Members of the Senate from the South-West, South-South and South-East on Wednesday formed an alliance aimed at presenting a unified position on the issues affecting the southern part of the county.
The lawmakers, after the plenary, held a closed-door meeting where they elected an executive for the Southern Nigeria Senators’ Caucus.
The meeting had several senators across the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party caucuses in attendance. It was led by Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, and the Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
Akpabio, who was later accompanied by the members of the newly elected executive to a press briefing, said the southern senators were now ready to engage their northern counterparts on the issues affecting the two regions.
He said, “Another epochal event has happened in the Senate. Today, we have the Northern Senators’ Forum and they have been having meetings and discussing issues connected with the North. But we have not had concerted views from the southern part of the country.
“We have not been able to ensure total unity, so that we can sit with our brothers in the North such that when they take on issues in the North, we will also take on issues in the southern Nigeria. From there, we will have a united voice and front in order to consolidate the unity of this country and bond together more.
“So, the Senate today has also decided that there is the need to birth a new caucus, which is called Southern Nigeria Senators’ Caucus, just like we have in the North. At the end of the day, whatever we discuss as South, we will also listen to our brothers from the North and bring them to the floor of the Senate for expeditious treatment.”
Members of the executive are Senators Hope Uzodinma (Chairman/South-East), Lanre Tejuoso (Vice-Chairman), Matthew Uroghide (Secretary-General/South-East), Solomon Olamilekan (Treasurer/South-West), Ovie Omo-Agege (Financial Secretary/South-South), Mao Ohuabunwa (Publicity Secretary/South-East), Duro Faseyi (Auditor/South-West) and Stella Oduah (Welfare Officer/South-East).
The Minority Whip, Senator Abiodun Olujimi (Ekiti-South), however, told our correspondent on the telephone that while the northern caucus had been active, the southern caucus had been dormant in the Senate.
She said the sudden revival of the caucus was caused by the public criticisms of southern lawmakers over their alleged failure to prevent the slashing of the allocation for the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
She said, “It has always been there. Every Senate usually has northern and southern caucuses. But while the northern caucus has been functioning since we started and the members hold meetings, we have not been meeting.
“Why the caucus is now so important is because of the road, for which we, from the South, have received condemnations; that southern senators failed to defend the project; and the fact that we cannot handle issues of that size as lawmakers from a mere geopolitical zone.”
The National Assembly had cut the vote for the rehabilitation of the road from N31bn to N10bn in the 2017 budget, a development that generated public outcry.