“BEHOLDING THE SILVER LINING IN NIGERIA”
I am very delighted to address you, once more, on the auspicious occasion of the second anniversary of the ninth senate. The remarkable anniversary of our inauguration has featured glorious comments from distinguished colleagues across party lines and has seen us visiting the Wasa Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) Camp in Abuja.
We have considered it worthy to address gentlemen and ladies of the press, as a veritable means of reaching our constituents, the electorates, and the Nigerian people, to apprise them on the state of the nation, from the point of view of the legislature. The three-pronged agenda of the present Senate/Legislature administration are basically
hinged on fighting corruption, eliminating insecurity and economic transformation in Nigeria. The mutual dependency and interrelationship between these key objectives cannot be attained with executive pronouncement and action alone, but also with complementary support of the legislature towards strengthening existing institutional mechanisms or creating new institutions as a means of attaining these laudable objectives.
This senate, and the national assembly have shown exceptional patriotism in seeking solutions to the challenges facing our dear country, and in the interventions we have made to some emergencies that confronted us in the last two years.
We have been resolute in our approaches, committed in our deliberations, and forward looking in the regulatory frameworks that we proffered, cognizance of our goal as legislators eager to leave a lasting legacy.
The ninth senate has, for instance, been decisive in its interventions on the problem of insecurity. We minced no words in calling on Mr. President to inject fresh energies into our armed forces to bring in new initiatives in the fight against insurgency, banditry, and kidnappings.
We are glad that Mr. President heeded our calls, besides those of other well-meaning citizens and effected the needed changes. The result of this is the renewed zeal, animated by our gallant troops in the nationalistic fight to rid the country of all forms of criminality.
We also believe that there is need to overhaul the entire security architecture.
We have severally demonstrated that fighting an asymmetrical war is different, and requires a multi-pronged approach, given the unconventional means of the enemies.
We salute our armed forces for their sacrifices for fatherland and are assured that absolute peace shall soon return to our dear country. We shall continue to provide all legislative support to the Services, consistent with our constitutional roles of appropriation, legislation and oversighting.
The senate calls on Nigerians to keep on supporting and praying for our men on the battlefield, realizing that we are all stakeholders in the building of a peaceful, virile and prosperous nation.
We should also support the Services through the provision of valuable information, to be processed into intelligence, considering the changing patterns of crimes, besides the tendency of offenders to alter tactics.
We also believe that all options should be on the table in our effort to achieve meaningful security in our country.
We have been dutiful in the appropriation of funds, and in ensuring thorough oversight to ensure the funds are judiciously applied. We shall not detract from our responsibilities in accordance with our oath of office.
The ninth senate has also aligned with the executive in the fight against corruption, because the malaise has been a bane in our development efforts.
Waste, and diversion of public funds are ills we cannot tolerate in the face of dwindling resources, increasing national debt, against the background of the need to stimulate the economy, through the appropriation of funds for infrastructure and utilities.
The achievements we made in transparency and accountability, reflected in our dutiful oversighting, the exposure of inordinate practices during public hearings, and budget defenses; and in seeking clarifications for hazy expenditures and procurements, are feats that we have to sustain, to harness the longer-term benefits.
Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are enjoined to imbibe prudence and proper book-keeping, to prevent future exposures to allegations of infractions. We have a duty to strengthen our governance mechanisms, and institutions, in accordance with the reform drives of
President Muhammadu Buharis (GCFR) and the administration.
The restoration of the annual budget cycle of January-December is yet another milestone in the actions of our National Assembly towards accelerating economic transformation in our nation. Private sector economic activities in Nigeria are strongly influenced by policy pronouncements and actions of the government through the annual budgets.
The annual budget contained key macroeconomic policy objectives and targets that are desired to be achieved by the government, hence serving as tools for corporate policy actions and projections. The persistent delay in the annual budget cycle before created avoidable disruptions in corporate strategic planning and operations. Additionally, provision of social services and infrastructure were also distorted.
With certainty in the annual budget cycle, a clear macroeconomic confidence and predictability is now infused into our national economic life, hence accelerating our drive towards economic development and prosperity for all.
Complementary to the annual budget cycle of January-December restoration is the support given by the national assembly for our reverting back to the culture of national development planning. The 9th Assembly is fully in
support of the federal governments effort towards the Nigeria Agenda 2030 long term plan and Medium-Term Plan 2021-2025, currently being conceived by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning. We believe that having a clear linkage between our annual budgets with a medium-term national development plan would facilitate a more robust national development strategy anchored on macroeconomic stability, prediction and continuity in a more organized and structured manner for the ease of attainment of national development and prosperity.
The role of the budget cycle in the circumstances is important. We remain proud of our achievement in this respect and are dedicated to sustaining it, not just through the lifetime of this senate, but to leave it as one more legacy.
