The Senate chamber was in an uproar on Wednesday when senators of the All Progressives Party and those of the Peoples Democratic Party disagreed on the payment of N5,000 stipend to each jobless Nigerian.
A Peoples Democratic Party senator representing the Federal Capital Territory, Philip Aduda, had raised a prayer urging the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to fulfil one of its campaign promises of paying N5,000 to unemployed youths monthly nationwide.
Before Aduda raised the prayer, a PDP senator from Cross River-East senatorial district, Bassey Akpan, had sponsored a motion titled, “Urgent need to curb the soaring rate of unemployment in Nigeria.”
While contributing to the motion sponsored by Akpan, the senator from Osun-East senatorial district, Babajide Omoworare, demanded the probe of the way the Goodluck Jonathan administration handled the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme, among other poverty alleviation programmes.
Aduda, who is the senate minority whip said, “The Federal Government should immediately commence the payment of the N5,000 monthly stipend it promised during the pre-election campaign.”
The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, seconded Aduda’s additional prayer.
But Omoworare immediately raised the Senate Standing Order 53(6) to oppose the additional prayer.
This led to a sharp disagreement between the senators of the ruling APC and those of the opposition PDP.
The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, however, intervened after about 22 minutes by bringing the rancorous session to an end.
He first asked Aduda to repeat his additional prayer, which the lawmaker did.
However, when Saraki put the additional prayer to voice vote, the ayes obviously had the loudest voice – in support of the payment of the stipend but the Senate President banged his gavel in support of the nay voice vote coming from the APC senators.
Saraki, thereafter, gave Omoworare the privilege of raising another additional prayer.
The Osun senator said, “I want to move that the immediate past government be made to account for every penny spent on SURE-P and other poverty alleviation programmes, and I so move, Mr. President.”
When Saraki put the question to voice vote, the ayes response came from the APC senators, but the PDP senators kept quiet.
Saraki told the session that the issue of unemployment transcended party lines.
He said, “Unemployment affects all of us. We should stay above party line. We all agree that the Federal Government alone cannot do it. It is the private sector that can do it but an enabling environment must be provided.”
Moving his motion earlier, Akpan observed that the latest figures of Nigeria’s soaring unemployment situation by the National Bureau of Statistics had increased to 8.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2015 from 7.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2015 and 6.4 per cent in the last quarter of 2014.
He said, “The latest statistics as released by the bureau reveal that economically active population or working age comprising Nigerians within the age range of 15 to 64, is now 103.5 million, increasing from 102.8 million in the last quarter of 2015 while the unemployed labour force now stands at 74 million Nigerian youths.”
He expressed concern that about N2tn had been spent on intervention funds by the Federal Government to boost the productivity of various sectors of the economy in the last five years without any commensurate impact on employment generation.
He said, “With a projected population growth of 200m by 2020, we project an unemployed population of about 100m Nigerians or more. Where lies the economic future of this country?
“If the unemployed youths of this country are effectively engaged in gainful employment, terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery and other socio-economic and cultural vices will be drastically reduced. As the saying goes, ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop’,” he said.
In their various contributions, the senators overwhelmingly supported the motion.