By Ebi Oboko
There was mild drama on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday as former Bayelsa State governor and Senator representing Bayelsa West, Seriake Dickson, took on his counterpart from Adamawa Central, Aishatu Binani Ahmed, over what he called a factual error by the latter.
Presenting her lead debate on a bill she sponsored, ” A bill for an act to provide the legal framework to establish the Federal Medical Centre, Mubi, Adamawa State,” Senator Ahmed has claimed that the population of residents of Mubi was more than the entire Bayelsa State.
According to her the town, with a total landmass of 506.4km2 and a population of 759,045, is neighbour to nine Local Government Areas.
“This together with the population of Mubi North makes it 2,089,540 people (very much higher than Bayelsa State’s eight Local Government Areas, with a population of 1,704,515).
“Nonetheless, this historic town has suffered from government neglect in terms of federal presence especially in the area of tertiary healthcare delivery.”
Irked by her submission, Senator Dickson stood up to counter her claim.
The former Bayelsa State governor accused Senator Ahmed of peddling falsehood. Senator Dickson said the population figures being bandied by certain states were manipulated by military regimes.
He said:“No one in the Senate, no one in this country, will tell Bayelsa that we have eight local governments.
“In my Senatorial district, it will take me four days to go round. In Sagbama Local Government where I come from, it took me three days to go around as governor.
“The size of Bayelsa is bigger than some eight states in this country in terms of physical landmass and water bodies.
“I just feel I should stand up to enlighten the sponsor of this bill and by so doing, the rest of Nigerians. But when people talk about population, we should be careful, because if you look deep into it and you ask, who conducted, who verified; what and what accounted, where are the houses, where are the communities; who are the residents and how justifiable are these? You discover that something is wrong.”
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who interjected Senator Dickson appealed to him not to misconstrue the submission of Senator Ahmed.”
“Distinguish Senator Seriake Dickson, frankly, I have to guide this debate because you have made your point and given our standing orders, one shouldn’t input improper motives on submission by our colleagues.
“I think the discussion is not on the Bayelsa population or census conducted before.
“I think we should concentrate on the main focus of the motion that will establish the Federal Medical Centre. I agree there are many questions people would like to ask, but I think the essence of this debate is to focus on the principles and merits of the bill and you are very conversant with that process.”
Not persuaded by the intervention made by Senator Lawan, the former Bayelsa State governor demanded that the aspect of Senator Ahmed’s bill which described Bayelsa population as small be expunged from her bill.
“What I will continue to say with due respect is that debates on this hallowed Chambers must be based on verifiable facts. So if anyone is standing here, she could as well make her case without making reference to Bayelsa.
“She on her own referred to populations and figures that are not verifiable.
“The base was not explained and I was only rising to explain the truth without prejudice to the merits of the bill.
“That the factual premise that she has pushed forward as the reason or one of the reasons why this bill should be considered is faulty.
“That should be expunged because it is not factual; it’s not correct.”
President of the Senate again interjected to calm frayed nerves.
His remarks: “I am sure that is the way you rounded up and let me also say that when you have an opportunity like this, what you do is, if you feel and convince that there is an erroneous presentation, you simply bring out the fact, that this is wrong and this is correct.
“We don’t have to come down and reduce the debate to reaction. You were in the House of Representatives before you became a governor, I’m very sure you are very conversant with our process here. We don’t input improper motives to debates or contributions or interventions by our colleagues.”
The Bill was later passed for Second Reading.