The COVID-19 Pandemic is yet another global health disaster that the Nigerian government and National Assembly had to contend with in the first quarter of 2020. With global shut-down of economic activities and business, Nigeria cannot be insulated from its negative economic effects, coupled with our local measures that also disrupted local business activities, supply chains and business closures. This have had devastating impact on our lives in general, but economic activities in particular, hence throwing our economy into another recession. As a
means of providing relief to Nigerians arising from the Pandemic, the 9th Assembly approved expeditiously, series of request from the Executive towards funding all activities relating to the Pandemic for procurement of emergency medical equipment and supplies and all related activities.
We have equally approved, special requests from the executive for emergency funding and interventions to reflate the economy as a means of moving our country out of recession, restoring businesses and livelihood, improving supply chains, generating more employment and creating wealth and income for millions of Nigerians. The resulting effect of these actions is that Nigeria was able to move out of recession in the last quarter of 2020 with a GDP growth rate of 0.51% in real terms in the first quarter of 2021, marking two consecutive quarters of growth following the negative growth rates recorded in the second and third quarters of 2020.
As Employment generation is a key component of this administration, we have approved hundreds of billions to the executive for the Social Intervention Programmes that have sustained families and livelihoods to millions of Nigeria. Our Funding approvals for N-Power programme,
have created over 500,000 employment opportunities for Nigerians in the last two years alone.
Though our economy is still dominated by the oil sector in terms of revenue generation and foreign exchange receipts, our resolve towards diversification is unparalleled. We have and are ready to provide every support through enabling legislation and funding for all institutions promoting non-oil exports as a means of strengthening our economy away from oil dependency and global realities of a future away from hydro-carbons.
Though we still have a lot to do to restore our economy towards steady growth, we are confident that with the support of all critical stakeholders, we shall realize our cardinal objective of growing productivity, for full employment and sustainable development.
In the area of good governance, we have demonstrated practically in our oversight functions, the need for proper management of resources and providing proper check on the executive as means of deepening democracy and strengthening separation of powers. We would work to ensure Financial Autonomy for Local Governments, State Legislatures and Judiciary are all in line with our principled stand of strengthening democracy in Nigeria through
practical implementation of the doctrine of Separation of Powers.
I shall reiterate once again that we are closer to the end in passing the important bills still before us, namely the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, and the Constitution Amendment Bill.
It is a mark of excellent effort that the ninth senate is soon ready to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) after twenty years of failed attempts. This should happen this June, and it should increase Accountability, probity, efficiency, equity and justice in that vital sector of our economy.
Our determination to pass the bill is additionally in line with our resolve to be a result-oriented parliament, where our activities are hallmarked by quality, timeliness, and actions that are focused on the people.
Our efforts on the Electoral Bill are also noteworthy. The bill should not just improve the nations electoral governance system, but will strengthen our democracy, that we have all built since 1999.
The 2023 general elections will be the seventh in our electoral cycle since the dawn of democracy. The onus is now on us to consolidate it, partly through the bill, given the important innovations embedded in it. We will finish work on it before our annual recess.
We have a goal to deliberate on the report of the Committee on the Amendment of the 1999 Constitution in July before we proceed on our yearly recess, as well.
Mindful of the significant place of the citizens, we recently concluded a regional tour of the country, to provide opportunities for citizens to be closely heard, and consistent with a drive to build consensus.
We have gone far in this process and should be over with-it next month. We call on Nigerians to be patient with the progression, as we strive towards compromise, in reviewing the ground-norm, for the good governance of our dear nation.
In exploring the path of dialogue, and conversations, we should be rest assured that we shall soon achieve a meaningful end.
For the records, I noted during the week that 742 bills were introduced into the ninth senate in the last two years, out of which 58 have been passed, while 355 bills have sailed through first reading. 175 bills have also gone through second reading and are before relevant committees for further legislative actions.
The House of Representatives has referred 11 bills for concurrence and have all been passed. These are outstanding records considering emergencies, like the Covid-19 pandemic that we confronted.
Notable bills like the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act 2004 (Amendment Bill, 2009); the Finance Bill 2019 (Nigeria Tax and Fiscal Law) (SB.140), which amended seven existing tax laws; and the Companies and Allied Matters Act, Cap C20 LFN 2004 (Repeal and Reenactment) Bill 2019 (SB.270), have also been earlier mentioned.
Executive-Legislative relationship in the 9th Assembly is always guided by national interest towards achieving social and economic transformation that would eventually usher in security and prosperity for the citizens of Nigeria.
We assure fellow citizens that we shall remain focused in our remaining years on other items on our legislative agenda, as they are geared towards reforming our system, and improving the wellbeing of our people.
We call for patience, tolerance and understanding in the steady effort to improve our nation. Our differences should be our strength, realizing that we are better staying together in peace and harmony, love and prosperity.
On our part as legislators, we have worked collectively as a group, despite our partisan differences. National development and prosperity can only be attained through collective effort and resolve. We urge our fellow citizens to
join us in this resolve, to raise a stronger nation. Together we can do it.
As we mark our democracy day tomorrow, I congratulate all Nigerians. As there is no better alternative to democracy, we should continue to invest in building our nation along democratic principles.
God bless you all.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, DISTINGUISHED SENATOR AHMAD IBRAHIM LAWAN, Ph.D., CON.