By Debo Alabi
For Senator Sunday Karimi who represents Kogi West, the fast approaching first two hundred days into the life of the 10th National Assembly have been one of remarkable contributions to law making and reforms in the larger interest of the country. Streaming the instruments of law sponsored by Senator Karimi, one cannot but say that his bills and motions, so far, are, by nature, nationalistic; undeniably premised on his belief that national economic stability takes preeminence and serves as prerequisite for legislative initiatives toward achieving his primary objective of lifting his backward constituency.
Since sworn-in as Senator of the Federal Republic on the 13th June 2023, Karimi has sponsored the following legislative Instruments: motion on urgent need to prioritize nation building, national unity and development in the 10th Senate; motion on urgent need to appraise the condition of the Nigerian federal roads and to re-think financing options; motion on the need to halt the disbursement of $800m Dollars subsidy palliative Loan and channel it to people centered self- financing developmental projects; motion on urgent need to investigate turn around maintenance projects of Nigerian refineries in order to uncover waste and continued plundering of public resources; motion on urgent need to step up efforts to stem the tide of oil theft in the Niger Delta Region and better safeguard the oil and gas infrastructure in the Region; motion on urgent need to investigate the Central Bank of Nigeria Naira Redesign Project; motion on urgent need to investigate the Subsidy Regime from 2011 to 2023.
Within the short period, Senator Karimi also sponsored the Central Bank of Nigeria (Amendment Bill 2023). The Bill is aimed at abolishing use of dollar or any foreign currency in domestic transactions. It also seeks to make the CBN more transparent and accountable and to stop the Governor and Deputy Governors of the Bank from participating in partisan politics whilst in office, among others; Dishonored Cheques Repeal and Re-enactment Bill 2023: To update the law and widen the scope of what constitutes Dishonored Cheque, increase the penal provisions to ensure the law serves as deterrent to offenders and to bring the law in tandem with current realities of today’s world; ICPC Amendment Bill 2023: Objective is to make the Commission more efficiently positioned to combat corrupt practices; Penal Code Amendment Bill 2023: The Bill seeks to amend the offence of rape to make the offence gender neutral and to bring the legal framework in tandem with current realities.
By nature, and to those who knew Senator Karimi from his days in the college, he is not loquatious. But, beyond his softspokeness, carefully selecting his words, is the veneered venturesome boldness to aim at success;; accuracy in presentation of issues laced with facts and figures.
His daring willingness to take risks saw him through 12 unsuccessful attempts to represent his people in Yagba Federal Constituency, between 1999 and 2007. Yet, this son of a subsistence farmer with no history of rich background, rose from the three failed attempts to become the first Yagbaman to be elected twice to the House of Representatives.
And this was the trait he carried with him from his eight, productive years in the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2019, to the current senate.
Indeed, Karimi’s multisectoral agenda setting towards bringing government close to Kogi West people can be visualized from his knowledge of the challenges and solutions profferred.
As a ranking Senator, Karimi understands the workings of the national assembly. His appointment as Chairman, Senate Services Committee, speaks volume of his relevance and capabilities, which further placed him with the advantage to make things happen for the greater good of constituents and country.
However, given the enormity of the challenges facing Kogi West people, a Senator must not only give vent and voice to their collective yearnings and aspirations, he must have the requisite drive, energy, resourcefulness to transcend the confines of the of the hallowed chambers, to practically and visibly ensure the delivery of the democratic dividends to his people.
From zero roads and accesses, lack of such basic amenities as portable water and the epileptic power supply, ecological challenges and the sore taste of many graduates roaming the streets without employment to collapsed local government system.
But none has pulled at the heartstrings of the people of Kogi West like road infrastructure.
The Abuja-Lokoja road construction which started since 2003 is yet to be completed. It has become a recurring decimal for the failed portions of Kabba-Iyamoye-Omuo-Ekiti road to become impassable yearly, especially during the raining season. This is a federal road that links the north to the southwest and has been so useful for the movement of people and goods between the two regions.
Likewise, the abandoned kabba-Egbe-Ilorin road, constructed in the 1970s and last rehabilitated in the 1990s through the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). In some cases, kidnappers capitalize on the poor state of the road to abduct travellers, who either pay ransoms to regain their freedom or get killed. The recent siege on the road by heavy trucks has worsened the Aiyetoro-Gbedde-Isanlu-Egbe section of the road.
The 231km ‘Trunk A’ road was approved and awarded for reconstruction in 2014 and 2016, but was abandoned after the flag-off exercise, with the exception of the 17km that was constructed from Kabba to Aiyetoro Gbede in Ijumu Local Council. After some time, the condition of the road deteriorated. The matter is worse because vehicles, especially trailers, petrol and gas tankers, and other heavy trucks plying the collapsed Kabba-Ekiti road, from the northern parts of the country, have now found a detour in the Kabba-Egbe road.
No fewer than 500 trailers ply the road on a daily basis, thereby rendering the road impassable. It has also degraded the environment and caused tension to residents of Yagba communities along that road. The collapse of the road has rendered the people, mostly farmers, who dwell along the road, poorer, as travellers who normally buy farm produce displayed by the roadside are no longer doing so.
