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Is Ahmad Lawan the single longest serving legislator at the National Assembly?

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Claim: Lawyer and human rights activist Chidi Odinkalu, recently claimed that the Senate President, Sen. Ahmad Lawan, is the single longest-serving legislator at the National Assembly since 1999.

Mr. Lawan is NOT the single longest-serving legislator in the National Assembly since 1999.

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On September 25, 2021, Chidi Odinkalu, claimed via his twitter handle that Sen. Ahmad Lawan is the single longest-serving legislator at the National Assembly since 1999.

Chidi Odinkalu

“What @DrAhmadLawan does not tell u is that he is the Doyen of @nassnigeria, as the single legislator who has been there continuously since 1999 without break. #GoFigure,” the professor and former chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), tweeted.

Screenshot of Mr. Odinkalu’s post/claim

Mr. Odinkalu’s post was in reference to a post by another twitter user, Dokun Ojomo (@DokunOjomo).

Mr. Ojomo posted: “The Senate can’t stop Buhari from borrowing. Rather, past administrations should be blamed for not saving enough for the raining day.” ~ Senate President Ahmad Lawan.”

In this quote credited to him, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, backed the recent borrowings by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, casting blame on past administrations for Nigeria’s current dwindling fiscal situation.

The recent borrowing spree by the Buhari administration has drawn criticisms from Nigerians who have berated the National Assembly for the recent loan approvals, raising concerns over the country’s debt sustainability amid its rising debt profile. Many have described the legislature as a “rubber stamp,” adding that it had failed in its gatekeeping responsibility of checking the executive arm.

However, the National Assembly had denied these claims, assuring them of due diligence: “What I want to assure Nigerians here is that we are not going to be frivolously supporting or approving loans for the executive arm of government,” the Senate President said in June 2021.

President Buhari had on September 14, requested approval of the National Assembly to obtain fresh external loans of $4.054 billion and €710 million ($839 million), in addition to another request for grant components of $125 million in the 2018 – 2020 external rolling loan plans.

Recall that earlier in May 2021, the President had also approached the legislature for approval to take a $6.18bn external loan to finance the N5.6 trillion deficits from the 2021 budget. Barely two months later, in July 2021, the Senate also received a loan request of N2.34 trillion ($6 billion), $8.3 billion and another €490 million.

Nigeria’s total public debt stood at N35.46 trillion, as of September 2021, according to the Debt Management office (DMO).

The decision by some members of the Buhari administration to blame past administrations for the country’s current financial woes has irked many Nigerians, including Mr. Odinkalu, who has pointed out that some members of the current administration, such as the Senate President, were also part of these past administrations.

Referring to the Senate President’s recent reaction, one user, Godwin A. wrote: “It’s easy to continue casting blame on your predecessors, what are you currently doing to better the situation for the next? Abi what was your role in the Assembly during those years to avoid the current situation?”

“How long will this man be in the senate? Choi! This COWntry na wa oh!” another user said, referring to Mr. Lawan’s long stint at the Nigerian Senate. 

In his post, Mr. Odinkalu referred to Sen. Ahmad Lawan as “the single legislator who has been there continuously since 1999, without break.”

Verification

In a bid to verify the claim by Mr. Odinkalu on Sen. Ahmad Lawan, Dubawa took a dive into the lawmaker’s journey at the National Assembly, and an analysis of the longest-serving lawmakers in the National Assembly – the Senate and House of Representatives.

Who is Senator Ahmad Lawan?

Born on January 12, 1959, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan is a Nigerian Senator representing Yobe North Senatorial District under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He was elected President of the 9th Senate in June 2019, after polling 79 votes to his contender, Ali Ndume’s 28.

Lawan boasts of a parliamentary career spanning a stretch of 22 years at the National Assembly, having started his journey as a lawmaker at the House of Representatives in 1999, representing Bade/Jakusko Federal Constituency of Yobe State. He was reelected in 2003 and remained in this capacity till 2007, when he contested and was elected as a Senator to represent Yobe North Senatorial District.

He lost a bid to become Senate President in 2015 to Bukola Saraki, in a dramatic turn of events. Two years later, Mr. Lawan became Senate Majority Leader, following the removal of Ali Ndume in 2017. He held the position till 2019 when he emerged as Senate President.

Nigeria’s Senate President, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan

While it is a fact that Sen. Ahmad Lawan had occupied a seat at the National Assembly since 1999, findings by Dubawa showed that he is not the only legislator with that feat.

Enter Hon. Nicholas Ebomo Mutu.

The Ijaw-born lawmaker currently represents Bomadi/Patani Federal Constituency of Delta State at the House of Representatives. Just like Mr. Lawan, Mr. Mutu remained at the National Assembly, since he was first elected in 1999, when Nigeria returned to civilian rule. He won re-election bids in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Nicholas Ebomo Mutu, Federal House of Representatives

Mr. Mutu currently serves as the Chairman of the House Committee on Gas Resources.

Conclusion

Contrary to Mr. Odinkalu’s claim, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North), is NOT the single longest serving legislator at the National Assembly, since 1999. Dubawa found that a member of the House of Representatives, Nicholas Mutu (Bomadi/Patani), has also been a legislator at the National Assembly since 1999.

Mr. Odinkalu would have been correct if he had referred to Ahmad Lawan as the single longest-serving “Senator” at the National Assembly since 1999, just as Nicholas Mutu holds the same record at the “Federal House of Representatives.” 

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