will be going to the poll next year to elect a new leadership. What is your advice to the electorates?

Vote Labour Party.


Because we offer hope for the country. We are the alternative and we don’t see the picture from the angles others see it. We are very people-oriented and people’s issues are our issues. And so, I say, vote Labour Party so that we can have a better state. When the primary process is completed, we’ll know who the candidate is. And I promise that we will have a very free, fair, credible process in the coming election in the state.