From Andy Esiet, Calabar
The Cross River Caucus Chairman in the National Assembly, Senator Gershom Bassey has declared as unconstitutional the current spate of de-camping in the country from one party to another.
He said that in a situation where one occupies an elected position in a particular political party, such a person should resign from that position as he or she de-camps because the constitution only allows cross carpeting where there is serious crisis or division in the party.
Bassey who said this in a Hit FM radio programme recently and monitored by some newsmen in Calabar stated, “I don’t think defections are healthy. I think they are unconstitutional, illegal and wrong. It’s just that sometimes, people don’t bother to test these things where they should be tested but I think they are unconstitutional and the law does not allow it.
“If you are elected on the platform of one political party, you should leave the mandate when moving to another party. The mandate was given to the party and not to individuals and so if I want to leave my party to another, I should leave the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) mandate behind and re-contest the election to get a fresh mandate on the platform of my new political party. That is the way democracy, our electoral laws and our constitution are designed. I don’t think it is healthy at all”.
He stated that people just move from one party to another even when there is no division and the problem is that “nobody has gone to court. The laws are clear but must be enforced. There is supposed to be a Supreme Court pronouncement on this but to the best of knowledge so far nothing is before them”.
On the deplorable Calabar-Itu federal highway, Bassey who is also the Senate Committee Chairman on Federal Emergency Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) said “the Calabar-Itu road has been awarded to three different companies; Julius Berger, one of the Chinese companies and recently to Sermatech. The assurances that I have been given by the Minister of Works is that they were using Sikuk funds.
“They will make sure that they fund the dualization of that road. Keeping true to his word, now that the contracts have been awarded and approved by the Federal Executive Council, I expect that the only issue left is for them to release funds to the contractors so that they can go back and start serious work on the road”.
On when the road will be completed, Bassey said the project is actually under the Ministry of Works and so the timelines will be budgetary timelines and as you know, the most crucial step which is the approval of the Federal Executive Council has been scaled through. So the next thing becomes funding and I expect that speaking to the Minister for Works, he seemed to have placed a priority on that road because there has been a lot of agitation from the state government, traditional rulers, the media, National Assembly and so I believe that it is a prioritized road”.
Also commenting on the security situation in the country and the recent EndSARS mayhem, he said, “I think the country needs to support them in terms of funding for equipment, welfare for the men in terms of their salaries and in terms of recruitment because as we know, we are one of the most under-policed countries in the world and right now, I think there is an issue between the Police Commission and the Nigerian Police Force in terms of who should be responsible for recruitment. What we are saying is that we should not be the victims if that raging controversy between the two federal government bodies continues and my hope is that we will get to recruit a lot of policemen and get them trained, properly equipped and properly paid.
“We also need sufficient and really good equipment for our security agencies for them, to do the work we want them to. The world has moved on; there is cybercrime and all sorts of crime now and so we need to totally equip our police force to enable them to do their work. You know I was a victim of the ENDSARS mayhem but I know that the state government set up a commission of judicial panel of enquiry but we have not seen the report of that enquiry. It is important that when we see these inquiries, people will want to know what caused that mayhem so that the matter can be brought to an end. People want to know if it can happen again, if Calabar is susceptible to that type of mayhem and the solutions and suggestions on how that kind of thing can be stopped from repeating itself.
“We need to see the report of the panel of enquiry and I want to urge His Excellency, the governor, to ensure he gets that report to the public so we can all know what happened. The other thing is the issue of humanitarian support for all the people that were victims of that mayhem. I know that the governor has written to the president asking for some support but I don’t know what the response has been but I think there is a need for some sort of support from both the federal and state governments and I think the state government should reach out to the victims in terms of tax credits and other things to encourage them and how the state government is supporting them, everything does not always have to be cash”.