There was a mild drama on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday over the comments made by Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (APC Adamawa Central) on the population of Bayelsa State as her colleague and former governor of the state fired back, saying it’s not the smallest state as being portrayed.
Senator Ahmed had while presenting a lead on a bill for an Act to provide legal framework to establish the Federal Medical Centre Mubi, Adamawa State, alleged that the population in need of the facility in the town is more than that of some states like Bayelsa.
According to her, Mubi, with total land mass of 506.4km2 and population of 759,045, is neighbouring 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,” Senator Ahmed explained.
But irked by the submission, Senator Dickson (PDP Bayelsa West), slammed his colleague after given recognition to contribute to the bill.
He declared that figures presented are not verifiable, informing that as a governor, it used to take him three days to tour only Sagbama Local Government Area.
The former governor angrily argued that the size of Bayelsa — the physical land mass and the water bodies — is three times bigger than some states in the country, and therefore maintained that sponsor of the bill could make her case without reference to Bayelsa.
“In my Senatorial district, it will take me four days to go round. In my local government, Sagbama, it will take me three days to go round.
“I just felt I should rise up to enlighten the sponsor of this bill and by so doing the rest of the country.
“When people talk about population, they should be careful, because if you go deep and ask who conducted the census, who verified, what and what are counted, who are the residence and how justifiable,” Senator Dickson asked.
In dousing the tension, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, quickly interjected by cautioning the former governor against inputting improper motives to the debate.
He said: “Apparently, I have to guide this contribution because you have made your point and, giving our standing orders, we shouldn’t impute improper motives on the submission by our colleagues.
“The discussion is not on the population of Bayelsa or population censors conducted before, we should rather concentrate on the main focus, which is on the establishment of a Federal Medical Centre.
“I agree that there are many questions people will like to raise, but I think the essence of this debate is to focus on the general principles and the merits of the bill.”
But Dickson reiterated his point that debates and the submissions in the hallowed chamber must be based on justifiable and verifiable facts, arguing that Ahmed referred to population figures which were not verifiable.
“I only rose up to enlighten, without prejudice to the merits or demerits of the bill, that the premise that she has put forward as a reason or one of the reasons why this bill should be considered is faulty.
“That should be expunged, it should not form part of it. That is not factual, it is incorrect,” Dickson fired back .
Again, Lawan cautioned Dickson against reducing the debate to reactions to comments.
“I’m 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,” Lawan pleaded.
The bill was however passed for second reading after the rancorous debate and referred to the Committee on Health for further legislative work and to be reported back within four weeks.
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