A journey of 231 kilometres from Ilorin to Kabba, and 315 kilometres from Ilorin to Lokoja, which used to take between three hours and four hours, when the road was still motorable now takes about two days.
Asked during an interview what would be his priorities if he has the opportunity of meeting President Bola Tinubu and has to present three major challenges facing Kogi West people for immediate federal government attention, Senator Karimi said his three requests would be “road, road and road”.
He noted, “Roads are the key to development. Any country that wants to develop must first build roads. Without roads, you cannot be thinking of development. It is on those roads that goods are transported”.
According to him, “One of the major problems in my senatorial district that I have been brainstorming on even before the election is our roads. All the communities I visited to campaign, they kept mentioning road and I have been brainstorming on how to go about the rehabilitation and reconstruction of federal roads in Kogi West. If you look at the constituency fund, it can not do anything looking at the deplorable condition of these roads. Look at Kabba-Egbe-Ilorin road, we have to remember that the contractor abandoned the road because they were not adequately funded in the budget”.
What has he done, doing or planning to do? Karimi said, “The Kabba-Egbe-Ilorin road is in the 2024 appropriation bill, but with little money from the ministry of works, efforts through lobby will be made to increase the amount to be appropriated in the 2024 Appropriation Act. However, due to the shrinking government revenue, especially as capital expenditure accounts for only about 28 percent in the national budget, talks are ongoing on alternative funding arrangements such as concessioning. Like the Keffi-Lafia Road, other alternative financing models are also been appraised in the face of a shrieked federal purse.
“Kabba-Egbe-Ilorin road has not been motorable in the last 15 years. The last contactor that handled the job left site since 2014. How do we move forward. I am considering government terminating the contract and finding other means of funding that project. May be we will have to explore public/private partnership. FG would need money to do those roads and many other infrastructures, hence, the need to block revenue leakages”.
Still on road infrastructure, contributing to a motion on the “Dilapidated State of Nigeria Roads” on the floor of the Senate. Karimi noted: “It pierces through my heart seeing the state of the roads in my Senatorial District have not been motorable for a very long time. It is imperative and a matter of urgency that we source for adequate means of funding these road constructions and repairs with quick action plans”.
On the epileptic power supply in Okunland, he said, “I have initiated talks already with Development Association of Communities to try and ascertain the root cause of the problem in order to propose best line of legislative action”.
On empowerment of constituents, between July and September, Karimi encouraged interested and qualified candidates from Kogi West Senatorial District to apply for recruitment into the Nigeria Police Academy, the Nigerian Army and Immigration Service, among others, with a view to assisting successful candidates enlisted. A portal, he disclosed, was opened for unemployed graduates to drop their applications.
Official statement from Karimi’s office in the National Assembly confirmed that successful candidates were already deployed.
The beneficiaries however applied only to those that met all requirements as stipulated. Similar gesture was extended to candidates that applied for admission into federal universities.
The Sunday Karimi Media Team however noted that the slots could only be available to candidates who indicated interest.
Senator Karimi has also initiated subsidy palliative measures for constituents. In the scheme, a list of 100 names from each ward has been compiled and forwarded to Abuja.
A statement by the Media Team explained further that “The Distinguished Senator Karimi consider his efforts with regards to facilitating employment opportunities and admissions into federal universities as one that should not be a matter for self glory or advertisement. He is satisfied that his efforts are yielding the desired results. Also note that the number of successful candidates will always be based on the response he gets from interested candidates. There is no making a fuss about our principal doing what is expected of him for his constituents as their servant”.
The media team recalled that the strategy that worked for Karimi in his eight years in the Lower Chamber is what is being deployed and expanded upon in this current assignment in the Upper Chamber.
It noted that his time in the House of Representatives witnessed a period of significant achievements and progress, marked by infrastructural development, legislative initiatives, a commitment to empowering constituents and equitable spread of the dividends of democracy.
“In terms of making laws for good governance, Karimi sponsored over 26 bills and moved a plethora of motions during his time in the House of Representatives. He was one of the most vibrant in the House. As a Rep, notable areas of intervention by Karimi across the 34 electoral wards in Yagba Federal Constituency included water projects, education, rural electrification, youth, women, students and direct empowerments, handcrafts and market infrastructure development. It will not be out of place to state that Karimi was elected twice to represent Yagba Federal Constituency on account of performance”.
Karimi’s experience in the lower chamber no doubt had prepared him for the bigger role in the Upper Chamber. Notably, the immediate distraction was defending his mandate at the election petitions tribunal. Fortunately, his popular victory at the February 25 Kogi West Senate election was upheld by the appeal court on October 30. With the distraction over, Karimi will have no excuse not to concentrate on delivery of democracy dividends to an expectant constituents consisting seven large local government areas and 85 electoral wards.
Compared to Yagba Federal Constituency, where he represented three local government areas, asked if he saw the larger Kogi West senatorial district as a burden, Karimi said he saw it as a challenge instead, but not one that is not insurmountable.
• Debo Alabi writes from Lokoja